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Updated June 9, 2019

Family name origins & meanings

  • French : from a diminutive of Boure, probably a nickname for someone who habitually dressed in brown, or a metonymic occupational name for a worker in the wool trade, from Old French b(o)ure, a type of coarse reddish brown woolen cloth with long hairs (Late Latin burra ‘coarse untreated wool’). However, the word had many other senses in Old French, among them ‘cushion’, ‘harness’, ‘collar’, ‘crest’, and ‘headdress’; the surname could equally have arisen as an occupational name for a maker or seller of any of these items, or as a nickname derived from one of these other senses.
  • French : occupational name for a judicial torturer, from Old French bourreau, a derivative of bourrer, literally ‘to card wool’ and by extension ‘to maltreat or torture’. It may also be an occupational name for a wool carder, but the corresponding vocabulary word in Old French does not seem to be recorded in this sense.
  • In some cases the name may be of English origin, a variant of the cognate Burrell. This name is found chiefly in LA and TX.
  • A Borel from the Auvergne in France is documented in Baie St-Paul, Canada, in 1747.

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