This surname COURNOYER is of two-fold origin. It was a nickname for a cuckold or an occupational name for a hornblower or worker in horn. The name was derived from the Old French word CORNE, and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form CORNA. The name is also spelt CORNU, CORNUAU, LECORNU, COURNE, CORNETTE and CORNEC. Many of the modern family names throughout Europe reflect the profession or occupation of their forbears in the Middle Ages and derive from the position held by their ancestors in the village, noble household or religious community in which they lived and worked. The addition of their profession to their birth name made it easier to identify individual tradesmen and craftsmen. As generations passed and families moved around, so the original identifying names developed into the corrupted but simpler versions that we recognise today.
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. The name was taken early to Scotland, and a Sir Milo CORNETH (otherwise Milone CORNET) appears in record about the close of the 12th century, and during the first quarter of the 13th century, he is designated Prior of St. Germains in East Lothian. As Dominus Milo CORNETH, he was a charter witness about the year 1180. In 1220 he appears again as a witness in a charter to the Abbey of Neubotle. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected.
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