Recorded in a number of forms including Kynvin, Kenvin, Kinvin, Knynven and possibly others, this would seem to be an English medieval surname. It seems in some ways to be cognate with the almost equally rare Knevitt or Kynevitt or the more popular Nevitt, which according to the famous Victorian etymologist, Canon Charles Bardsley, and writing in the year 1880, says is locational. By this he meant that the name originated from some place called Kynvet or similar although he could not find it in any gazzetter of his day, and nor can we. We believe however that in some case it may derive not from a placename, but as a diminutive of the person and later surname name Ken, plus the suffix '-et' meaning small, or in a transferred sense, son of. However it is true that the first recordings are those of Mathew de Kynvet of Nottinghamshire in the Hundred Rolls of 1273, so it may be that such a place did once exist. It is our opinion that this surname is also from 'Ken', and if so means 'Little Ken' or perhaps 'son of Ken'. 'Ken' in Olde English meant chief, whilst Kent as in the county name, or Kenn a village and river name, describes a boundary or possibly even a hound dog! What we do know is that there are early examples of this surname in the surviving church registers of the diocese of Greater London. These recordings include James Kynven who married Elizabeth Coke at St Michael Bassishaw on January 24th 1574, and James Kynvin, who with his wife Rebecca, were christening witnesses at St Anne's Soho, Westminster, on New Years Day, 1781.
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