From an Old French name of Germanic (Frankish) origin, introduced to Britain by the Normans. It is derived from heri, hari ‘army’ + berht ‘bright, famous’. An Old English form, Herebeorht, existed in England before the Conquest, but was superseded by the Norman form, which gave rise to an important surname. The family in question were earls of Pembroke in the 16th and 17th centuries; they included the poet George Herbert. By the end of the Middle Ages Herbert was little used, although it remained a favourite with some families, notably the Saint Quintins of East Yorkshire. Its greater frequency in Britain from the 19th century onwards is due partly to the trend for the revival of medieval names of Germanic origin and partly to the trend for the transferred use of surnames.