Nowell (pr. NO-wull) is my mother's maiden name, and we've been wondering where it comes from. Her father is English and I think a little German, if that helps. My mom said she thinks it comes from the French word Noel, because the English Christmas carol "The First Noel" was/is sometimes written as "The First Nowell". Is this correct? Thanks in advance.

People get burned out in big families, you can even see it in the naming of children. Like the first kid, "You were named after Grandma." The seventh kid, "You were named after a sandwich I had. Now get your brother, Reuben."
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Absolutely true. The first Nowell, i.e., the eponymous ancestor, was probably born at Christmas time. And it is English.
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