Recorded as Lawless, Lawles, Laweles, Lawleff, and the opposite and rare Lawful and Lawfull, these very interesting surnames are of medieval English origin. The first is apparently derived from a nickname for an unbridled and licentious man, from the Middle English word 'laweles', and the second from 'lawefullr', which means the absolute reverse. However in reality these surnames both being originally nicknames, and the Medieval times being famous for the Chaucerian robust humour, they almost certainly mean the very opposite of what they seem to say! In addition the surname as Lawless is much better recorded that for Lawfull, presumably because people called Lawfull, but actually in real life tending to be 'lawless', were more difficult to name. Furthermore if people called Lawless were actually lawless, they were hardly likely to appear in such distinguished books as the register of the Freemen of the city of York as Thomas Laghelas did in the year 1330, or Richard Lawles in the rolls known as the Testamenta Cantiana for Kent in 1553. It is unclear when the surname as Lawfull is first recorded or for that matter where. We have Thomas Lawfull at St Pauls church, Deptford, in the county of Kent, on June 23rd 1740, when his daughter Mary was christened, but it is clear there must be earlier examples. Interesting as well the surname as Lawless is well recorded in Ireland. The first recorded spelling of Lawless is that of Huge Laghlese, when he was summoned as an M P in the "Writs of Parliament", in the year 1314, during the reign of King Edward 11nd, 1307 - 1327. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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