Cowley (surname)

Cowley is a surname in the English language.

Language(s)1. English
2. Irish


The surname Cowley has numerous origins. In some cases it originated as a habitational name, derived from any of the several places in England named Cowley. One such place, in Gloucestershire, is derived from two Old English elements: the first, cu, meaning "cow"; the second element, leah, meaning "woodland clearing". Two other places are located in Derbyshire which are derived from the Old English col, meaning "coal" (in reference to charcoal). Another place is located near London, which can has two possible derivations: the first is from the Old English cofa, meaning "shelter" or "bay"; the second possibility is that this place name is derived from the Old English personal name Cofa. Other places are located in Buckinghamshire, Devon, Oxfordshire, and Staffordshire: these place names are thought to be derived from elements meaning "the wood or clearing of Cufa", although they may also contain topographical elements as well. In some cases the surname Cowley is derived from the Irish-language surname Mac Amhlaoibh, meaning "son of Amhlaoibh".[1]


The surname has been borne by a noted Irish family, who were one of the so-called 'Ten Tribes of Kilkenny'. The ten families bore the surnames Archdekin, Archer, Cowley, Knaresborough, Langton, Lawless, Ley, Ragget, Rothe, and Shee. Of the ten, only the Shees were considered to be of Irish ancestry; the nine others, including the Cowleys, were of English origin.[2]

People with the surnameEdit


  • George Cowley, one of the main characters in the TV series The Professionals


  1. ^ Learn about the family history of your surname,, retrieved 17 December 2010 which cited: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4 for the surname "Cowley".
  2. ^ MacLysaght, Edward (1972), Irish Families: Their Names, Arms and Origins, New York: Crown Publishers, p. 266