Lister (surname)

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Lister, Lyster
Family name
Pronunciation Lis'terr
Related names Lester, Lestor, McInlester, McLeister, Laister, Litster, Lidster, Ledgister Ledster
Lister coat of arms, Thomas Lister of Westby, County York, England. Taken from "Lyster Pioneers of Lower Canada and the West",[1] which credits Thomas Lyttleton Lyster Denny's 1913 work, "Memorials of an ancient house".

Lister or Lyster is an English occupational surname, and may refer to a textile dyer, from the Middle English word "litster", meaning to dye.[2] It dates back to the 13th century in Scotland with the recording of Aleyn le Littester of Edinburghshire who rendered homage to the Republican Government in 1296, and to the 14th century in England (Richard le Lyster appears in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of Derbyshire in 1327).

The name probably comes from the Old Norse verb 'lita', meaning 'to dye' and rendered as 'lystare' in English. The noun for 'dyer' was 'litster' (Scottish), 'lit(t)e' (middle English), or 'lister' (English). The word was also associated with a 'salmon spear', rendered 'lyster' (Danish) or 'lister' (English). A 1533 Act of Parliament stated, "No person shall take in any crele, raw web, lister.... the young fry of salmon."

The name took hold in areas of England in the 16th Century known for the woollen industry, mainly Yorkshire, but also Lancashire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk.

The name came to Ireland following the Cromwellian campaign of 1649, and took root in County Laois, rendered by the English as Queen's County.

Spelling variants[edit]

The name's spellings include Lister (English & Scottish), Lyster (Irish), Lester, Lestor (English), McInlester, McLeister, Laister, Litster (Scottish), Lidster (Scottish), and the rare Ledgister and Ledster (Scottish).

Eswyn Lyster notes that, "It is often said that 'Lister' is the English name, while 'Lyster' is Irish, but both spellings are found in Ireland, often in the same family. In England 'Lyster' is seldom seen (save) to someone whose ancestors moved to Ireland and then returned. In Scotland the spelling (Fife County) is 'Litster' and 'Lidster', and tends to become 'Lister' in modern times'."[3]

Whereas both 'Lister' and 'Lyster' rhyme with 'mister', in some areas of western Canada 'Lyster' is rendered as if spelt 'Lester'.

Coat of Arms & Crest[edit]

Lister-Lyster crest, taken of a plaque held by a British Columbia Lyster family

There is no official registry that recognizes a Lister/Lyster coat of arms, but Listers of Yorkshire-descent use the one granted to John Lyster de Derby. It is a shield divided horizontally in three, the middle being black with three large white five-pointed stars. Six small staggered crosses with bell-bottomed bases are on the white strip at the top, and seven are on the bottom.

The crest which appears atop the coat of arms is a dagger impaling a laurel wreath, from Carlow Ireland (Queen's County).[4] This is listed in Fairburn's Crests, designated "LYSTER, Ire."

The family motto is variously 'Retinens vestiga famae' (Following in the footsteps of fame), or 'Facta, non verba' (Deeds, not words).




See also[edit]

  • Baron Lister, a British noble title that existed from 1897 to 1912
  • Lester, related surname

Known Lister/Lyster histories[edit]