This surname of VILLINES was originally derived from the Old French word 'vilein' and was a name given to a serf or peasant who owed personal service to his lord. The low status of such serfs led to the semantic decline of the word to the modern English 'villain' meaning a rogue. Other spellings of the name include VILAIN, VILLAN, VILLANEAU, VILLANELLI, VILLANELLO and VILLANETTI. The name was brought into England in the wake of the Norman invasion of 1066, and the earliest of the name on record mentions Emald VILEIN, who was recorded in County Norfolk in the year 1167, and Robert VILAIN was documented in Oxford in 1188. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but most of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name. Roger le VILAIN was recorded in Northumberland in 1196, and William le VILEYN, appears in County Huntingdonshire in 1273. Hugh de VELEIN was mentioned in a document in 1279. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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