Transferred use of the surname, which is of Norman origin, a coalescence of two different surnames, one derived from a Germanic personal name based on the element war(in) ‘guard’ and the other from a place in Normandy called La Varenne ‘the game park’. The Norman personal name survived at least into the 17th century in Yorkshire, where it was particularly associated with the Scargill family. In America this name has sometimes been chosen in honour of General Joseph Warren, the first hero of the American Revolution, who was killed at Bunker Hill (1775). Among modern influences on the choice of the name has been the film actor Warren Beatty (b. 1937).
English, Scottish, and northern Irish: occupational name for a maker of machinery, mostly in wood, of any of a wide range of kinds, from Old English wyrhta, wryhta ‘craftsman’ (a derivative of wyrcan ‘to work or make’). The term is found in various combinations (for example, Cartwright and Wainwright), but when used in isolation it generally referred to a builder of windmills or watermills.