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 A native Old English form, Beornheard, was superseded by the Norman form.
English, Spanish, and Portuguese: nickname for a loyal or trustworthy person, from Old French leial, Spanish and Portuguese leal ‘loyal’, ‘faithful (to obligations)’, Latin legalis, from lex, ‘law’, ‘obligation’ (genitive legis).