The origin of the name of the county is unclear. In a 1909 edition of Notes and Queries Harriot Tabor suggested "that the name should be Ruthland, and that there is a part of Essex called the Ruth, and that the ancient holders of it were called Ruthlanders, since altered to Rutland"; however, responses suggest "that Rutland, as a name, was earlier than the Norman Conquest. Its first mention, as "Roteland", occurs in the will of Edward the Confessor; in Domesday it is "the King's soc of Roteland", not being then a shire; and in the reign of John it was assigned as a dowry to Queen Isabella.
The northwestern part of the county was recorded as Rutland, a detached part of Nottinghamshire, in Domesday Book; the south-eastern part as the wapentake of Wicelsea in Northamptonshire. It was first mentioned as a separate county in 1159, but as late as the 14th century it was referred to as the 'Soke of Rutland'. Historically it was also known as Rutlandshire, but in recent times only the shorter name is common.
Rutland may be from Old English hryþr or hrythr "cattle" and land "land", as a record from 1128 as Ritelanede shows. However, A Dictionary of British Place-Names by A D Mills gives an alternative etymology, "Rota's land", from the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) personal name and land land. It is from the alternative interpretation of red land that the traditional nickname for a male person from Rutland, a "Raddle Man", derives.