This long-established surname is of early medieval Scottish origin. It is a developed form of the Old Gaelic Mac Gill'Iosa, meaning the son of the servant of Jesus, from Mac meaning son of, gille, a follower, and Iosa, the Gaelic form of Jesus. Several Irish and Scottish names with the initial syllable of Gil or Kil, ", indicate devotion to Christ, or to a particular saint. In the process of development this surname acquired over seventy variant forms and these are believed to include examples such as Mcless, McCloch, M'Culeis, McColleis, MacLese, Macless, MacLise, MacLish and MacLeish. Early examples of the surname recordings include in the year 1500, Alexander Macless, a witness at Dumbarton, and in 1580, Gillecrist Og M'Culeis, of Ardnahow, was noted in an Iona Charter. Malleis McColleis of North Perthshire, entered in the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, was fined in 1613 "for reset of Clan Gregor", and in 1683, Margaret McLiss was resident at Fortingall (Perthshire). A coat of arms associated with the family has the blazon of a gold shield charged with two red chevrons and a black canton. The canton stands very high among honourable bearings, and was granted for eminent service. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John M'Lese, of Auchinbrech, Dumfriesshire. This was dated 1376, in the Ancient Charters of the Earldom of Morton, during the reign of King Robert 11nd of Scotland, 1371 - 1390. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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