This Danish and Norwegian surname VAN HORN was originally derived from the Old English word HORN, and was used as a name in a variety of senses. It was an occupational name for someone who made small articles such as combs, spoons, and window lights out of horn. Horn was a commonly used material in the Middle Ages when glass was for most people prohibitively expensive and plastics, of course, had not yet been invented. It was also an occupational name for someone who played the musical instrument, which was made from the actual horn of an animal. This was used not only in recreation and entertainment, but also as a signal. It was a topographic name for someone who lived by a horn-shaped spur of a hill or tongue of land in a bend of a river, or a habitation name from any of the places named with this word. Occasionally the name was used as a nickname of uncertain application, perhaps referring to some feature of a person's character, or else used to refer to a cuckolded husband. The name was adopted by Ashkenazic Jews, referring to the ram's horn (Hebrew SHOFAR) which is blown in the Synagogue during various ceremonies. The name has spread throughout Europe and into the United States in many forms, which include HORNE, HORNOR, ATHORNE, HORNIKER, Van den HOORN, HORNLEIN and ORENSTEIN, to name but a few. Dutchmen who have surnames from towns, cities or districts, are mostly distinguished by the prefix VAN. In the United States the use of capital and initial letters and spaces is optional with the particular family. The Dutch language is most closely related to Low German, and its surnames have been influenced both by German and French naming practices. The preposition 'van' is found especially with habitation names, and the 'de' mainly with nicknames. Compared to other countries, Dutch heraldry is notably simpler, some of the shields bearing only a single charge. Generally speaking one helmet, one shield and one crest has been used, quartering is uncommon and mottoes are rare. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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