The surname of WINNER was an English habitation name of uncertain origin, perhaps from an unidentified minor place named with the elements HVRIN (gorse) and VRA (nook, corner). Most of the place-names that yield surnames are usually of small communities, villages, hamlets, some so insignificant that they are now lost to the map. A place-name, it is reasonable to suppose, was a useful surname only when a man moved from his place of origin to elsewhere, and his new neighbours bestowed it, or he himself adopted it. The name is also spelt WHINNER, WINNERY and WHINNERAH. Early records of the name mention WINROW (without surname) who appears in County Lancashire in 1198, and Edward Whinray of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Most of the European surnames were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. Elizabeth Whinnery of County Suffolk was listed in the Wills at Richmond in 1568, and John Whinray was recorded in the Lancashire Wills in 1584. Hugo Whynrowe appears in Lancashire in 1622, and John Whinerall was listed in the Preston Guild Rolls in 1682. 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 the main 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.
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