Of Germanic origin, derived from the Old High German vocabulary word eornost ‘serious business, battle to the death’. The name was introduced into England in the 18th century by followers of the Elector of Hanover, who became George I of England. A variant spelling, Earnest, has arisen by association with the modern English adjective earnest.
English: habitational name from a place in South Yorkshire named Birdwell, from Old English bridd ‘bird’ + wella ‘spring’, ‘stream’, or from Bridwell in Devon or Bridewell in Wiltshire, the first element of which may be an Old English word, brȳd ‘surging’. The surname is now very rare in the British Isles.