English and Scottish: nickname from Middle English king, Old English cyning ‘king’ (originally merely a tribal leader, from Old English cyn(n) ‘tribe’, ‘race’ + the Germanic suffix -ing). The word was already used as a byname before the Norman Conquest, and the nickname was common in the Middle Ages, being used to refer to someone who conducted himself in a kingly manner, or one who had played the part of a king in a pageant, or one who had won the title in a tournament. In other cases it may actually have referred to someone who served in the king's household. The American surname has absorbed several European cognates and equivalents with the same meaning, for example German König (see Koenig), Swiss German Küng, French Leroy. It is also found as an Ashkenazic Jewish surname, of ornamental origin.