Recorded as Stearn, Stearne, Stern, Sterne, Stearns and possibly others, this is a name which can be English, German or Askenasic in origin. If English it originates from pre 7th century Olde English word 'styrne' meaning strict, and was probably given as a medieval nickname to a schoolmaster or perhaps a court official, one whose job it was to maintain discipline. However the medieval times were also known for their robust Chaucerian humour, and it is quite possible that the meaning of the time was quite different from the modern interpretation, and could be the complete reverse. The German meaning is quite different being either locational or residential. It developed from 'stellae' meaning a 'star' and was used to describe a person from a place called 'Stern' or who lived at a house identified with a star. The famous author and cleric of the 18th century the Rev. Lawrence Sterne (1713 - 1768) was born in Ireland of English stock. His father who served under the famous John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, was an army officer, who had married an Irish lady in Flanders. Sterne's grandfather was the Archbishop of York, and Sterne himself served as vicar of Coxwold in Yorkshire for many years. The first recording of the surname anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Adolf Stellae of Koln (Cologne), Germany, in 1142, Henry Sterne in the Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire, England, in 1279, and Johan vom Stern, Wurzburg, Germany, in 1241.
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