This long-established surname, of Old French origin, is derived from the Old French term "bonnaire", from the phrase "de bon(ne)aire", of good bearing or appearance, adopted into Middle English as "boner(e), bonour", gentle, courteous, handsome, and given as a nickname to someone thought to embody these qualities. The creation of surnames from nicknames was a widespread practice in the Middle Ages, and a sizeable group of early European surnames are derived from nicknames given with reference to a variety of personal characteristics such as physical attributes, mental and moral qualities, and habits of dress and behaviour.Early Scottish recordings include: Thomas Boner, charter witness in Aberdeen (1281), and Roger Bonere, burgess of that city in 1342, while medieval English records show: Walter Boneyre (Essex, 1297), and Alexander Bonour, entered in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York (1413). In the modern idiom the name is variously spelt: Bonnaire, Bon(n)ar, Bon(n)er, Bonnor and Bonniere. On December 21st 1579, Simon, son of Mathurin Bonnier, was christened at St. Jaques, Angers, Maine-et-Loire, France. A Coat of Arms granted to the Bonnier family of Lorraine in 1566 is recorded heraldically in Rietstap's "Armorial General", and depicts a red lion rampant guardant on a gold shield, with three gold grenades on an azure chief. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Boneyre, which was dated circa 1250, in the "Chartulary of the Monastery of Ramsey", Huntingdonshire, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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