Ernest \e-rne-st, er-nest\ as a boy's name is pronounced ERN-ist. It is of Old German origin, and the meaning of Ernest is "serious; battle to the death". Variant of Ernst (German). Literary: Oscar Wilde's comedy "The Importance of Being Earnest" makes the name Earnest a key feature of the plot. Ernesto is a Spanish form. Author Ernest Hemingway; actor Ernest Borgnine; entertainer Ernie Kovacs.