Show ContentsLittell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Although the most natural origin to attribute this name to is of the original bearer's diminutive size, and many genealogists make this error, the name is actually derived from the manor of Liddel, in Cumberland England.

Early Origins of the Littell family

The surname Littell was first found in Northumberland, England where Eadric Litle was listed as on Old English Byname in 972. From this early Saxon entry, we move to Suffolk to find Lefstan Litle listed at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk c. 1095. Later in Sussex, Thomas le Lytle was found in the Subsidy Rolls on 1296. 1

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 had the following entries with older spellings: William le Letle, Oxfordshire; Wiscard Litil, Huntingdonshire; John le Litle, Berkshire; and Julian Litel, Cambridgeshire. All held land in their respective shires at that time. 2

But Scotland is where the lion's share of the family claim descent. And there, the first record was of John Litill who served on an inquest at Lanark, 1313. An agreement was made between the abbot of Scone and Robertus dictus Lytil in 1332 and in 1351, Martin Litill, who witnessed a charter by William, dominus vallis de Ledell, of the lands of Abirdowyr in Fife is probably Martin Lytill who in 1358 possessed the land of Cardvyn. Nichol Litil was one of the 'borowis for the earl of Douglas's bounds of the West March in 1368 and Adam Lityll was a tenant of the Douglas in the barony of Kilbucho in 1376.

"The Littles occupied the lower part of Upper Eskdale and a portion of Ewesdale, and were recorded in 1587 as one of the unruly clans in the West March." 3

The Little Clan territory followed the banks of the River Esk and part of Ewarsdale, and their immediate neighbors were the Armstrongs, Elliots and Beatties. Adam Lityll was a tenant of the Douglas Clan in the barony of Kilbucho in 1376. A branch also moved further northward to Aberdeen, but the main branch of the Clan remained around Roxburghshire.

By 1350, they had become an established Clan closely affiliated to the Douglases and their territories were located in the Scottish West Marches, approximately twenty miles due north of Carlisle.

Early History of the Littell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Littell research. Another 225 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1376, 1426, 1448, 1580 and 1890 are included under the topic Early Littell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Littell Spelling Variations

Surnames that evolved in Scotland in the Middle Ages often appear under many spelling variations. These are due to the practice of spelling according to sound in the era before dictionaries had standardized the English language. Littell has appeared as Little, Littel, Littell and others.

Early Notables of the Littell family

More information is included under the topic Early Littell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Littell Ranking

In the United States, the name Littell is the 15,761st most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. 4

Ireland Migration of the Littell family to Ireland

Some of the Littell family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 75 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Littell migration to the United States +

The North American colonies beckoned, with their ample land and opportunity as their freedom from the persecution suffered by so many Clan families back home. Many Scots even fought against England in the American War of Independence to gain this freedom. Recently, clan societies have allowed the ancestors of these brave Scottish settlers to rediscover their familial roots. Among them:

Littell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Benjamin Littell, who landed in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1630 5
Littell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • William Littell, aged 31, who landed in Georgia in 1732 5
Littell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Moore Littell, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1875 5

Contemporary Notables of the name Littell (post 1700) +

  • Mark Alan Littell (1953-2022), American Major League Baseball pitcher for the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals from 1973 to 1982
  • Dave Littell (b. 1953), American fencer at the 1988 Summer Olympics
  • Alfred Beattie Littell (1893-1970), American Republican Party politician
  • Franklin Hamlin Littell (1917-2009), American Protestant scholar
  • Eliakim Littell (1797-1870), American editor and founder of the periodical Littell's Living Age (1844-1941)
  • Virginia Marie Regina "Ginny" Newman Littell, American Republican Party politician, Chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee (1992-1995)
  • Jonathan Littell (b. 1967), American writer in Barcelona, son of Robert Littell
  • Robert Littell (b. 1935), American novelist and journalist
  • Robert Eugene Littell (b. 1936), American Republican Party politician
  • Mark Alan Littell (b. 1953), American Major League Baseball player who played from 1973 to 1982
  • ... (Another 7 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The Littell Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Magnum in parvo
Motto Translation: Great things in a little

  1. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  5. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8) on Facebook