Recorded as Leo, Leon, Lion, Lyon and Lyons, this is usually an English, but Scottish or Irish surname, although in most cases is ultimately of early French origins. Introduced into the British Isles after the Norman Conquest of 1066, it has a number of possible sources. Firstly, it may be a locational name from either the town of Lyons, in central France, recorded in the 1st century b.c. as "Lugdunum", and thought to be from Gaullic elements meaning "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 Old French word "lion" itself from the Roman "leo", meaning a lion. The surname may also derive from the given name "Leo", again from the Latin, and borne by numerous early martyrs and thirteen popes. On the Continent the given name was always relatively popular because the lion was the symbol of the evangelist St. Mark. In some instances the surname may be of Irish origin, and a form of the Gaelic O'Laighin, translating as the male descendant of Laighin, a byname meaning spear or javelin. The surname has no less than ten coats of arms granted to it, and six major entries in the British "Dictionary of National Biography". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown 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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