DENON families derived their name from the Gaelic O'Daghnain. The name is found mainly in counties Clare and Cork. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. The Irish prefixes of Mac (son of) and O (grandson or descendant of) gave rise at an early date, to a set of fixed hereditary names in which the literal patronymic meaning was lost or obscured. These surnames originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept' of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by their dependents was not uncommon. Later, nicknames were in some cases to supersede the original clan names.
The old family of the name in Scotland were descended from Duncan Campbell, one of the Campbells of Lochlow, who to escape from justice for certain offences, fled to the north with his brother, where he settled. Early records of the name mention Mariot Denue, who was recorded in 1416, and John Denone of Daviestone, Scotland witnessed a charter signing in 1545. William Dunnoon acquired a third part of Arkboll near Tain in 1535. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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