English and Dutch: from the Germanic byname mentioned at Ernst. However, Reaney cites medieval evidence for Norman spellings such as Ernais, and derives it from a Germanic personal name Arn(e)gis, possibly composed of the elements arn ‘eagle’ + gisil ‘pledge’, ‘hostage’, ‘noble youth’ (see Giesel). The name may have been altered by folk etymology to coincide with the word meaning ‘combat’. Compare Harness.
Dutch: variant of Ernst.
Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4Ernst
German and Dutch: from the personal name Ernst, which is most probably a byname from Middle High German and Middle Dutch ern(e)st ‘combat’, ‘serious business’. However, see Ernest.
Jewish (Ashkenazic): nickname or ornamental from German ernst ‘earnest’, ‘serious’.
Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4Ernst (German)
The Ernst surname is thought to derive from the Old High German word "ernus," which meant "fight." As such, Ernst was most likely originally a nickname for a person or family whose defining characteristic is a serious demeanor or temperament. Nickname surnames were a class of German names derived from eke-names, or added names, that described people by a personal characteristic or other attribute.
One can encounter great variation in the spelling of surnames: in early times, spelling in general, and thus the spelling of names was not yet standardized; and later, spellings would change with branching and movement of families.Variations of the name Ernst include Ernst, Ernste, Ernest, Errnst, Ernesten, Arnst, Aernst, Arnest and many more.
First found in Bavaria, where the family emerged in mediaeval times as one of the notable families of the region. From the 13th century the surname was identified with the great social and economic evolution which made this territory a landmark contributor to the development of the nation.
German settlers were among the most common to come to North America between the mid-17th and mid-20th centuries. Poverty and religious persecution drove many Bavarians to make this long trek. Tenant farmers were also enticed by the prospect of owning land. From east to west, these German immigrants populated the United States, settling in Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Illinois, and California. Ontario and the prairie provinces of Canada also provided homes to many. Early settlers bearing the Ernst surname or a spelling variation of the name include: Joseph Ernst, who settled in Georgia in 1735 with his wife Anna maria and daughter Susannah. Felix Ernst settled in Pennsylvania in 1744 with his wife Elsbetha Weydmann, while Friedrich Ernest settled in Texas in 1846.Ernest (English)
Spelling variations of this family name include: Ernies, Erneys, Ernes, Hernes, Hernies, Ernyes, Hernis, Herneys, Ernest, Earnest, Harneys, Harney, Herneys and many more.
First found in Hampshire where they were anciently seated as Lords of the Manor. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, having prevailed over King Harold, granted most of Britain to his many victorious Barons. It was not uncommon to find a Baron, or a Bishop, with 60 or more Lordships scattered throughout the country. These he gave to his sons, nephews and other junior lines of his family and they became known as under-tenants. They adopted the Norman system of surnames which identified the under-tenant with his holdings so as to distinguish him from the senior stem of the family. After many rebellious wars between his Barons, Duke William, commissioned a census of all England to determine in 1086, settling once and for all, who held which land. He called the census the Domesday Book, indicating that those holders registered would hold the land until the end of time. Hence, conjecturally, the surname is descended from the tenant of the lands of Winton, held by Waleran Hunter of the Venables family in Normandy who was recorded in the Domesday Book census of 1086.
Some of the first settlers of this family name or some of its variants were represented in many forms and recorded from the mid 17th century in the great migration from Europe. Migrants settled in the eastern seaboard from Newfoundland, to Maine, to Virginia, the Carolinas, and to the islands.