Lennox Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Lennox Surname Meaning

The Lennox surname came from the place-name Lennox, originally Levenax, in lowland Scotland. Those who held sway there became the Earls of Lennox. Lennox sometimes lost an “n,” becoming Lenox, in its travels to America.

Lennox Surname Resources on The Internet

Lennox and Lenox Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland (Lowland) and Northern England
  • to Ireland Ulster), America, Canada and Australia

Scotland. The Celtic mormaers of Lennox in the ancient sheriffdom of Dumbarton gave way to the Earls of Lennox sometime in the 12th century. The Lennox spelling did not become common until the 1500’s, however. It was John de Levenax, for example, who was granted the safe conduit to England in 1400.

By that time these Earls had risen to be among the most powerful nobles in Scotland. Malcolm, the 5th Earl, was one of the mainstays of Robert the Bruce in his struggle for Scottish independence.

However, they then conspired against the Scottish king and Donnchadh, the Earl at that time, was beheaded in 1425 at the age of eighty. The title passed into other hands.

  • in 1488 it was the Stewarts of Darnley who assumed the title and took possession of the Lennox castle at Balloch in Dumbartonshire.
  • and in 1587 the title went to King James VI of Scotland, soon to be King James I of England.

A cadet line, the Lennoxes of Woodhead, assumed leadership of the line in Dumbartonshire. Lennox Castle there remained with this family until 1927.

An early history was Sir William Fraser’s 1874 book The Lennox.

SW Scotland. The Lennox name extended to Kirkcudbright in SW Scotland when William Lennox (originally Levenax) became the first Lennox of Cally through marriage in the late 1400’s.  Their family seat was Plunton castle which they held until their male line died out in 1658. Robert Lennox, a merchant from Kirkcudbright, emigrated to New York in 1784.

England. There was some spillover of Lennoxes across the border to Cumberland in England. One Lennox line has been traced from William Lennox who had been born at Aikton in Cumberland in 1788.

But it was a royal connection that brought prominence to the Lennox name in England. The name and title passed from James I to Charles II of England and from him to his illegitimate son Charles Lennox, created the Duke of Richmond. He made his home at Goodwood House in Sussex.

Charles Lennox, the 2nd Duke of Richmond, had four famous daughters – the Lennox sisters – whose stories were told in Stella Tillyard’s 1994 book Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox. The family lived for a short time – from 1813 to 1818 – in Belgium.

“On June 15, 1815 the Duchess of Richmond gave a famous ball in Brussels at which Wellington learned of Napoleon’s advance into the Netherlands. The Battle of Waterloo occurred three days later.”  

Ireland. Lennoxes had come to Ireland at the time of the Scottish plantations in Ulster in the 17th century. A large proportion of them settled in Derry. Indeed 60% of the Lennoxes in Ulster in Griffith’s Valuation of the mid-19th century were from Derry.

James Lenox was the mayor of Londonderry in 1689 and was one of the leaders of its defence that year.  His descendant George Lenox married into the Conyngham family of Spring Hill and adopted the name of Lenox-Conyngham.

In the 19th century, there were Lennoxes to be found at Kilrea and at Magherafelt. John and William Lennox from Kilrea emigrated to Simcoe, Ontario in the 1820’s. James Lennox and his family departed Aughrim in the Magherafelt area for Australia later in the 19th century.

America.  Both Lennox and Lenox appear as surnames in America. Today the Lennox spelling is slightly the more numerous. But Lenox seems to have had the earlier history.

Lenoxes of Scottish origin here included:

  • Walter Lenox who settled in Williamsburg, Virginia in the 1760’s where he was a wigmaker and tavern operator. He lost most of his property at the time of the Revolutionary War and his son Peter, a carpenter by trade, moved to what was to become the nation’s capital, Washington DC. Peter’s son Walter was mayor of Washington in 1850.  
  • Robert Lenox who arrived in New York in 1784 and prospered there as a merchant. His son James became well-known in New York circles as a bibliophile and philanthropist.  
  • and Samuel Lenox who was born in Trenton, New Jersey around the year 1785. A descendant was Walter Scott Lenox, a potter by trade, who in the early 1900’s made the first American-made porcelain to appear in the White House.

David Lenox and his family from Indiana changed the spelling of their name to Lennox after their arrival in NE Texas sometime in the 1860’s. They settled in Clarksville along the Red river and became wealthy in ranching, timber, and later in oil and gas production.  

“The Lennox historic home in Clarksville was completed by Charles Lennox and his wife Sallie in 1897. Upon the death of their daughter Martha in 1993, the home and contents were given to the local Historical Society.”  

The land they had acquired nearby in 1863 remained with the family through four generations and is now known as the Lennox Woods Preserve.

In 1854 Martin Lennox emigrated from Ireland to Detroit where he worked as a machinist.  He fought in the Civil War but died in battle in 1862. His wife Ellen moved with their son David to Iowa where David founded in 1895 a furnace manufacturing business.  This has evolved into Lennox International, a global corporation specializing in air conditioning, heating, and commercial refrigeration.  

Canada.  Edward J. Lennox was born in Toronto in 1854, the son of an Irish immigrant who had arrived from county Antrim some twenty years earlier. He trained to be an architect and has been called the builder of Toronto because of the number of buildings he designed before his death in 1933.

Australia. David Lennox from Ayr in Scotland was also a designer, but of bridges. He arrived in Sydney in 1832. His legacy was the number of bridges he built and left behind in New South Wales.

Meanwhile Thomas and Anastasia Lennox from Dunmurry in county Kildare left Ireland for Australia on the Theresa in 1842. They settled near Mudgee, NSW.

Lennox Surname Miscellany

Lennox in Scotland.  Lennox is a region of Scotland centered on the Vale of Leven that includes Loch Lomond.

The Gaelic name of the river there was Leamhn, meaning “the smooth stream,” which anglicized as Leven. The surrounding area was called “the field of the smooth streamor Leamhnachd in Gaelic.  An alternative derivation, from the Gaelic leamhan, was “elm tree.”

The word was anglicized as Levenachs in 1175, then softened to Levenax and Lennax, and eventually the area was known simply as Lennox.

Lennox formed as a province of Scotland sometime in the Middle Ages. The district embraced the whole of the ancient sheriffdom of Dumbarton and was within the bounds ruled by the Earls of Lennox. 

Origins of the Earl of Lennox.  The ancient Celtic Mormaers of Levenax had become the Earls of Lennox.  The origins of that earldom, established in the 12th century, have been disputed.

One theory was that a Saxon baron from Northumberland named Arkyll crossed the border into Scotland and received from Malcolm III lands in Dumbartonshire and Stirlingshire. The same Arkyll married a Scottish heiress and had a son who was Ailin I, the Earl of Lennox.

Other historians have said that the earldom of Lennox was conferred to David, Earl of Huntington from his older brother, William the Lion, and that the Lennox family was not established until after the reign of William.

This is one lineage reported of these early Lennoxes:

  • – Muireadhach, Mormaer of Lennox and founder of the Lennox line; born around 1050.
  • — Maoldomhnaich, Mormaer of Lennox; born circa 1075.
  • — Muireadhach, Mormaer of Lennox; born around 1100.  He married a daughter of Alwyn MacArkyl who was prominent at the Court of King David I in the mid-1100’s.
  • —- Ailin/Alwyn, last Mormaer and first Earl of Lennox; born around 1125. He died before 1177 when King William the Lion put the earldom under his brother the Earl of Huntingdon.

The Lennox Sisters.  Stella Tillyard’s book Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740–1832 came out in 1984 and was made into a BBC TV mini-series in 1999.

Of the four sisters, Caroline was in some ways the most interesting. She was seduced by the attentions of Henry Fox, a short, stout, hairy genius only four years younger than her father, with whom she eloped.  Their home, Holland House, though kept freezing cold, became an extension of London coffee houses, frequented by all the big political and artistic figures of the day. She was a great one for medical theories and owned endless books on the subject.

Emily was the glamorous, extravagant one.  Painting her, Joshua Reynolds remarked that she had ‘a sweetness of expression hard for a painter to capture.’  For her doting husband, the Earl of Kildare, Emily and expenditure were coupled together. The more she spent, the more excited he became. The result was huge debts and a family so large that she sometimes failed to recognize her children. In the end Emily ran off with her children’s tutor and presented him with the last four of her twenty-two offspring, managing to pick up a house and some cash on the way and – miraculously – to retain a virtuous reputation.

Louisa was childless, though married to the richest man in Ireland, an affable chap whom she thought of as her flea: ‘He hopped about, guileless and full of muscle.’ Discreet and sympathetic, she was everybody’s favorite.

Sarah, the youngest to survive infancy, was dandled by George II, pursued by George III, married to a useless fellow called Bunbury, carried off by another lover and only pinned down when she was thirty-six by George Napier, ‘the most perfect-made man ever.’  Then she became a devoted wife and mother to eight little Napiers.  When her husband died, she managed to acquire a pension from the King in recognition of his own youthful passion.

George St. Leger Lennox aka Scotty Smith in South Africa.  Born in Perth in 1845 as George St Leger Lennox, he claimed to be the illegitimate son of a noble Scottish family.  At the age of eighteen he travelled to India to fight for the British, then to Australia in search of gold, and there were stops in America and Europe where he was involved in further fighting.

He went to South Africa in 1877 to join the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police. Not being one to be contravened by rules, he deserted and took on the nickname of Scotty Smith (Scotty because of his Scottish heritage and Smith being the name of a fallen comrade whose papers he had taken).  He got involved in gun-running, horse theft, and highway robberies. He was caught and sentenced several times for these crimes, but always managed to escape.

In the early 1890’s he moved into the Kalahari north of Upington.  At the age of forty-six he married a 19 year old Afrikaans girl with whom he raised a family of five daughters and two sons. He kept his stolen cattle and horses at his farms until the Government discovered that he had no title deeds to the land which he occupied.

As a result, he moved with his family to a plot on the Orange river in Upington where he spent his last years. He died during the 1919 flu epidemic at seventy-three and was buried in the town.

Lennox Becoming Lenox in America.  Examples of how Lennox lost its “n” to become Lenox in its travels to America can be found in Massachusetts and New York.


Those who have visited Tanglewood in the Berkshires will have been aware of the nearby town of Lenox.  The town was named in 1767 after Charles Lennox, the 3rd Earl of Richmond who was admired by colonists for speaking for their point of view in the English House of Lords.

The Lenox Hotel in Boston, situated next to the Boston Public Library, was completed in 1900.  At eleven stories high, it was the tallest building in Boston at the time.  The hotel was named after Lady Sarah Lennox, an intended wife of the English King George III. 

New York

In 1784 a Scottish businessman from Kirkcudbright came to New York as Robert Lenox where he prospered as a merchant.  He was President of the New York Chamber of Commerce from 1826 to 1839 and died a wealthy man.

His son James was even more well-known as a bibliophile and philanthropist.  His collection of paintings and books was known as the Lenox Library and became part of the New York Public Library in 1895.  Lenox Avenue in Harlem was named in his honor.

Walter Scott Lenox and His China.  In 1826 Congress had mandated that any furnishings purchased for the White House must be made in America. However, Presidents repeatedly ignored this law when it came to their dinnerware, because porcelain made in Europe and China was far superior.

Walter Scott Lenox was determined that his American pottery could and would produce equally fine china.  Woodrow Wilson, also from New Jersey, was the first President to officially acknowledge his success.  In addition to President Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton have all chosen Lenox to produce their official White House china.

Lennox Names

  • Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, was one of the main supporters of Robert the Bruce in his struggle for Scottish independence in the early 14th century. 
  • Charles Lennox, an illegitimate son of King Charles II, was created Duke of Richmond in 1675. He made his home at Goodwood House in Sussex. 
  • James Lenox was a noted bibliophile and philanthropist in 19th century New York. 
  • Edward J. Lennox has been called the builder of Toronto because of his legacy of buildings he designed there.
  • Annie Lennox wasthe lead singer of the Eurythmics, a popular British pop band of the 1980’s.

Lennox Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Lennox and Like Surnames 

These are surnames from the Scottish Lowlands.  Some are clan names; some – like Gordon, Graham and Hamilton – have Anglo-Norman antecedents that crossed the border into Scotland; and some – like Douglas and Stewart – were very powerful in early Scottish history.  Stewart in fact became the royal Stuart line.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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