This surname of LENOIR was a French nickname for someone with notably dark hair or complexion. The name was originally derived from the Old French word NOIR. The name has numerous variant spellings which include NIER, NEGRE, NIEDU, NOIREZ, NOIRE and NERAUD. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected. The associated coat of arms for this name are recorded in J.B Rietstaps Armorial General. Illustrated by V & H.V Rolland's. This monumental work took 23 years to complete and 85,000 coats of Arms are included in this work. A notable of the name was Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir (1822-1900) French inventor and engineer, born in Luxembourg. He invented the first practical internal combustion gas engine (c.1859) and later built the first car to use it (1860). He also constructed a boat driven by his engine (1886).
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