Muriel, I think that it is derived from the word/verb Payer (to pay.) It is probably a job like a tax collector. Payant is a word for someone paying for something. Payment in french is paiement. Old french would have been payan(t). The name can be traced to the 11th century. A Hugh de Payant organized the Knights Templar (one of the most powerful organizations in the Middle Ages) and he was their first leader. At one time they were so powerful that they were a threat to the monarchies in Europe. Being celebate, I doubt if he had any descendants. Perhaps the power to collect money from different sources in the Middle Ages, gave Payan(t) the definition that it has now.
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