Recorded in many spellings including Bonas, Bonus, Bownass, Bownas, Bowness, Bonass and Boness, this is a surname of English origins. It is locational from either the town of Bowness, in the county of Cumberland, on the Solway Firth, or from Bowness, on the east side of Lake Windermere, also in Cumbria. The former placename means "rounded headland", from the Olde English pre 7th Century element "boga", or the Old Norse "bogi", both meaning bow, and the second element of "ness", meaning a headland; whilst the latter, means the similar "bull headland", from the initial Olde English element "bula", a bull. The place in Cumberland appeared as "Bounes" in 1225, in the records of the abbey of St. Benet of Holme, whilst the other place was recorded as "Bulnysperke", in the records of Kendale in 1390. People were often distinguished from one another by their place of origin, and this was one of the main characteristics in surname formation. However as spelling was at best erratic, and local dialects very thick, many names developed 'sounds like' forms. This is a good example. Early recordings include Matthew Bownas in the register of the Freemen of the City of York in 1633, and the christening in London of Mary Ann Bonass, at St. Anne's Soho, on July 31st 1796. Coats of arms have also been granted to families called Bownas and Bownes. One of the earliest recordings is that of William Bownus. This was dated 1592, in the register of the Freemen of the City of York, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st of England, 1558 - 1603. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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