- This ancient name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is one of the earliest topographical surnames existing today. The derivation is from the Old English pre 7th Century "burna, burne", spring, stream, which was originally used as a topographic name for someone who lived beside a stream. In the south of England the term was gradually replaced by the Old English "broc", brook, and came to be restricted in meaning to an intermittently flowing stream, especially one that flowed only in winter; this meaning of "bourn" is still found in the dialects of Kent, Surrey and Wiltshire. In the North, however, the word "burn" is still used for a stream. Some instances of the modern surname, found as Bown(e), Burn(e), Burns, Born(e), Boorne, Burner and Bo(u)rner, may be locational in origin, from a place named from being beside a stream. Among the recordings of the name in Yorkshire is that of the marriage of Thomas Burn and Jaine Rimur in Kirklington, on November 5th 1659. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Godric aet Burnan, which was dated 1044, in the Old English Bynames (Kent), during the reign of King Edward known as the Confessor, 1042 - 1066. 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.