The Origin of the Pringle Surname


According to the detailed The Records of the Pringles, published by Alexander Pringle in 1933, the surname Hoppringill, or Pringle, dates from the reign of Alexander III of Scotland (1249-86) and is one of the oldest names of the Scottish Border region.

It is a placename derived from a locale in the Parish of Stow on the right side of Gala Water, about ten miles North of Galashiels. Hoppringle lies about one half mile up from the bank of the river on the Southern slopes of a ridge separating the valleys of the rivers Armet and Todhole (now named Armet Water and Toddle Burn).

This ridge, with its level crest, abuts at its Western extremity on the Gala in a remarkably rounded knob some 300ft above the level of the river, which winds around its base in a semi-circle. It is this ring-like boss which no doubt gives the place its name of Hoppringhill, as it is occasionally written in older records.

The first syllable is the name Hope, Hopp, Op orUp, derived from the Old Norse Hop – a haven, denoting a small enclosed valley branching off a larger one. The other syllables include ring (or rink ), and hill. As such names are always descriptive, Hoppringill means simply the small enclosed valley of the ring, or round hill.

The full name of De Hoppringill was in use for 300 years. The last recorded usage in its full form is by a Chief of the Clan whose will, dated 1737, is in the name of John Hoppringle of that Ilk. Around 1590, however, Pringill, which had appeared rarely before, begins to become the dominant form, until around 1650, when it gave way to Pringle. This change closely follows similar changes in the spelling of words like Temple and Single, derived from Tempill and Singill. The final syllable was never actually pronounced gill.



Many early genealogists got the origins of the family name wrong, these are the main errors:

  • THE PILGRIM ERROR: The idea of the Pringle name being derived from the Latin word ‘pelerin’ or ‘pilgrim’.
  • THE DECAPITATION ERROR: The idea that Hoppringle is hyphenated. Hop and Pringle are actually one word and not two.
  • THE WELSH LANGUAGE ERROR: The idea that the Hop is the Welsh prefix ‘Ap’ meaning ‘son of’’.
  • THE PYNGLE/PINGLE ERROR: The idea that the English surname Pyngle (Pingle) is just one form of the spelling of Hoppringle.
  • THE WHITSOME ERROR: The idea that the ‘Pyngles of Whitsome’ were the progenitors of the Hoppringles of Smailholm.

There was never any connection between the Hoppringills and the Pyngles, and the name is Old English not Welsh. Alexander Pringle in his book ‘The Records of the Pringles or Hoppringills of the Scottish Border’ published in 1933, strongly rejected, on pages 29 to 31, the then prevailing and still current error that the Hoppringills were in some way descended from the Pyngle’s of Whitsome (e.g. Roger Pyngle of Whitsome and Adam Pyngle of Aberdeen) as absurd. The Hoppringills and their later Pringle descendants were all descended from the original De Hoppringill family that lived at the place or stead named Hoppringill in the reign of King Alexander III of Scots.


From the book: “Scottish Clan and Family Names: their arms, origins and Tartans”. By Roddy Martine (Mainstream Publishing, 1996). Page 184: 

Pringle: From the lands of this name in Roxburghshire. The name appears in the reign of Alexander III. A Pringle was Constable of Cessford in the sixteenth century and the Pringles were numbered among the Riding Clans of the Scottish Borders. The Pringles of Stichill, Roxburghshire, acquired a Nova Scotia baronetcy in 1683.


From the book: “The Surnames of Scotland” by George F. Black(New York Public Library, 1946).

The old form of this surname was Hoppringle or Hopringle, from the old lands of that name near Stow in Roxburghshire. The earliest notice of the name is in a Soutra charter in which Robert de Hoppryngil is witness to a gift to the Hospital confirmed by Alexander III (Soltre p.29). Elys de Obrinkel, tenant of the bishop of St. Andrews in Edinburghshire, rendered homage in 1296. His seal bears a hunting horn and S’ Helias de Hoprigkil (Bain, II, p. 205, 544). Thomas de Oppringyl or Hoprynghil occurs in 1368 (RMS., I, 280, 289). John Pryngel in Fife is mentioned in 1406 (RPSA., p. 9)*. Robert de Hoppringill witnessed a charter by Archibald, 4. Earl of Douglas, c. 1413 (Home 18), and William Pringle of Craiglatch had Crown tacks of Craiglatch in 1485 and 1490. Dand Pringill was a constable of Cessford in 1515 (Morton, p. 30), and in 1573 there is a mention of James Hoppryngill, “beidman” of Edinburgh (Soltre, p.225). Isobell Oppringill was a spouse of William Heburne in 1562 (CMN., 83). The pronunciation of the name is now Pring-ill. It has nothing to do with “pilgrim”. Hoppringeile 1555, Hoppringil 1503, Hoppringill and Hopppringle 1567, Pringel 1470, Pringell 1655.

* George Black was wrong about this individual – John was a Pyngel NOT a Pringle!


The Scottish Borders (with Galloway) to 1603, by W.R. Kermack. Johnston & Bacon 1967.

Page 70: “Their neighbours to the east, the Pringles or Hoppringles of Smailholm and Gala (originally presumably from Hoppringle, Stow parish, Midlothian) followed the Black Douglases, but survived their fall.”


NOTE (by Alex Pringle, in his book ‘The Records of the Pringles or Hoppringills of the Scottish Border’)

Reference must be made to the early genealogists, Mackenzie, Nesbit, Douglas, and Robertson. Most of their fictitious statements with regard to the early Hoppringills have been discarded; but their identification of Roger Pyngle of Whitsome and Adam Pyngle of Aberdeen with the Hoppringills has been accepted up to the present day. Their method was simple.

Totally ignoring the fact that in the numerous occurrences of the names in the ancient records no Hoppringill had ever been found spell Pyngle, nor a Pyngle spelt Hoppringill, they altered the spelling of Hoppringill into Hop-Pringle, and of Pyngle into Pringle, when, presto, the identification was complete! Hence the long procession of semi-decapitated Hop-Pringles in Douglas’s “Baronage” and the wholly decapitated Hop Pringle of “The Outlaw Murray.”

The fact is that English surnames are constantly to be met with in Scotland during the reigns of Robert and David Bruce. Englishmen had flocked into the country under the Norman knights, and among them came this Roger Pyngille or Pyngel. King Robert divided Whitsome between him and Nicholas Fouler; but he afterwards forfeited these lands, along with those of Bonjedworth, under King David (G. S., R. S., Robertsons Index). Contemporary with Roger was William Pyngill, mentioned as an official in 1329 in the royal household (E. R.): while in the Percy Chartulary we read that on the 7th January 1332 ” Earl Percy, with the Earl of Cornwall and Lord Neville, overtook at a ford and slew Thomas Pyngel, who with 200 horsemen had been pillaging Redesdale,” ” quidam proditor,” a certain traitor, the English chronicler calls him. – We to and come now Adam Pyngle. He was practically contemporary with our Adam Hoppringill, squire to William James, the first Earls of Douglas, and was a prominent figure from 1360 till 1386, before when he died. The same or not as the Adam Pyngle of the Percy Chartulary who held lands in Northumberland and the Adam Pyngle of the Coldingham Chartulary who held fishings on Tweed, Adam appears some two dozen times in the Exchequer Rolls between 1360 and 1384 as ” Custumar,” or customs officer, of Aberdeen, collector of contributions for King David’s ransom, bailie of Formartin, and Tutor of the heirs of William Scott. In the Great Seal he appears as a holder of lands in the shires of Aberdeen, Kincardine and Perth, and as a witness. On the 18th September 1363 Adam Pyngle, ” mercator de Aberdene,” has a, safe conduct to enter England with his goods and merchandise, with 4 companions, on horseback, and trade there for a year, taking back only the same horses that he brought (Rotuli Scotiae).

From the Registrum Episcopatus Aberdomensis we see his transactions in lands, and his foundation of a chaplaincy under the bishop of Aberdeen; and it is interesting to find him present at a bishop’s court on the 24th October 1321 along with William Earl Douglas himself, who had succeeded his brother-in-law in the earldom of Mar in 1374 and consequently was often north in Aberdeenshire; also that he had been a fellow-witness with Archdeacon Barbour, author of The Bruce, and that he had an Anniversary celebrated in the cathedral church of Aberdeen on the 14th of July. From ” The Acts of Parliament ” we learn that, along with John Mercer-whose ” inestimable wealth ” the English Walsingham speaks of – and other burgesses, he was specially called to the Parliament of Perth, 13th January 1364, to consider King David’s ransom; and again on 18th February 1369 to consider contradicted judgments, questions, and quarrels. Adam Pyngle married, before May 1361, Marjorie de Blackwater, daughter and heiress of William, called Ingramisman of Kincardineshire – not a daughter of the Earl Marischal, as recent authorities still keep repeating (G. S.). He had at least one son, Adam, who was alive in 1380 (E. R.). From The Antiquities of Aberdeen and Banff we find that his two daughters, his heirs, with consent of their husbands, wadset their respective halves of Blackwater, Katrina in 1400, and Isabella in 1402. In the Townhall of Aberdeen there can be seen an old undated plan of the city showing ” Edie Pingle’s Croft ” still marked at Gerard-street. The statement that this Adam Pyngle, merchant, and customs officer for twenty years of Aberdeen, was the same as our Adam Hoppringill, squire to the Earls of Douglas, is thus absurd.

Finally, we find from the English Close Rolls, and the Subsidy Records of Sussex, Suffolk, and Yorkshire, that Pyngle or Pingel was a widely spread English surname when the first Hopprlngill appeared.. We note Robert Pingel, Hants, 28th February 1274; William Pingel, Hants, 1275; Gilbert Pyngel, Norfolk, 1275; John and Alexander Pingel, Yorkshire, 1297 and 1302 ; John Pyngle, Hants, 1305 ; Thomas Pyngel, Worcester, 1309; Simon Pyngil, Derbyshire, 1311; Alan Pyngel, Hants, 1325; Petronilla Pingel, Suffolk, 1327 ; William Pyngel, Suffolk, 1340, who, along with John Moigne and others, is apprehended for imprisoning the Archdeacon of Essex-reminding us of the above Adam Pyngle and his contemporary, Sir Walter de Moigne, sheriff of Aberdeenshire ; William Pyngel, Gloucestershire, 1348 ; William Pyngull, Worcester, 1401 ; and Richard Pyngill, vicar of Edlingham, Northumberland-possibly of the same stock as the Scottish Pyngles-1418.


In 1680 Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh (the Lord Advocate) started the error regarding the origin of the Pringle surname, and it was copied by many ‘historians’ including Anderson and Burke. 

The Science of Herauldry by Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, Edinburgh 1680 Page 2 “To show a respect to Religion. Thus the Christians bore the Cross, at their expeditions into the Holy-land, which were therefore called, Croissads: And the Pringles and others, bear Escalops, to show their devote Pilgrimages: Of which these shells were the Badges, and for which Pilgrimage, the Pringles were first called Pilgrims, and thereafter by corruption Pringle. For the same reason doth the Dowglass carry a Heart, in remembrance of the Pilgrimage to the Holy-land, with King Robert the Bruce’s heart; which was to be, and is buried there, at the Special command of that pious Prince, about the year, 1328.”


The Baronage of Scotland, containing, an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Gentry of that Kingdom; collected from the Public Records and Chartularies of this Country; The Records and Private Writings of Families; and the Works of our Best Historians. Volume 1. By Sir Robert Douglas. Edinburgh, 1798.

This book puts forward the lie that the Pringles of Smailholm were originally from Whitsome.


A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland for 1853, by J. Bernard Burke. Volume III supplement, corrigenda and general index.

Starting on page 261 (page 270 in the pdf file) it has Lineage of the Pringles of Whytbank (representing Pringle of Smailholm and Galashiels), Pringles of Torwoodlee and Pringles of Clifton and Haining. It also contains all the errors mentioned above!


The Scottish Nation; or the surnames, families, literature, honours and biographical history of the people of Scotland, by William Anderson (Volume III) published in 1863.

Has an article of the various branches of the Pringles, starting on page 305 (page 352 in the pdf file). It contains all the errors mentioned above!