- This long-established surname is of Anglo-Norman origin, and derives from "cnivet", the Norman pronunciation of the Olde English pre 7th Century "cniht", owing to the French difficulty with the "h" of "cniht". The word originally meant "boy, youth, serving lad", later extended to mean "knight, a feudal tenant bound to serve his lord as a mounted soldier". Hence, it came to denote a man of some substance, since maintaining horses and armour was an expensive business. Knights in the last sense usually belonged to ancient noble families with distinguished family names of their own, so the surname is more likely to have been originally given as an occupational name to a servant in a knight's household, or as a nickname to someone who had played the part of a knight in a medieval pageant, or won the title in some contest of skill. Early examples of the surname include: William Knivet (Lincolnshire, 1154); Thomas Knifet (Lincolnshire, 1275); and John Knyft (Essex, 1337). In 1523 the following entry appears in London Marriage Licence Records: "William Knevett, of the Household of our Lord the King, and Katherine Grey". A Coat of Arms granted to the Knevett family is a silver shield with a bend within a bordure engrailed sable, the Crest being a dragon's head between two wings expanded sable. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Leuricus Cnivet, which was dated 1087, in "Ancient Records of Middlesex", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Surnames reference. 2013.