This name, with variant spellings Denis, Denniss, Denness and Dinnis, derives from the Medieval given name Den(n)is, itself coming from the Greek Dionysios meaning "the divine one of Nysa". Better known as Bacchus, this god was protector of the vine. Nysa was a mountain in the modern Afghanistan where celebrations were held in the god's honour by the Greek army. The name was recorded as Dionisius in documents relating to the Danelaw, circa 1100. One, Denis de Sixlea appears in the 1176 "Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire". The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 13th Century, (see below). St. Dionysius or Denis of Paris, martyred on Montmartre circa 255, was largely responsible for the popularity of the name in France from whence it spread to England. Sir Thomas Dennis (1480 - 1561) was Chancellor of Anne of Cleves and Keeper of the Rolls of Devon. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Denys, witness, which was dated 1272, in the "The Assize Court Rolls of Staffordshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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