This originally French surname was from the extremely popular medieval female given name from the Latin MARIA. This was the name of the mother of Christ in the New Testament, as well as several other New Testament figures. It derives from the Aramaic MARYAM (Hebrew Miryam), but the vernacular forms have been influenced by the Roman family name MARIUS. The Hebrew name is of uncertain etymology, but perhaps means 'Wished-for child'. A Latin masculine form of the name MARIANUS was applied by Christians to devotees of the Virgin Mary, and lies behind many of the variants that have travelled the world, including Mariel, Marriette, Marusik, Marousek, Marrison and many more. 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. Francois Marion (1732-95) was the partisan leader in the American Revolution, known as 'The Swamp Fox', came from a family of French origin, established in South Carolina about 1690, by his grandfather, a Huguenot who was a native of Poitou. 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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