The surname of McKNIGHT was derived from the Gaelic MacNeahdainn 'the son of Neachdain'. The name means 'pure'. The name is also spelt McNAUGHTON, McNEIGHT, McNAGHTEN, McNAUGHT and McNITT. Early records of the name mention Gillecrist MacNACHTAN who was recorded in the year 1247 in Kilmorich and Donald MacNACHTUNE appears in the year 1431. The use of fixed surnames or descriptive names appears to have commenced in France about the year 1000, and such names were introduced into Scotland through the Normans a little over one hundred years later, although the custom of using them was by no means common for many years afterwards. During the reign of Malcolm Ceannmor (1057-1093) the latter directed his chief subjects, after the custom of other nations, to adopt surnames from their territorial possessions, and there created 'The first erlis that euir was in Scotland'. Later instances of the name include Alexander MakNACHTAN who signed the Earl of Argyll's letters of fire and sword against Clan Gregor in 1565. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries.
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