Last name: Lau

Recorded in many spellings including Low, Lowe, Leeb, Lau, Laue, Leu, Leue, and patronymics Lowensohn and Lovenson (German), Lobe (Alsace), de Leeuw, Van Leeuw, Van Leeuwen, Louw (Dutch and Flemish), Lev and Levenson (Czech), and others, this is a surname of pre 7th century Germanic origins. It derives from the word 'lowe' meaning a lion, and has several possible origins. It may in some cases have been a nickname for a person who was considered as brave as a lion, or perhaps given the robust humour of those ancient times, the reverse! A more likely explanation though, is that it was residential, and described a house with the sign or shield of a lion. This could have been an inn or eating place, but more likely in the days before the introduction of house numbers, simply identified a dwelling. However it is possible that there was a heraldic significance and identified the house holder as having the blazon of a lion on his coat of arms or crest. The name has also been widely used in the context of a ornamental name. These were compounds such as Lowenberg (lion hill), or Lowenstein (lion stone) or Lowenthal (lion valley), and were deliberately pleasant abstract surnames often given to refugees who sought protection in Germany in the 18th century. At this time, perhaps surprisingly in view of later developments, this country was regarded as the most liberal of all continental countries.

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