Rowlinson: Origin and meaning of surname

This interesting patronymic surname, literally meaning ‘son of Rowland’, developed during medieval times in England from the name Ralph/Rolf, which was the Gaelic form of the ancient Norman (Old French) name Raoul/Roul. The Norman name was derived from the Germanic elements “hrod” (meaning renown) and “wulf”, a wolf. The personal name reached England through the pre-Norman Viking invaders.1,2 Since Rowlinson is a patronymic surname, it had many origins and there are therefore numerous unrelated branches of the surname.

Since spelling in medieval times was a highly imprecise process, and many of the name-bearers were illiterate themselves, numerous variations of the family name appeared over centuries. During the Middle Ages the English language still incorporated elements of Latin, French and Germanic languages causing variant spelling of names and surnames, even among the literate. Although reforms of English spelling and grammar were promoted from the 16th century onward, Samuel Johnson is broadly credited with the standardisation of English spelling into its pre-contemporary form with the publication of his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755.3

Modern-day variants include Rowlands, Rowlandson, Rowlerson, Rowlson, Rowlison Rowlinson, Rolinson, Rollison, Rollingson, Rollerson and others, and are found mainly in Britain, South Africa and United States of America.1,2


  1. Last name: Rowlinson.
  2. Rowlinson surname, meaning and statistics.
  3. English-language spelling reform.