This most interesting and unusual surname is of Old French origin, and was a nickname for a particularly masculine, virile man, derived from the Old French "masle, madle", Middle English "male", a male, masculine. The surname may have been given to someone who performed a particularly masculine task. Modern variants of the surname include Mayle, Mayell, Madle and Males. The surname itself was first recorded in the late 12th Century (see below), while Osbert le Madle was mentioned in the Feet of Fines of Essex in 1202. The Pipe Rolls of Essex list one Stephen Male in 1230. William le Masle (1280), le Madle (1303) or le Male (1305) has left his name in Marles Farm in Epping Upland, according to the "Placenames of Essex". Recordings from English Church Registers include: the marriage of Anne Male and Humfrey Barrie on April 16th 1540, at St. Leonard's, Eastcheap, London; the christening of Susan Males on March 3rd 1558, at St. Mary the Virgin, Dover, in Kent; and the marriage of Jone Male and Johannes Brooke on October 4th 1587, at St. Mary's, Minster on Thanet, also in Kent. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert le Masle, which was dated 1187, in the "Pipe Rolls of Berkshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.