as translated by Emile Morin
"The family name of Morin can have a number of different origins ... one of which can be an allusion to the outward appearance of the first ancestor."
This is the theory of Loredan Larcher who, in the ancient tongue of Gaul, gives the meaning of Morin as "A tawny or swarthy appearance." It is a variant of the name MAURIN, which means "tan." Other variants are MORICE, MORICEAU, MORIS, MORIZOT, MORILLON, MORAND, MOREAU, MOREL, MORET, etc. Morin is also a synonym for LENOIR, NOIROT, MAUBLANC, BRUNOT, etc. As we can see, there is no lack of names to describe "tan of skin, like the Maures."
A person with the name of Morin would be proud to find that he is from a branch of the Morini of whom Virgil, in his eighth volume of the Eneiid (around the year 727) says, "extremique hominum Morini" (or "they are a people from the end of the world").
The Morins (in Latin "Morini") were a tribe of the Belgian Gaul, situated on the coast of the North Sea facing England. Portus Itius, the port from which Caesar embarked to invade Britain, was located in the territory of the Morini ... approximately where Calais is situated today. This tribe had entered into the confederation of Belgians to resist Caesar and promised 25,000 armed men. The following year, the Morini participated in the revolt of the maritime tribes. The Venetees, having already been conquered, and all the tribes along the British Sea sent delegates to sue for peace. By the end of the summer, only the Morins and the Menapiens remained under arms. Caesar decided to subdue them, but found these people fought a different way from the other Gauls: Disappearing into the woods, they waited for the proper time and descended upon the Roman camp. Caesar, in order to avenge the loss of many of his soldiers, ordered the trees cut down. The Morins retreated further into the forest and Caesar, surprised by autumn storms, settled for destroying their farms and burning their villages.
The following year, Caesar returned to continue his invasion of Britain and some of the Morins submitted to him. Caesar was happy to accept their pledge, but sent Savinus and Cotta (two of his generals) to conquer the recalcitrants who formed a plan to surprise Caesar upon his return. A group of 300 Romans, attacked while disembarking their ships, formed a circle and defended themselves bravely. The clamor caught the attention of Caesar. The rebellious Morins, put to flight with numerous losses, were pursued by Labienun and soon fell completely under his power. Caesar left one legion among the Morins, under the command of Caius Fabius. The taking of Alesia marked the end of their independence.
The opinion is held that the inhabitants of St. Omer are likely descendants of the Morini for over 2,000 years. It is very possible also that inhabitants of La Morinie have been called Morin since the days they emigrated to other parts of France between the years 1250 and 1350. La Morinie of the Middle Ages consisted of the land north of Artois and of Flanders. The name "Morini" comes from the Celtic word meaning "the sea." The latin "Morini" translates into "the Maritimes." Typical of the influence of the name in the local area is "Moringhem," south of Ardres, the capital of Ardresis. "Moringhem" translates into "the village of the Morins." La Morinie existed as such well into the Middle Ages. It was here that the French cavalry became bogged down in their disastrous battles of Axincourt, Crecy and Equinegatte. Here also was born a breed of horses known as "boulonnaise," a descendant of the arabian. The area known as La Morinie still exists, however, today we speak of Boulonnaise, Calais, Ardresis, Langle and Bredenarde.
All who carry the name Morin do not come from La Morinie, however. In Brie there are two rivers, tributaries of the Marne, called "Le Petit Morin" and "Le Grand Morin." Where did they get their name? Probably from the marshy areas along their banks. It is along the banks of the Grand Morin, not far from Jouy-sur-Morin, that the famous paper known as "du Maurais" was made. By the time Le Grand Morin flows into the Marne, it has travelled 112 kilometers. In 1906, Le Grand Morin supported 38 flour mills, 11 paper mills, one oil mill and one tannery. The vally of the Grand Morin is a special attraction to artists and is a particularly exquisite and charming corner of France.
Here is found some of the most ancient forms of the name Morin: MOGRA in 1813, MUCRA in 1230 and MORRAIN of 1551. Others are MORAIN, MOREIN, MARAINS, MOREINS AND MAUREIN.
Le Petit Morin, in Aisne and Seine-et-Marne, begins in Champagne Pouilleuse; her source springing from Morains-le-Petit. It flows almost immediately through the vast marshes of Saint-Gond. Leaving the marshes, it flows toward the Northwest, through a narrow dale ... its water clear and deep, often picturesque. It receives many streams and little rivers and flows finally into the Marne at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, after a course of 90 kilometers.
In 1168 Le Petit Morin was called "Morien"; in 1209 "Aque de Moreins"; in 1227 "Ripparia de Morains"; in 1252 "Morain"; in 1272 "Mourein"; and since 1278 "Morin." We have seen that Le Petit Morin took its source close to Morains-le-Petit, a village in the canton of Vertus, which was called "Moreins" in 1171; "Morains" in 1172, "Morain" in 1220, "Maurain" in 1252 and "Maurains" in 1700. In the 18th century Cassini called it "Petit-Morains" and in 1834 Morains-le-Petit appeared on major maps of the times.
Pierre-Morains (in Latin Petra-Mucranne) translates into "La Pierre de la Mucra." Mucra, or Mogra, was the name of the river from the time of the Celts. The suffic "ra" is frequent in Latin names of rivers in France. The Celtic name Mucra derives from the words magos- a plain, magra, the river of the plain; Mog (large), the great river; mugr (humid); from the Latin muceop, moist, the marshy river.
We can also examine here the English variations of the family name Morin: MORRAN, MORREN, MORIN, MORYN and MORING as well as MacMORRAN (son of Morran). The name derived from the ancient Gaul "mugh-ron," mug meaning slave and ron meaning seal; mugh-ron, hunter of seals and, so to speak, its slave. It seems that the English name MORYN is closely allied to the name mucra which would be translated to "river of seals."
The name Morin could come from the game called (in French) "mourre" (in Italian "mora"). In this game, fingers are extended from behind the back, the number of which is to be guessed by the opposing player. This Roman game was passed on throughout the Mediterranean under the name "Mora," and in French "Mourre." It is often used to settle arguments, or things on which two people cannot agree. The name Morin may have been given to one who always wanted to settle things in this way.
We can also derive the name of Morin from MORINA, meaning sick or sickness.
The names of the saints are also a source of family names at times: the 12 saints "Maur" and six saints "Maurin" or "Morin" prove the popularity of these names as Christian names. Let us name also Saint Maurin, Abbot and martyr, honored at cologne the 10th of June; Saint Morin D'Agenoir (Oct. 26); Saint Morin D'Auxerre (Aug. 4); Saint Morin Du Nivernois (Nov. 9); Saint Maurin, desciple of Saint Benedict, Abbot of Glandfeuille in Anjou; and the Saint Morin whose feast day is celebrated on November 25.
There are also numerous places in France named after a Morin, be they saint or not: three Morin, two Morins, 9 Les Morins, 29 La Moriniere; three La Morinerie and one La Grande Morinie. In composite form we find Morainville (in Beauce), Morainville-pre-Lieury, Morainville-sur-Damville (Eure), Morinval (Oise), etc. La Morine is a tile works in the Department of La Marne which, in 1835, was called "Briquetterie de Morgine." Add as well Boulay-Morin, Bois-Morin, Mont-Morin, Mesnil-Morin, Port-Morin, Val-Morin, Mare-Morin and others. All of these places are named after a river situated nearby, or a landowner named Maurin or Maur. Some are named after a saint to which the people were particularly devoted. Maurin and Morin were baptismal names which became family names when second (or family) names began to be added.
The name Morin belongs as well to a great number of noble families: the Morins-Arfeuille, d'Anvers, de Boismarin, de Boscautru, de Kernabat, de Loudon, de la Masserie, de la Masse, de Mondeville, de Pontmartins, du Tertre, du Tronchet, de la Riviere, des Grivets, les Maurins de Brignac, les Maurins de Pardailhan, les Maurins dit Morin, etc. Add also les Morins-Besnier du Maine, Morin de Bretagne, du Forez, de Bourgogne, du Lyonnais, du Dauphine; les Morini de Bologne ... the list is endless!
The Morins de Terte motto "Mori ne timeas" means "Fear not death." Another Morin motto was "Mori mihi lucrum" or "Death is but my gain." A great truth for "dying is to live," because, once dead, I fly on the lips of those who recount my feats of valor and extol my virtues: "Volito vivus per ora virum" (Ennius). The Morin de Bertonville reaffirm their courage and fidelity: "Fortis Fidelisque simul."
The latin "morus" means dark: of dark color. The derivative "morinus" means a bit dark: of a slightly dark color. This word comes from the Greek word "mauros," a shortened form of "amauros": without brilliance, that which does not shine, somber, tanned. From this, the name of the inhabitants of the Mauritanie, Mauri, and that of the mulbury, the fruit of the mulberry and the blackberry bushes.
The name Maurin then, is one of description. Whether from Brie, Brittany or Normandie, the Morins were of Basque origin. Their love of the sea had carried some centuries before as emigrants from Spain, perhap, or Italy, and whose skin color contrasted with that of the blond Normans and other Frenchmen.
Be that as it may, I favor the notion of "skin slightly tanned, as that of the Maures," as the explanation more frequent and the one most probable for the name Morin: short, pleasant sounding, full of meaning and one which brings us back into antiquity ... to the legends of the Eneiid and the pagan gods!