Editor’s note: This post was originally published on September 5, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on July 1, 2013. Thanks to C in DC for the nudge!
He’s a surname name with long history.
Thanks to Kim for suggesting Lewis as our Baby Name of the Day.
A whole cluster of names trace back to the German Chlodovech, including:
- Clovis, King of the Franks – more than one Frankish royal answered to the name. It comes from the Latinized form Clodovicus.
- Ludwig, as in van Beethoven and Wittgenstein.
- Ludovic, a favorite of mine, from the Latinized form Ludovicus. There’s also Ludovico and Ludoviko.
- Aloysius, yet another Latinized form, from Aloys, a Occitan variant of the name.
- Louis, one of the most common forms today.
Chlodovech has died out, and you’re not likely to meet a Clovis, but many of the other forms remain in use throughout the world. Add in international variants like Luigi and Luis, and this family of names has been quite successful through the years.
In one form or another, it’s by far the most popular name choice for the Kings of France.
But what’s the difference between Louis and Lewis?
An ocean. Or at least a body of water.
Louis is the preferred form in France and the US. In the UK, it is Lewis.
Lewis emerged post-Norman invasion. Loys and Lowis are also recorded. Lewis is a Top Ten choice in Scotland, and has been since 2000. He’s had a good run in the Top 100 of England and Wales, too, though he’s on the decline in recent years. In Wales, he meets up with the surname name Llewelyn, and in Ireland, he’s associated with lugh – brightness.
In the US, Lewis brings to mind many a notable, including:
- Rock ‘n’ roll innovator Jerry Lee Lewis.
- Actor Daniel Day-Lewis.
- Nobel prize winning writer Sinclair Lewis.
- CS Lewis is known for his fiction and his writings on Christianity.
- Charles Dodgson went chasing rabbits and hunting snarks under the pen name Lewis Carroll. Lewis appears to have come from Dodgson’s middle name, Lutwidge, which was his mother’s maiden name.
- Lewis Reed became known as Lou, and changed rock forever as part of The Velvet Underground.
In the US, Louis has clearly been the favored spelling over the years. In the late 19th century, Louis ranked in the Top 20, while Lewis lagged a dozen or more spaces behind. Today, Louis has gained slightly, ranking a respectable #312. Lewis, too, is up slightly, to #644.
If Lewis seems too scholarly for a child, consider this: in The Baby Name Bible, the nameberry gurus report that Lash is the favored Rom adaptation of Louis/Lewis. It could make a dashing nickname for a son, along the lines of Cash and Dash. Plus ends-with-s names for boys feel stylish, from Brooks to Yates.
Regardless of the spelling, this name has a long history of use and manages to be current without being too common. He’s an enduring choice at home in 2013.