English: habitational name from any of the many places called Alton, in Derbyshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, and elsewhere. The origin is various: Alton in Derbyshire and Alton Grange in Leicestershire probably have as their first element Old English (e)ald ‘old’. Those in Hampshire, Dorset, and Wiltshire are at the sources of rivers, and are named in Old English as ‘settlement (tūn) at the source (ǣwiell)’. Others derive from various Old English personal names; for example, the one in Staffordshire is formed with an unattested personal name, Ælfa, and one in Worcestershire, Eanulfintun in 1023 , is ‘settlement associated with (-ing) Ēanwulf’.
Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.