Wrigley: Origin and meaning of surname

Wrigley is a topographic surname that means “clearing by a river bend”. The surname is made up from two Old English (pre-7th century) elements, the verb wrigian meaning “bend or turn”, and leah meaning a “meadow, pasture or clearing”. The English word wriggle, however, was recorded only from the 15th century onward.1,2

The surname seems to have originated from a location called Wrigley Head near Salford, Lancashire (now Greater Mancester) in North West England.1,3 Salford is geographically located in a meander of the River Irwell, a 63 km long river that starts at Irwell Springs just north of Bacup and empties into the River Mersey near Irlam. The river currently forms part of the boundary with the city of Manchester to the east.4-6

One source, however, speculates that the family name Wrigley originated in the hamlet of Diglee. Diglee derives from Ditch (Hill) Lee or Diggle Lee. The Lee undoubtedly referred to the area north of the current Ward Lane in Diglee. Wrigley would derive from Ridge Lee, most likely referring to the nearby Harrop Ridge. Ridge Lee probably was an earlier alternative name for Digglee (now Diglee).7,8 Diglee lies approximately 10 km northeast of Salford.Over time, Wrigley descendants migrated mainly to Australia, Canada, Scotland, South Africa and United States of America.9 Numerous variations of the surname such as Wrygley, Wrigley, Wrigly, Wriggley, Wriggeley, Riggeley, Rigley, Rigly and Riggle appeared over time.10


  1. Last name: Wrigley. http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Wrigley
  2. Barrow, N. 2020 In search of the early Wrigleys. Saddleworth Historical Society Bulletin, Vol 50 (1)
  3. Salford, Greater Manchester. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salford,_Greater_Manchester
  4. River Irwell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Irwell
  5. Salford, Greater Manchester. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/09/Map_of_Manchester_1801.PNG
  6. Salford, England. https://www.google.co.za/maps/place/Salford,+UK
  7. Buckley, M. 17 July 2001. Wrigley family. e-Mail communication. (Copy of communication received on 25 November 2020 from Richard Lyne of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England)
  8. Historical maps. A vision of Britain through time. https://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/maps
  9. Wrigley surname meaning & statistics. http://forebears.io/surnames/wrigley
  10. Wrigley surname, family crest & coat of arms. https://www.houseofnames.com/wrigley-family-crest-coat-of-arms