Lewes - Lewis - Louis

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The three names Lewes, Lewis and Louis can be confused - although for different reasons. All three may, from time to time, be pronounced 'LOO-iss', although this is not always recommended.

  • Lewes (properly pronounced 'LOO-iss', IPA: /'luː ɪs/) is the name of a town in Sussex, where, in 1264, Simon de Montfort won a decisive battle in his rising against Henry III, after which the 'Mise of Lewes', a peace document, was signed. From about 1685 it became the name of a settlement in Delaware (in North America) formerly called Zwaanendael. Lewes has also been used as a locational surname, famously by
    • George Henry Lewes (1817-78), a Victorian thinker and literary man, who lived as husband and wife with George Eliot, being indissolubly married to Agnes (née Jervis) at the time.
Etymological note: The name Lewes is derived from "the rare OE word lǣw 'wound, incision', here used in a topographical sense 'gap'. The spelling with plural -s in Domesday Book and other post-Conquest sources is due to Anglo-Norman influence" (Everett-Heath, 2010); although Charles Whynne-Hammond, (2007) says, in English Place-names Explained (Countryside Books), that it is from "the plural form of Anglo-Saxon Hlaew, which means "hill". This refers to the hills of the South Downs or ancient burial mounds within the area."
  • Lewis has two, unrelated, uses. Both are pronounced 'LOO-iss', IPA: /'luː ɪs/.
    • Geographically, Lewis (from the Gaelic Leὸdhas) is the northern part of the island of Lewis and Harris, the largest island of the Western Isles, or Outer Hebrides, in Scotland. (The two parts of the island form separate administrative units: Harris was part of Inverness-shire and Lewis part of Ross and Cromarty until re-organization in 1975 established Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, 'The Western Isles Islands Council', which now runs both parts of the island, as well as the other western isles. Its central offices are in Stornoway, the main town of the island of Lewis and Harris.) A person from the island is 'a lewisman'.
The adjective lewisian, often used substantively, refers to the ancient granitic gneiss rocks which form most of the Outer Hebrides, including Lewis, and underlie much of the Scottish Highlands.
    • As a personal name, Lewis is the usual English form of Louis. This spelling is more common in Britain, 'Louis' in North America. Among those who have used it are:
      • Charlton Thomas Lewis (1834-1904), one of the lexicographers (writers) of the Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary
      • Lewis Carroll, the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (the name Lutwidge, his mother's maiden name, was Latinized by Charles as Ludovicus)
      • C[live] S[taples] Lewis, a scholar of English literature, Christian apologist and writer for children
      • Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) (poet; the Poet Laureate from 1968 to 1972);
      • his son Daniel Day-Lewis, the film actor who has won the Oscar for best actor three times (as Christy Brown (My Left Foot) 1989; Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood) 2007; and Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln) 2012).
    • The name has been given to several contrivances named after their inventors, or presumed popularisers:
      • A Lewis, or lewisson, is a lifting device used by stone masons to hold very large blocks of stone to attach them to a crane, or similar. It works by lever action in a prepared 'lewis hole'. The device is at least as old as ancient Rome.
      • The Lewis gun is a light machine gun designed in 1911 by Col. Isaac Newton Lewis (1858-1931) of the U.S. Army, and much used by the Belgian and British armies and their allies during the First World War. It saw service again in the Second World War, particularly in aircraft (it had been the first machine gun ever mounted in an aircraft, in 1912; and was popular with the RFC and RAF because of its light weight) and at sea, where in 1939 it was the Royal Navy's principal close-range air defence weapon.
      • In Chemistry, Lewis acids (and 'Lewis bases') are a particular type of compound, named for Gilbert Newton Lewis (1875-1946), U.S. chemist.
      • Lewisite is
        • a) the name of a poison gas developed in the USA in 1918, named for Winford Lee Lewis (1878-1943), U.S. chemist
        • b) the name of a mineral named from W. J. Lewis (1847-1926), British mineralogist
      • Lewisia is the name of a genus of alpine plants native to N. America, and first recorded by Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809)
  • Louis (pronounced with the 's' silent, IPA: /'luː ɪ/) is the French form of an old Germanic name. For more, see Louis.
    • A louis d'or - or 'golden Louis', sometimes plain 'louis', nowadays usually with a lower case 'l-'; the plural is correctly the same, louis d'or, but commonly 'louis d'ors': obsolete spellings include luidore, lewi(s)dore and loui(s)dore) - is the name given to the French gold coin first issued by Louis XIII copying the Spanish double escudo, or 'doubloon'. It outlasted the French monarchy: its name was used colloquially for the 20 franc gold coin of Napoleon, the napoleon d'or. In 1717 its legal value in England was fixed at 17s. In the Bourbon reigns following the Restoration the name was transferred to the 20 franc piece or Napoleon.