The surname of PENA is a Cornish surname of uncertain origin. The form PENNOW is recorded in 1524, and this name is probably derived from it. It appears to have derived from the elements PENNOW, literally meaning the dweller at the head of a large jutting rock or crag. The name was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form PENNA (pinnacle). The name is also spelt PENNER, PENNAR and PENNOW. Cornish naming practices are unfortunately poorly documented for the Middle Ages, but present day Cornish surnames, somewhat surprisingly, do not follow the predominantly patronymic pattern of the other Celtic languages, including Welsh. This may be attributed to the greater influence of the English bureaucracy and English naming practices in Cornwall than in Wales at the time when surnames came into use. The majority of Cornish names are habitation names and others are derived from medieval given names. The earliest records of the name appear to be John le PENNER, who was documented in County Somerset, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) and Willelmus PENNER of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. 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 flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. A later instance of the name includes Thomas Palmer and Elizabeth PENNER, who were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1793.
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