This very interesting name has three distinct possible sources, and may be English, Scottish, or Irish in origin. As an English surname Cullen is locational, and a dialectal variant of Cologne, the Rhineland city so called from the Old French form of the Middle High German "Koln", ultimately from the Latin "colonia", colony. An early example of the surname from this source is John de Cullen (Suffolk, 1524). The Scottish Cullens derive their name from the burgh of Cullen in the former county of Banffshire (now part of the Grampian region), and Henricus de Culane, noted in the 1340 Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, is the earliest of the name on record. The placename is believed to be so called from the Gaelic "cuilan", a diminutive of "coil, cuil", nook, recess. Elene Culan held a land in Edinburgh in 1494, and John Cullen was appointed Islay Herald in January 1661. The majority of Irish namebearers were originally O'Cuillinns, descendant(s) of Cuileann, a byname meaning "Holly". This leading sept held lands in the south-eastern counties of Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford, and the places Kilcullen and Cullenstown in the last mentioned county specifically locates them. Paul Cullen (1803 - 1878) was cardinal and bishop of Dublin. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Bertram de Calogine, which was dated 1307, in a "Calendar of Letter Books for Devonshire", during the reign of King Edward 11, known as "Edward of Caernafon", 1307 - 1327. 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.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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