From an Old French name of Germanic (Frankish) origin, derived from ber(n) ‘bear’ + hard ‘hardy, brave, strong’. This was the name of three famous medieval churchmen: St Bernard of Menthon (923–1008), founder of a hospice on each of the Alpine passes named after him; the monastic reformer St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153); and the scholastic philosopher Bernard of Chartres. It was adopted by the Normans and introduced by them to England. A native Old English form, Beornheard, was superseded by the Norman form.
German (also Häcker), Dutch, and Jewish (Ashkenazic): occupational name for a butcher, possibly also for a woodcutter, from an agent derivative of Middle High German hacken, Dutch hakken ‘to hack’, ‘to chop’. The Jewish surname may be from Yiddish heker ‘butcher’, holtsheker ‘woodcutter’ (German Holzhacker), or valdheker ‘lumberjack’, or from German Hacker ‘woodchopper’.