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 and Scottish: occupational name for a tailor, from Old French tailleur (Late Latin taliator, from taliare ‘to cut’). The surname is extremely common in Britain and Ireland, and its numbers have been swelled by its adoption as an Americanized form of the numerous equivalent European names, most of which are also very common among Ashkenazic Jews, for example Schneider, Szabó, and Portnov.