This German and Dutch surname EARNEST was derived from the Germanic byname 'Ernust' meaning 'seriousness', 'firmness' or a nickname from the Middle German 'Ernest' meaning 'seriousness, battle'. It has also been adopted by Ashkenazic Jews. The name has many variants including ERNEST, ERNSTER, ERNSTIG, ERNEY, ERNY, ERNSTER, ERNO, NESTI (Italian) and ERNESTING. Surnames are divided into four categories, from occupations, nicknames, baptismal and locational. All the main types of these are found in German-speaking areas, and names derived from occupations and from nicknames are particularly common. A number of these are Jewish. Patronymic surnames are derived from vernacular Germanic given names, often honouring Christian saints. Regional and ethnic names are also common. The German preposition 'von (from) or 'of', used with habitation names, is taken as a mark of aristocracy, and usually denoted proprietorship of the village or estate from where they came. Some members of the nobility affected the form VON UND ZU with their titles. In eastern Germany there was a heavy influence both from and on neighbouring Slavonic languages. Many Prussian surnames are of Slavonic origin.
A notable member of this name was Max ERNST (l89l-l976) German painter and sculptor, born in Bruhl, near Cologne. After studying philosophy and psychiatry at Bonn, he turned to painting, and in l9l8 founded at Cologne the German Dada group. Later, in Paris, with Eluard and Breton, he participated in the Surrealist movement. He invented the technique of frottage (pencil rubbings on canvas). He settled in the USA in l94l, but returned to France in l953. He won the Venice Biennale prize (l954). A further notable was Johann August ERNESTI (l707-8l) German classical and biblical scholar, born in Tennstedt. Professor at Leipzig from l742, he edited many classical texts, and was the chief founder of a correct exegesis of scripture by the laws of grammar and history. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.
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