This famous English surname is one of a group of physically descriptive medieval nicknames. It does apparently describe a slim, fit person, which may well be so. However given the robust humour of those far off time seven hundred or more years ago, and taking as an example Little John in the fables of Robin Hood who was the largest person in the band of outlaws, it may mean the reverse! Unfortunately from the surviving recordings it is not possible to tell, although the famous Victorian etymologist Canon Charles Bardsley writing in the year 1880, says that it was the reverse of the surnames Bigg, Little and Lyte.The surname is first recorded in the Hundred Rolls of the landowners of the county of Yorkshire, with that of Walter Lene in the year 1273, whilst Roland le Lene appears in the Hundred Rolls of Buckinghamshire in 1274, and John Leane in the Curia Regis rolls for the county of Kent in 1317. Curiously although the surname is English and of pre 6th century origins from the word "hleane" meaning slim or thin, it is in France that it was granted a coat of arms, although we do not have the date. This has the blazon of a black shield charged with a silver lion rampant, and the motto "Bologne".
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