Lewis Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Lewis Meaning
There appears to be both an English and Norman French origin for the surname Lewis. The Old English leofwine, meaning “beloved friend,” was one source. Lodovicus was the founder of the Frankish dynasty and his name came over to England with the Normans. Over time these names became Lewis.  In Wales Lewis could have derived from Llewelyn.
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Select Lewis Ancestry

Wales. The English name
Lewis would intertwine
with the Welsh Llewelyn, often absorbing it as anglicization
proceeded. Thus the 15th century Welsh bard was sometimes called
Llewellyn Glyn and sometimes Lewis Glyn.

Thomas ap Lewis was killed
at the battle of Banbury in 1469 and his son, a landowner in
Monmouthshire, was
the first to adopt Lewis as a surname.

There was an old Lewis line in Breconshire and Monmouthshire which DNA
testing has linked
to Rhys Goch
, the lord of Ystrad in
Breconshire in
the 11th century. John Lewis, born in 1594, was the son of
Prichard and this John was the father of
emigrant John Lewis. His gravestone
in Virginia read:

“Here lieth interred the body of John Lewis.
Born in Monmouthshire, he died the 21st of
August 1657 aged 63 years. The anagram
of his name is ‘I shew no ill.'”

The Lewis family
of Van
in Glamorgan took the
Lewis name in the 1540’s when Edward ap Lewis became Edward
Lewis. Thomas
Lewis, who died in 1736, was the last Lewis of Van.
Richard Lewis, thought to have been a descendant,
emigrated to Ireland in the 1850’s. His
grandson, born in Belfast, was the writer C.S. Lewis.

The Lewis name is common today in Glamorgan and elsewhere in
Wales. William Lewis, born in Merthyr Tydfil, was a 19th century
coal mining magnate.

England. The English
Lewises have tended to be in the west country and the counties
bordering Wales. One Lewis family which came to England in 1685 were
fleeing France
who had changed their name from Louis to

Lewis later was an anglicized name for Jewish immigrants in
London. Prominent among these Lewises were:

  • John Lewis who founded the John Lewis department store in
    in 1864
  • Ted “Kid” Lewis, the world welterweight boxing champion in 1915
  • and Bernard Lewis, the distinguished Middle East historian.

America. John
Lewis came to Virginia
from Monmouthshire in 1653, although it is often his son “Councillor”
John Lewis
who is considered the progenitor of the family.
He was one of the richest man in Virginia of his
time. He inherited Warner Hall in
Gloucester county after his marriage to Elizabeth Warner and the home
with the Lewis family until 1934.

Meriwether Lewis,
he of the famed Lewis and
Clark expedition to the Pacific, was related to these Lewises through
youngest son Robert Lewis of Belvoir. He was buried in what is
now Lewis county, Tennessee where a
was erected to his memory in 1848.

A line from Robert of Belvoir also went to
Kentucky with Daniel Boone and later, through Daniel Lewis, was to be
found in
Alabama and Missouri. A family reunion
of descendants was held in Franklin county, Missouri in 1957.

Another John
, this time from Ireland and of probable French
Huguenot roots,
arrived in
Virginia in 1728. He
was described as “tall and of great muscular strength and one of the
backwoodsmen of his day.” This Lewis family, pioneers in
western Virginia, ran the Lynnwood plantation.

Other Lewises from Wales whose
descendants achieved prominence in America were:

  • Francis Lewis from Glamorgan
    who arrived in New York in 1734 and was an early figure
    in New
    York business. His son Morgan Lewis became Governor of New York
    in 1804.
  • and
    Nathan Lewis who came to Baltimore in the early 1760’s and later moved
    to North
    Carolina. His son Washington Lewis moved
    to Alabama and a later Lewis, David, was Governor of Alabama in 1872

John and Elizabeth Lewis from SW Scotland
departed for Canada a second time in 1844, having previously departed
returned, and made their home on St. Peter’s Bay in Prince Edward
Island. Many Lewises were buried at the
church in St. Peter’s. Another John
Lewis, this time from Pembrokeshire in Wales, emigrated to Canada in
settling with his family in Victoria, British Columbia.
He was a cabinet maker by trade.

Moishe Losz became Morris Lewis on his
arrival in Canada in 1921. A Jewish
labor activist in Poland, he continued this work in Canada, something
which has
been followed on in their different ways by his son David, grandson
Stephen, and
great grandson Avi.

Australia. James Lewis came to South
Australia from
Wales in the Rapid in 1838. He ended up
farming just outside Adelaide. His son
John had a wandering life, first in the Northern Territory and then in
Victoria goldfields, before returning to South Australia in 1876. John’s son Essington ascended the ranks of
the mining company BHP as its Managing Director from 1926 and its
Chairman from


Lewis Miscellany

From Rhys Goch to Lewis.  The line from Rhys Goch was said to have gone:

  • Genillin ap Rhys Goch,
    born around 1070 in Breconshire
  • Idris ap Genillin
  • Ieuan ap Idris
  • Ieuan Fychan
  • David Mwnton
  • Hywel Hir ap David
  • David ap Hywell Hir
  • Gwilym ap David
  • John ap Gwilym
  • Thomas ap John
  • and to Lewis
    ap Thomas, born around 1510 in Breconshire

His son Richard
Lewis was
the first to adopt Lewis as a surname.
He was born
in the 1530’s at the family home at Llangatock
near Crickhowell
Breconshire.  Richard’s grandson John was
a Royalist at the time of the Civil War, was banished during the
period and, after a brief sojourn in Barbados, ended up in Virginia in

The Lewis Family of Van.  This prominent Glamorgan family
was characterized by its lengthy pedigree and its aptitude for the
of property.

Edward Lewis was
the first that took the surname. He built the older portions of the Van
near Caerphilly
and enclosed
the park.
He was three times sheriff
of Glamorgan
in the 1550’s.   Son Thomas and
grandson Sir Edward were also
sheriffs of Glamorgan in their time.  Sir
Edward added considerably to the family estates, the most interesting
of these
purchases was St.
Fagan’s castle,
acquired in 1616 and now the Folk
Museum of Wales.

Lewis who died in 1736 was the last Lewis of Van.  He
was an MP for a number of constituencies
in his life and died in England (in Hampshire).
Elizabeth, his only daughter and his heiress, succeeded him and
the Earl of Plymouth. 

Lewis French Huguenots.  The Lewis family were originally French Huguenots and left France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.  Three
brothers, William, Samuel and John, fled to England. While crossing the
Channel they changed the original name of Louis to Lewis.

Shortly afterward William removed to the north
of Ireland, where he married a Miss McClelland. Samuel fixed his
residence in
Wales, while John continued in England. General Robert Lewis and
Colonel John
Lewis were sons of Samuel and came to America in 1635.

John Lewis’s Tombstone.  John Lewis had left Ireland a fugitive, having stabbed his Irish landlord, and had taken refuge in Portugal before fleeing
Europe for America in 1728.  He became a
true American.  His tombstone read:

“Here lie the remains of John Lewis,
who slew the Irish Lord, settled
Augusta county,
located the town of Staunton,
and furnished five sons to fight
the battles
of the American Revolution.”

Meriwether Lewis.  Meriwether Lewis was the grandson of Robert Lewis of Belvoir and the son of William Lewis and his cousin Lucy Meriwether.  He became private
secretary to Thomas Jefferson and a close neighbor to him at Monticello.  When Lewis was wanted at Monticello, Jefferson
would signal him with a mirror reflected in the sun.

Jefferson was President he appointed Lewis in 1804 as leader of the
Lewis and
Clark Expedition to explore the NW territory which the United States
had bought
from France in 1803.

On his return from this famous journey, Lewis
was appointed Governor of the territory of Louisiana in 1806, a post
which he held
until his death. In 1809 he was murdered and robbed of his money, watch
valuable papers as he was crossing through Tennessee on a trip to
Virginia from
St. Louis.  The watch that was stolen was
later found in a pawn shop in New Orleans. This watch, his revolver,
compass and many other articles that he used on the Western expedition
are now at
the Jefferson Memorial in St. Louis. 

The John Lewis Department Store.  John Lewis
was the founder of the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in
London.  He
was born in 1836 in Somerset into a
Jewish family but became an orphan at the age of seven.
He was brought up by an aunt.

Having served as an apprentice to a local
draper from the age of fourteen, he moved to London to become a silk
buyer in
the capital, working in Peter Robinson’s department store at Oxford
Circus by
the time he was 20.  

1864 John Lewis opened his own small
drapery shop, John Lewis & Co, at 132 Oxford Street, on part of the
site as the present John Lewis department store.  The
business flourished and expanded and was
rebuilt in the 1880’s to form an all-encompassing department store.


Lewis Names

  • Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis
    and Clark expedition made the first overland trip across America to the Pacific coast.
  • Isaac Lewis was the American
    inventor of the Lewis gun which saw service during the First World War.
  • John L. Lewis was the labor leader for the miner workers in America in the 1930’s and helped found
    the CIO (Council of Industrial Organizations).
  • C.S. Lewis was the Christian
    writer and scholar, best known today for The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • John Lewis was the African American civil rights activist and long-term US Congressman who died in 2020.
  • Carl Lewis was an American
    record-breaking sprinter.
  • Bernard Lewis is a
    distinguished Middle East historian.
  • Daniel Day Lewis is an Academy
    Award winning actor, the son of the Anglo-Irish poet Cecil Day Lewis.
  • Lennox Lewis was the world
    heavyweight boxing champion from 1999 to 2003.

Select Lewis Numbers Today

  • 198,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in West Midlands)
  • 185,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 69,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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