This surname of GARNELL was an English, French and Italian surname, a nickname from the Old French word 'cardinal', the church dignitary. The name was rendered in Latin documents in the form CARDINALIS, originally an adjective meaning 'crucia, vital'. 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 could perhaps also have denoted a servant who worked in a cardinal's household, but far more often it was bestowed on someone who habitually dressed in red, or who had played the part of a cardinal in a pageant, or one who had acted in a lordly and patronizing manner, like a prince of the church. The name has many variant spellings which include CARDINALL, CARDNELL, CARDINAUX, CARDINALE, CARDENAL and CARDEAL. 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.
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