- Recorded in many forms including von Westfalen, Wastfal, Westphal, Westphalen, Westpfalinger, Westphahl, Westpfel and no doubt others, this is a medieval German surname. It is locational and originates from the state of Westphalia, which translates literally as the people of the west country. Locational surnames are very popular in Germany, and not surprisingly so in England, in view of the Anglo-Saxon pre 6th century associations. They were generally given to people after they left their original homes to move somewhere else. The easiest form of identification of such strangers being to call them by the name of the place from whence they came. Spelling over the centuries being at best indifferent, and local accents very thick, often lead to the development of 'sounds like' spellings. In Germany the suffix ending on a locational surname of '-er' denoted a person who was literally living at the place in question, whilst the preposition 'von' denoted actual ownership. Perhaps not surprisingly the surname is one of the earliest recorded in Germany with Herman Westval being the Burger or civil chief of the town of Anklam in the year 1275, whilst Meister Arnolt Westfaling was recorded at the city of Freiburg in 1453.
Surnames reference. 2013.