Noble Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Noble Meaning
Noble surname has Norman French origins, from
the Old French noble meaning
“high-born” or “illustrious.” This might
have been the case with Peter Noble, a Knight Templar or Crusader under
the Lionheart in 1185.  
However, at a lower level, Noble could have started out as a nickname for somebody who played the part of a noble in some medieval pageant. Those who played the part may not have been
so noble. Other surnames such as King and Pope also probably emerged in this way.
There are similar surnames in Europe, such as Noble in France and Nobel in Holland. The German Knöbel name
from an archaic German
word for a servant. It
was the name of a Jewish
rabbinical family which settled
in Galicia in Eastern
Europe in
17th century
. The Nobel name in Sweden came from the
village of Östra Nöbbelöv in SW Sweden.
This name became famous with Alfred Nobel, the inventor of
dynamite, and
the various annual Nobel Prizes that he founded

Noble Resources on

Noble Ancestry

The earliest record in Scotland was a Nobilis family
that had established itself around the year 1190 in East Lothian as
vassals of
the Vaux family. Their origins were
uncertain, but were probably not Norman French. They
later appeared at Newbattle near Edinburgh. Thomas
and Patrick le Noble were recorded on
the Ragman’s Roll in 1296 as rendering homage to the English King.

A later
sighting was at Dumbarton on the mouth of the river Clyde.
Robert Noble of Ferme served as the town
baillie in 1449. This family remained
landowners in Dumbartonshire and Lanarkshire until modern times.

  • William Noble
    of Ardandan Noble and Ardmore was the Commissioner of Supply for
    in the early 1700’s.
  • Andrew Noble, born in Greenock in 1831, was an expert in
    gunnery and rose to be the Chairman of the Armstrong munitions company
    1900. He became a baronet and made his
    home at Ardkinglas on Loch
    Fyne in
  • while Iain Noble, the 3rd baronet, was a landowner on
    Skye and a
    noted Gaelic language activist.

Northeast. However,
the larger Noble numbers in Scotland
were in the northeast of the country, in Inverness and Aberdeenshire.

Nobile was the chamberlain and procurator for the abbot of Arnbroath at
Inverness in 1464. The Nobles of that
town may have been descended from him.
One Noble family in Inverness-shire
began with the marriage of Andrew and Mary Noble at Dores on Loch Ness
in the

Further down the cost in Aberdeenshire lay the
small fishing village of Broadsea which came to be dominated by the

  • Andros Noble was recorded there in 1621 and there were
    six Noble
    seamen/fishermen living there in 1696.
  • while by 1789 twenty-nine of the
    forty-two seamen at Broadsea were

The Nobles were granted, until 1747, the hereditary title
of “the
Constable of Broadsea.” Alexander Noble
was the third Constable of Broadsea and his daughter Grizzel the fourth

“These Nobles were a very tight fishing family who stayed
very close to
the area and married within the fishing families of that village.”

the 19th century the fishing village of Broadsea was engulfed by the
town of Fraserburgh and the Noble numbers expanded.
There were 454 Nobles recorded in Fraserburgh
in the 1881 census.

. Noble has been mainly a north of England
name, first found in Cumberland probably in the 13th century.

One family based
at Crew castle near Bewcastle just south of the Scottish border was a
family active in lawless banditry during the 16th century.
Their leader Hobbie Noble,
however, was captured and executed in Carlisle in
1583 as the Scottish and English governments began a pacification of
region. Some Nobles remained in the
Bewcastle area. Others scattered to
Yorkshire and elsewhere.

Yorkshire. The largest Noble numbers
have been in

They have been most noticeable along the coast in and around
Whitby. Gawen Noble left Cumberland for
Whitby where he died in 1694. Later Nobles departed for America. Mark Noble
acquired Aislaby Hall near Whitby in
the 1730’s and his family continued to hold this property until its
sale in
1905. Another Noble line, resident in
nearby Sleights and Ugglebarnby, began with the birth of John Noble
there in

Further down the coast near Scarborough was the Hackness family of
stonemason Robert Noble. His son
Matthew, born in 1817, became one of the leading portrait sculptors of
Victorian England. Matthew’s son
Herbert, aged just nineteen, was killed in the Abbots Ripton rail
disaster of
1876. Matthew died later on in the same
year from an illness which was apparently brought on by the tragic loss
of his

Elsewhere. The Noble name did appear
further south, but
in fewer numbers.

Nicholas Noble was the mayor of Salisbury in 1476 and 1477;
and John Noble was recorded as a priest there in 1556.
In Hertfordshire Stephen Noble was appointed the
rector at Therfield in 1421; while Thomas Noble was the vicar at the
All Saints
Church in Hertford in the early 1600’s.
Another Thomas Noble departed Kent for New England in the 1650’s.

Edward Noble, born in London in 1741,
was the father of three gifted sons, one a water-colorist and the other
being engravers.

Ireland. There were early reports of
the Noble name
in Dublin in the 14th century. However,
the main sightings, starting in the early 1700’s, have been in

There have been three possibly four Noble family lines in Fermanagh –
Glassdrummond, Lisnaskea, and Donagh. James
Noble died at Glassdrummond in 1719 at the age of sixty-five. There was also a Major Arthur Noble who died
in Fermanagh in 1731 at the age of seventy-seven.

Another Arthur
Noble from Fermanagh emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts around
1720. Many more
Noble descendants emigrated in the 19th century – to America, Canada,

America. The principal Noble line has
been in New

New England. Thomas
from Kent who arrived in Massachusetts sometime in the
1650’s was the
forebear of possibly the largest Noble family in the United States. An early account was rendered in Lucius
Boltwood’s 1878 book History and
Genealogy of the Family of Thomas Noble.

Thomas settled first in Springfield
before having to move, because of the debts that he had occurred, to
Massachusetts in 1669. There his
descendants generally remained. Reuben
Noble made a fortune in the town’s whip industry and endowed
Westfield’s Noble
Hospital in 1883. Clifford Noble, born and raised there, co-founded the
Barnes &
Noble book store in New York in 1894.

The Noble family became quite confusing over time due
to its large size. Among
those who migrated away from Westfield were:

  • John Noble who, together with his eight-year old daughter
    Sarah, settled
    in New Milford, Connecticut in 1707. John
    and many of his descendants were tanners. The
    John Glover Noble house, built in the
    1820’s, still stands. William H. Noble
    from New Milford was a New York congressman in the 1830’s.
  • and Aaron Noble, a hatter by trade, who made
    his home in Troy, New York after the Revolutionary War.
    His line was covered in Jeff Messick’s 2017
    book The Ancestors of Ruth Noble.

line from Arthur Noble who arrived in Massachusetts from Ireland around
was much shorter. Arthur died while
fighting the French in 1747 in Nova Scotia.
He and his younger brother James owned at that time large tracts
of land
in what was then the district of Maine. His son Arthur inherited most
of these
territories and in 1788 established a settlement at Nobleboro which
commemorated his father.

Abel Noble, the son of persecuted Quakers in Bristol, arrived in
Pennsylvania as a young lad in 1684. He
eventually settled in Warminster, Bucks county where he died. The line from his son Joseph led to Samuel
Noble, born in 1818 and a Quaker farmer near Philadelphia in Montgomery
county. He was also a considerable
landowner in the area, so much so that this Philadelphia suburb is now
known as

David Noble, born in Pennsylvania, was
indentured to John Powell and married his daughter Anna in Philadelphia
1772. They had two children.
Ten years later he went off to fight the
Indians with Daniel Boone and was never seen again.

had decided not to
return and set out along the Appalachian trail south and west towards
the new
frontier. His family never knew where he
went. He met Susannah Emmons enroute and
they married in Kentucky.”

David and Susannah
ran an inn in Madison county, Kentucky until David’s death in 1797.

James Noble and his younger brother Noah, both born
in Virginia, grew up in Kentucky before moving to Indiana in 1810. James in
Indiana was a ferryboat operator, a judge, and its US Senator from 1816
1831. Noah became the Governor of
Indiana in the year that James died.

William Noble from England came via
Virginia to Somerset county on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1686. He was listed there as a cooper.
The line from his son William led to Anson
county, North Carolina and subsequently, in the 1830’s, to Mercer

Australia. Two English John Nobles
arrived in Australia
as convicts:

  • the first John Noble was sentenced for stealing a sheep
    in Dorset
    and transported to Sydney on the Indefatigable
    in 1814. Unusually his wife Ann followed
    him with their children a year later as free settlers.
    John was by trade a baker and lived onto
  • while the second John Noble, a stable hand in Derby, was
    transported to
    Sydney on the York in 1830. He
    married Mary Chilcott in Singleton, NSW in
    1841 and they raised eleven children at the Old Maison Dieu homestead

John Noble, this time Scots Irish from Fermanagh, came to Sydney with
his wife
Ann on the Helen in 1841. John
died at Kangaloon in the southern
Highlands in 1898. Some of his children
had by then moved onto Alstonville in northern NSW.
John and Ann raised fifteen children in all
and their descendants – close to 2,000 today – have held reunions. Their story was recounted in Douglas
Johnston’s 2016 book A Noble Heritage.


Noble Miscellany

The Story of Hobbie Noble.  Sir Walter Scott, an avid lover of Border history, gathered the story of Hobbie Noble and committed it to verse in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.  Here are two particularly poignant verses from the ballad:

“And fare thee weel, sweet Liddesdale, (weel = well)

Baith the hie land and the law;

Keep ye weel frae the traitor Mains,

For gould and gear he’ll sell ye a’ (goud = gold, a’ = all)

Yet wad I rather be ca’d Hobbie Noble, ( wad = would, ca’d = called)

In Carlisle, where he suffers for his fau’t, (fau’t = fault)

Than I’d be ca’d the traitor Mains,

That eats and drinks of the meal and maut.” ( maut = malt).”

Edward Noble and His Family.  Edward Noble, born in 1741, served in his youth as a
midshipman in the Royal Navy.  However,
contracting incurable asthma in the fogs of Newfoundland he
relinquished the
service for the profession of a bookseller in London.
An accomplished mathematician, he wrote The
Elements of Linear Perspective. 
the book proved to be too difficult
for most readers and did not sell well.

His wife was also named Noble, although
from a different Noble family in London.
She was a sister of William Noble the drawing master.

They had three
sons.  In 1784, soon after the birth of
their third son, Edward – never in good health – died at the young age
forty-three.  It was their mother who
raised the three sons and enabled them to have an education.  William became a landscape painter in water
colors, Samuel and George were engravers.

Noble Seamen at Broadsea in 1789.  The Noble seamen of 1789 all had nicknames which were probably repeated by their sons and grandsons who also went to seaHere are some of these names.

Andrew Noble – Skipper

Alexander Noble – Shankie

Andrew Noble – Nobilie

Andrew Noble – Bobin

Andrew Noble – Bengie

John Noble – Bangie

William Noble – Rockie

William Noble – Skipper

Andrew Noble – Onzie

and William Noble – Elder.

It was probably one of the William Nobles above who was obliged to leave Broadsea in 1804 after one of his sons had accidentally shot and killed, while firing at sea fowls, the son of a neighbor.

The Nobles of Ardkinglas.  Andrew Noble
was a gunnery expert who had left the army to join Armstrongs when they
their Ordnance factory at Elswick to produce the new Armstrong gun.  He was to become Lord Armstrong’s right-hand
man, rising to Chairman in 1900.  He
bought Ardkinglas on Loch Fyne in Argyllshire in 1905 and enjoyed holidays on the estate
there until he died in 1915 at the age of eighty-four.

His fourth son John
inherited and became the Baronet at Ardkinglas.  He had a
wonderful collection of
silver and was regarded as a connoisseur whose opinion was well
respected.  When he died in 1938 his two
younger sons,
John and Michael, ran the estate together.

John and his wife Elizabeth moved
into Ardkinglas as their permanent home and brought up their children
there.  Their introduction of contemporary paintings and
furnishings combined with
their informal hospitality to a wide range of friends and visitors
the house with a particular atmosphere which has remained a vital
ingredient in
the house’s character.

John worked at Bletchley during the war and was away from
Ardkinglas for four years.  After the
war, as well as running his part of the estate, John was active in
the arts in Scotland.  He was Chairman of
both the Scottish Crafts Centre and the Edinburgh Tapestry Company.  And he arranged musical weekends at
Ardkinglas with professional musicians.
His brother Michael meanwhile became the MP for Argyllshire in
1958 and
in 1962 was the Secretary of State for Scotland.

When John Noble died unexpectedly
at the early age of sixty in 1972, his only son Johnny inherited
Ardkinglas.  At that time Ardkinglas was
making a loss, saddled with heavy death duties and a large work force.  Areas of hill ground were sold and various
ventures started.  But it was growing
oysters that proved the successful venture and so Loch Fyne Oysters was
born.  Johnny held Ardkinglas until his
death in 2002.

Thomas Noble at Westfield, Massachusetts.  In his historical sketch of Westfield, the Rev.
Emerson Davis stated that Thomas Noble’s residence in Westfield was
about two
and a half miles east of the present centre of the town.
It was on the farm where his son, Deacon
Thomas Noble, afterwards resided and which remained in the family until
the death, in 1791, of his great-grandson, Lieutenant Stephen Noble.

King Philip’s War in 1675, Thomas Noble was very much exposed to Indian
marauders.  One night during family
prayers, an old Indian named Gray Lock stepped up and pulled the string
and let
the door swing open.  As soon as all was
quiet, be would then pull the string again.

Thomas Noble was persuaded by his
friends to move into town.  Gray Lock
said that he had several opportunities of killing most of his children
at a
shot, but did not want scalps as much as captives. 

Clifford Noble of Barnes & Noble.  The booksellers Barnes & Noble began in 1886 as a small bookstore called Arthur
Hinds & Company, located in the Cooper Union Building in New
York City.  In the fall of 1886 Clifford Noble, a then-recent Harvard graduate
from Westfield, Massachusetts, was hired to work there as a clerk.  In 1894 he was made a partner and the name of
the shop was changed to Hinds & Noble.

In 1917 Noble bought out Hinds and
entered into a partnership with William Barnes, son of his old friend
Barnes, and the name of the store was changed to Barnes & Noble.  In 1930 he sold his share of the company to
William Barnes’ son John.  Clifford Noble died in 1936 at the age
of seventy-two.


Noble Names

  • Hobbie Noble was the chief of a Border reiver family who was captured and executed in Carlisle in 1583. 
  • Sir Andrew Noble was an expert in gunnery who rose to become the Chairman of
    the Armstrong munitions company in 1900. 
  • Monty Noble was an Australian cricket captain and all-rounder of the team in the early 1900’s. 
  • Edward J. Noble pioneered peppermint candies in America in the 1920’s and later founded the broadcasting company ABC.

Select Noble Numbers Today

  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Noble and Like Surnames.

These surnames might suggest the high and mighty of the medieval world.  Instead, they were probably the actors in a village medieval pageant who adopted the name of the character they were playing.





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