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Meaninghabitational name for one who lived in a place named "Priest's Clearing", from Anglo-Saxon preost and leah
Region of originEngland and Scotland
Other names
Variant form(s)Priestly, Pressly, Pressley
Frequency Comparison:[1]

Presley is a surname.


The name Presley is derived from the Old English preost,[2] meaning "priest", and leah meaning "forest clearing".[2]


Most instances of the surname Presley and variants Pressley and Pressly are thought to be ultimately of English origin. Later, if not found in some form originating also in Scotland, the name made its way across the border to that country, then on to Ireland and to the United States. However, some of the instances of the name in America may derive from a German surname Preslar (ultimately from Bressler, meaning 'from Breslau, Poland'), as individuals in some post-colonial American records are recorded under both names.[3]

The surname came to prominence in the person of Elvis Presley, the American music icon, whose family may have originally come from Scotland and whose earliest documented ancestors were an Andrew Presley and an Elspeth Leg,[4][5] and were based in the Aberdeenshire village of Lonmay.[6] Their son, also called Andrew, who emigrated to the United States in 1745, was the first recorded Presley on American soil and the musician's direct ancestor of 7 generations. It is possible that in Scotland, the surname originates with the Aberdeenshire hamlet of Persley,[7] now encompassed by the City of Aberdeen. This location's name is probably derived from the Scottish Gaelic phreaslach, meaning "wooded place",[7] or a Brittonic Pictish equivalent of the same word (c.f. Welsh phrysgwydden 'shrub'). The names Presley and Pressly to this day remain fairly common in Aberdeenshire but are sparse in the rest of Scotland.

There is some speculation that the name may, in some cases be a habitational name from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, Wales. This is highly dubious, given the name is very uncommon in the country.

In the United States and Australia, however, Presley is often an Anglicized form of German surnames such as Preslar and Presler. This is thought to be a habitational name from Breslau, Poland. Former President Jimmy Carter, through his mother, is thought to descend from Johann Valentin Preslar/Presler, who along with his family reached America and later the then frontier area of the central Carolinas sometime during the mid-18th century. Elvis Presley may have the same ancestor.[8]

Today, Presley ranks as the 1,825 most common surname in the United States.

Notable bearers[edit]

As a first or other name:

Variants of the name:


  1. ^ "Presley Surname Meaning and Geographic Distribution". Retrieved 19 January 2014
  2. ^ a b Reaney, Percy H (1958). A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge. ISBN 1134933274.
  3. ^ "Elvis Presley Family History | Elvis Biography".
  4. ^ "Elvis roots 'lead to Scotland'". 2004-03-23.
  5. ^ "Elvis: The lost roots".
  6. ^ "Elvis Presley's Scottish roots traced! | Elvis News".
  7. ^ a b West, Stuart. "From Mormond Hill to Memphis". Elvis Australia. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Elvis Presley Family History | Elvis Biography".