This interesting surname is of early medieval English origin, and derives as a diminutive of "Coll", itself being an aphetic pet form of the male given name "Nicholas", from the Greek "Nikolaos", composed of the elements "nikan", to conquer, with "laos", people. The name was popular among Christians throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, largely as a result of the fame of St. Nicholas, who was Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor, during the 4th Century. He is said to have restored three dead boys to life, calmed a storm at sea, and saved three girls from slavery by secretly bestowing three bags of gold on their father; he is regarded as patron saint of schoolboys, sailors and pawnbrokers, whose sign is three golden balls.The popularity of the name is borne out by the number of surnames it generated, with the variants ranging from Nicolin, Nicolet, Cole and Colin to Collett and Colinet. Recordings of the surname from English Church Registers include; Robert Colnett, who married Alice Knight on November 4th 1567 at Bosham, Sussex; Edmund, son of Edmund and Mary Colnet, who was christened on March 16th 1711 at St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, London; and Sarah, daughter of Isaac and Lucy Colnet, who was christened on February 30th 1755 at St. Ethelburga, Bishopsgate, London. A Coat of Arms granted to the Colnet family is a gold shield and on a red chevron three gold pomegranates, the Crest being a dragon's head ducally gorged and chained proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Colnett, which was dated February 8th 1567, witness at a christening at Bosham, Sussex, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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