Description: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis C...
Lewis Carroll; Photo credit: Wikipedia

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.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Katharine, thank you for the lesson in slang! Let’s consider my clever nickname suggestion a few notches less appealing. *Blushes.*

    I love Llewellyn myself, but my aunt and uncle live in an upscale gated community called Llewellyn Park, so it has rather different associations for me.

    I forgot to mention this in the original post, but one of the funny things about Louis/Lewis is this – the most popular variant of the name in the US today is NEITHER. Instead, the Latino Luis is the clear frontrunner.

  2. I adore Lewis, and used to be considering it for a boy before my aunt broke up with her fiance, Louis, called Louie. Llewellyn is definitely growing on me, but possibly as a middle name…? I really can’t believe that Louis is more popular than Lewis in the US, I’d think it would have some sort of following as a surname name that is also a first name. It’s legit, and a “misspelling” to the untrained eye. Shame, really, I truly love it. I’m not sure how much of a nickname Lash could be, it realy just reminds me of lashes, as in abuse, which isn’t something you want your child associated with. I think Lew is cuter than Lou, but there isn’t a great way to spell Louie for Lewis. Lewwie? Lewy?
    We’re hoping to make Scotland our Christmas vacation trip with the girls, so I’m hoping to get some glimpse of the many Lewis-es! When we went to England you couldn’t swing a four foot stick without finding a baby Ruby, it was magnificent!

  3. Oh dear I’m really not a fan of Lewis and far prefer the French, regal sounding Louis (they are completely separate names to me too Lola!)

    Llewellyn sounds too Welsh for me – its a fairly common Welsh surname and I wouldn’t be able to get past that, I’ll admit that it does sound rather dashing though! (An interesting middle name perhaps?)

    As for Lash, perhaps Lash doesn’t have the same connotations in the US, but in the UK ‘going out on the lash’ is a euphemism for getting drunk! 🙂

  4. I adore all the variants of this name. I like Llewellyn, although I think it sounds a pretty feminine to the average American ear. Lewis seems like a more cowboy-ish choice because of the popularity of Lewis and Clark around here, where Louis has pronounciation issues. LOO-is or LOO-ee? I think Lash would be a bit much as nickname, but if he’s a football star or something, it might work.

  5. Even with my Scottish roots, I prefer Louis (as Lou-ee, not Lewis) They’re two completely different names to this Yankee, which drives most everyone I know bananas. They’re the same for most everyone I know. Lewis is also primarity a surname to me. Of all the possibly relateds you posted, Llewellyn is easily my favorite of the bunch. I like Llewellyn’s sweeping style.
    Lash seems rather kinky to me too, but then, I think in twisted ways… so maybe that’s just me. To most he’d probably sound Western/Cowboy-ish . I rarely, if ever agree with Redmond & Satran. I own several of their books but when I read them, my DH makes fun of me, I argue with the printed word!

    Overall, Lewis is kind of cool though. He’s snappy sounding, handsome, easy for just about anyone to figure out and he gets a bonus for this Scrabble fan, his W! I just prefer the lighthearted sound of Louis to the slightly ponderous Lewis. I’d rather meet a Lewis and yet another -aiden/Jacoob or *sigh* Gavin.