Zirkel appears to be the more correct German form of the family name. But note how it sounds in German:
"Z" is pronounced as "TS"
"i" is pronounced as "ee"
"1" is pronounced as "ell"
When Ludwig Zirckel from Baden arrived in Philadelphia County, his family had a difficult time in getting the English clerks at City Hall to spell properly the German spoken name "TSEERKELL". And the Clerks couldn't read his German signature either. They tried to spell it the way it sounded to them: Zirkell, Zerckel, Zirkle, Zerkel, Scircle, Sircle, & Circle.
The family name most probably originated from the German "Zirkler" meaning one on patrol, as a guard, or watchman who makes the rounds or the circle. This explanation is given by Professor Ferdinand Zirkel of Leipzig, Germany (one of the greatest Geologist and Petrologist) in a letter to Prof. Homer W. Zirkle of Denver, Colo. Oct. 21st 1903:
"A friend of mine, a great scholar in German philology, informed me that Zirkle or in the oldest form "Zirkler' means 'Nachtwachter', the Town Crier or Night Watchman, who makes his regular circalation, his 'zirkel'."
A German Dictionary gives the meaning off zirkel : "circle; pair of compasses" & likewise cirkel: "circle; pair of compasses".
Martin Luther's German Bible of 1534 uses the word "zirkelt" in Isaiah 44:13 as follows:
"und zirkelt es ab"
"and (he) compasses it off"
So it is not surprising that Konrad Zirgle's Coat of Arms of 1603 should feature a man holding a pair compasses, by which circles are made.
The English language does not use very many "Z" or "X", in this regard like the Latin; and tried to use lots of "S" and "C" instead. Thus the word for 'ring' in Greek is 'kirkos', but in Latin 'circus' and in English 'circle'. That was the problem: how to spell the Zirkel family name in English.
"We are German and our name is Zekkel. We live in America. Its language is English. So we will spell our name the English way". So John Lewis Circle, son of Peter Circle, told his son Stephen 10 years old in 1827 when his school teacher taught the lad how to spell his name in both German and English. So the descendants of the fifth brother Peter changed their name to Circle. So also did those of Michael Jr. who settled in Meigs County, Ohio. As this line migrated west from Virginia and Ohio to Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and points west the spelling remained Circle. A grandson of Peter Circle, son of John Circle, George Adam Circle changed the spelling to Scircle, thus became George Adam Scircle. This variation is found mainly in Indiana.
In Virginia, the Lewis line, the George Adam line, the Michael line, and part of the Andrew line spell their name Zirkle.
Part of Andrew line Zerkel.
The Michael line descendants who settled Mason County, W. Va. and in Clark and Champaign County, Ohio spelled their name Zerkel, but with the passing of time many of their descendants have changed it to Zerkle in many areas of Ohio, and the general mid West to which they have spread. The George Adam and Lewis lines use Zirkle generally across the country.
The spelling Zirkel generally indicates more recent immigrants, of which there are many in the New York City area.
The history of the family name, its appearance and use in Germany, has been studied carefully by Herr Wilhelm Zirkel of Ravensburg. He found the following:
1336 A Mrs. Zurgler is named as a house- owner in Pforzheim Baden by Dr. Karl Brechenmacher in Book V of German Family Names.
1437 Stephan Zurkel a noble servant in Nurnberg, Bavaria.
14__ A Mrs. Zirkler is named in Nekrolog of Zimmern, a small town 1 hour from Erlaheim.
1468 Bern(hard) Circkel de Eyselstadt is named as a student at the University of Leipzig.
1525 Bernhard Zirckler citizen of Fussen, Bavaria.
1600 Jacob Zirkell in Erlaheim, Swabia.
1603 Konrad Zirgle in Bavaria, a 'Kellermeister' of Duke Ferdinand, i.e. ducal butler in charge of all wines and other drinks. He had the Coat of Ams of the man holding the compass( zirkel ).
The description of the Coat of Arms of the Zirkel Family was provided by courtesy of Herr Wilhelm Zirkel of Ravensburg, Germany, in a letter to Gordon Zirkle in Virginia, USA, and was translated by Mrs. Susanne Henkel, New Market, VA. in February 1995.
Gordon Zirkle is the author of books: Zirkle Family in America, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. These books are a "must" for anyone interested in Zirkle genealogy.
"A vertically divided shield, split into black-gold, on which a man with a bandana (the ends of which are flying sideways) is standing on a mountain in changed over colour (immediately changed over), who is holding a golden compass (goldenen zirkel) downward in his right hand, the compass enclosing a golden star. On top of the shield, is resting a steel coloured tournament or piercing helmet; as helmet decoration is the grown man holding a compass and star in his raised right hand. The helmet covers are black-gold on both sides"
Moritz Ruhl, Meaning of Symbols in Coats of Arms, Leipzig
"The divided shield shows that a division (branching out of the blood line) had already taken place in early times, however, the carriers of this coat of arms remained aware of their former union in their family tree. The mountain is a sign of freedom and steadfastness, possibly pointing out the "mountainous home" of their forefathers. The man is the symbol of energy and willpower. In this case, the compass is to be considered a hint as to the name. As a symbol, the compass stands for art appreciation and a reminder of clever calculation of the hours, while time itself is a circle, and the circles of the compass are getting lost within themselves".
"The star stands for good fortune and brightly shining fame. The tournament helmet means good and honest parentage, as well as bravery in wartimes. The growing man is symbolic of courageous ambition for higher goals, and for upholding of the honest name. Black is the colour of humbleness and devotion, comparable to the diamond, which shines the brighter the blacker it is".
Artist who drew the Zirkel Coat of Arms for this book: Mrs. Robert I.
Jones, Winchester, VA.
"This book" refers to Vol. 1 of Zirkle Family in America by Gordon Zirkle.