This ancient and distinguished surname, recorded in over fifty spellings, is usually of Olde German and Anglo-Saxon origins. It derives from a baptismal compound personal name Ernault or Arnolt, of which the elements are "arn", meaning an eagle, and "wald", to rule. The name spread rapidly throughout Northern Europe in the period known as "The dark ages", roughly between the 6th and 11th centuries a.d., and following the fall of the Roman Empire. There are now many different spellings of the surname and examples include Arnold, Arnhold, Arnout, Arnatt, Erni, Harnett, Arnould, Arnaud, Ahrend, Arnaudi, dinimutives Arlett, Arnaudin, Arnaiz, and patronymics Arents, Arnolds, Arnoldson, and many others.The first country in the world to adopt hereditary surnames as we know them today was England, where they were first used, although only by the nobility or clergy, after the Norman-French Invasion of 1066. In the year 1086 the Normans completed a survey of the country known as the Domesday Book, this being the first gazetter of its kind ever produced. Rogerus filius Ernaldi is recorded in Domesday Book for London, this being the first known recording of the name, although not as a surname. Early examples of the surname recording include William Arnold of the county of Suffolk in 1277, whilst in Germany Adler Arnoldt is recorded in Meskirch in 1282. In some cases the surname as Arnold is a locational name from two English villages in Nottinghamshire and in the East Riding of Yorkshire. One of the first settlers in Virginia was Thomas Arnold, aged 30 yrs., who embarked from London on the ship "Plaine Joan", in May 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere is believed to be that of Puntius Arnaldi, which was dated 1196, in the rolls of Devonshire, England.
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