Recorded as Leo, Leon, Lian, Lion, Lyan, Lyon, the diminutives Lionel, Lionell and Lyonell, patronymics Lions, Lyans, Lyons, Lyonson, and others, this is a surname which is usually and ultimately of pre 7th century French origins. Introduced into the British Isles at the Norman Conquest of 1066, it has a number of possible sources. Firstly, it may be locational either from the town of Lyons, in central France, thought to mean "raven hill, or more likely from the smaller place called Lyons-la-Foret in the province of Eure in Normandy. Secondly, it may be a nickname for a fierce or brave warrior, (or perhaps the reverse!) from the French word "lion" itself from the Roman "leo", meaning a lion. Thirdly the surname may originate from the French given name "Leo", and borne by numerous early martyrs and no less than thirteen popes. On the Continent the given name was always popular because the lion was the symbol of the evangelist St. Mark. Lastly and with name holders who definately originate from Ireland, it may be a form of the Gaelic O' Laighin. This translates as 'The male descendant of Javelin', presumably an early warrior known for his prowess with such a weapon. The first recorded spelling of the surname anywhere and in any spelling is believed to be that of Azor de Lions. This was dated 1159, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Norfolk, during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England, 1154 - 1189. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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