This interesting and long-established surname is of Old French origin, and has four distinct possible sources. Firstly, Vail may be an occupational name for a watchman, deriving from the Anglo-Norman French "veil(le)", Old French "de la veille", "of the watch, watchman", ultimately from the Latin "vigilia", watch, wakefulness. The surname from this source first appears on record in the early part of the 12th Century (see below). Other early examples include: Richard la Veyle (Essex, 1242), and Geoffrey de Veel (Somerset, 1256). Vail may also be a metonymic occupational name for a keeper of calves, deriving from the Old French "veel", calf, or a nickname for someone thought to resemble, or possess characteristics of the animal. William Vel and a Thomas le Veel were recorded respectively in the 1276 Feet of Fines for Suffolk, and the 1296 Subsidy Rolls of Sussex. Vail may also have originated as a nickname for the elder of two in the one household bearing the same given name, from the Anglo-French "viel", Old French "vieil", old, or perhaps as a mark of respect for an elderly person. One Reginald Leviel was noted in the 1173 Pipe Rolls of London. Finally, the surname may be topographical in origin from residence in a valley, from the Old French "val", valley, Wide de la Val, entered in the 1190 Pipe Rolls of Northamptonshire being the earliest recorded namebearer from this source. On November 20th 1685, Richard Vail, an infant, was christened at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger de Veille, which was dated 1127, in "Records of St. Benet of Holme", Norfolk, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.