Recorded in various spellings including the popular Horner for ever associated with the famous nursery rhyme, and the rarer dialectals Harner and Harnor, this is a medieval English surname. It has two possible origins. The first of these is as an occupational surname for someone who made small articles such as spoons, combs, or window lights, from animal horn. Horn was used a great deal for the making of such artifacts in the Middle Ages, especially for windows and drinking vessels since for most people glass was prohibitively expensive, so a craftsman in horn was a necessary and respected profession. The second possible meaning of the surname is as a metonymic occupational name for someone who played the musical instrument, usually made from the horn of an animal. The sounding of the horn was used as a signal as well as for entertainment and recreation. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. Recordings of the surname from surviving early church registers of the diocese of Greater London include: that of Giles Peacock and Elizabeth Horner who applied for a marriage licence in 1594, whilst James Harnor was awitness at St Lukes church, Finsbury, on December 5th1685, and Matthew Harner, who was christening witness at St Sepulchre church, in the city of Lodon, on August 6th 1727. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of William le Hornare. This was dated 1275, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire", during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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