This unusual and intriguing name, found mainly in Northern England, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has a number of possible interpretations. Firstly, it may be a variant form, with "n" for "m", a common substitution, of the locational surname Leeming, which derives from either of the places so called, in West Yorkshire, near Keighley, and in North Yorkshire near Northallerton. Both of these places are named from an Olde English pre 7th Century river name, a derivative of "leoma", radiance, gleam, sparkle, in Middle English also a vocabulary word, "leeming", meaning "shining". The second possible interpretation for the surname Leaning or Leening is derived from the Middle English given name "Lefman", from the Olde English "Leofman(n)", composed of the elements "leof", dear, beloved, with "mann", man. Finally, it may derive from the medieval nickname for a lover or sweetheart, from the Middle English "lem(m)an", originally a compound of the same elements as the given name above, but used of either sex. One Stephen Leming is listed in the Oxfordshire Hundred Rolls of 1273. Examples of the surname from Church Registers include: Lyenyng (1565, Lincolnshire); Lening (1596, ibid.); Leyninge (1611, London); and Leaninge (1631, Lincolnshire). Robert Leaning was christened at Willoughton, Lincolnshire, on April 8th 1665, and Anna Leaning married Edmund Clough in Gisburn, Yorkshire, on July 11th 1674. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Agnes Leynnynge, which was dated June 1st 1563, christened at Kirton in Holland, Lincolnshire, 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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