This English, Dutch and German surname of BRILLHART was from BRILL (a hill) in Buckinghamshire, England; or from BRIELLE, in the Netherlands. It was sometimes used as a nickname for one who made, or wore spectacles. It was also the name of four villages in Germany. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. The name is also spelt BRIL and BRILLEMAN. Notable members of the name include Mattys BRIL (1550-84) the Flemish landscape painter, born in Antwerp. He painted frescoes in the Vatican. Paul BRIL (1556-1626) was the Flemish painter, brother of Mattys. He worked in Rome, and raised the prestige of landscape painting by his frescoes. The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century, slightly later than in England and France. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized. The practice of adopting hereditary surnames began in the southern areas of Germany, and gradually spread northwards during the Middle Ages. The word Heraldry is derived from the German HEER, (a host, an army) and HELD, (champion): the term BLASON, by which the science is denoted in French, English, Italian and German, has most probably its origin in the German word 'BLAZEN' (to blow the horn). Whenever a new knight appeared at a Tournament, the herald sounded the trumpet, and as competitors attended with closed vizors, it was his duty to explain the bearing of the shield or coat-armour belonging to each. Thus, the knowledge of the various devices and symbols was called 'Heraldry'. The Germans transmitted the word to the French, and it reached England after the Norman Conquest of 1066.
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