This French surname of PARENTEAU was a nickname derived from the Old French word PARENT, and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form PARENTIS, meaning to give birth, be a parent, referring to someone who was related to an important member of the community. The name was also sometimes applied to someone of striking or imposing appearance. Other spellings of the name include PARRENT, PARRANT, PARENTI, PARENTE, PARIENTE, PARENTIN and PARENTAUD. The name was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066, and has been Anglicized to PARENT. Gerald PARENT, was documented in London in the year 1185. Geoffrey PARENT was recorded in Northumberland in the same year. French, or rather Norman French, was the language of the aristocracy and the upper classes in England at the time fixed surnames were being developed, it is therefore not surprising that many of our well-known family names are derived from French words. Originally only Christian or personal names were used, and although a few came into being during the 10th century, surnames were not widely used until much later, when people began to realize the prestige of having a second name. Later instances of the name include William le PARENT who was recorded in 1316, and he appears in another document in 1327. 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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