Recorded in many forms as shown below, this is an early English surname. It was originally a nickname for a particularly masculine and virile man. Derived from the pre 7th century word 'male,' it is a good example of the early tradition of creating a surname from a nickname. The origination is the Old French word 'masle', itself from the Latin word 'masculus', meaning male or virile. However one must beware. Many, some researchers say the majority of medieval surnames, being nicknames actually mean the very opposite of what they might appear to describe! Probably not in this case as there are so many modern-day spellings. These include Male, Madill, Madle, Males, Mayle, Mayell, Mayall and others. Early examples of the recordings include William le Masle, in the year 1280, and he was later recorded as le Madle in 1303, and as le Male in 1305. He has left as his memory a place called 'Marles Farm' in Epping, in the county of Essex. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert le Masle. This was dated 1187, in the Berkshire Pipe Rolls, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, and known to history as 'The builder of churches', 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.