Transferred use of the surname, in origin a local name from the numerous places so called, a large number of which get their name from Old English mylentūn ‘settlement with a mill’. Others were originally named as ‘the middle settlement (of three)’, from Old English middel ‘middle’ + tūn ‘settlement’. The surname is most famous as that of the poet John Milton (1608–74), and the given name is sometimes bestowed in his honour. Its most illustrious bearer in recent times has been the economist Milton Friedman (1912–2006).
English, Scottish, and Irish: nickname from Middle English boner(e), bonour ‘gentle’, ‘courteous’, ‘handsome’ (Old French bonnaire, from the phrase de bon(ne) aire ‘of good bearing or appearance’, from which also comes modern English debonair).