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.
Scottish and northern English: of disputed origin. It is most likely from Old English (Anglian) walh ‘foreign’ (see Wallace), perhaps applied originally to the Welsh-speaking Strathclyde Britons, who survived as a separate group in Scotland well into the Middle Ages.