Reynolds (surname)

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Family name
Meaning "son of Reynold"
Region of origin England; Liatroim, Ireland
Footnotes: Frequency Comparisons:[1]

Reynolds is a surname in the English language. There are two major lineages of the surname,[citation needed] Irish and English. Among the earliest recorded use of the surname is from the early 14th century; Walter Reynolds of Worcester, England.

Irish Reynolds[edit]

In Ireland, the Reynolds surname originates in and around County Leitrim,[citation needed] where the name was rather influential before the seventeenth century. In the Irish language, the surname is rendered Mac Raghnaill, and the name is ultimately derived from the Old Norse Rognvald a Latin borrowing of the two words regal and valor. It was also a surname of Irish Huguenots who came to Ireland from France to evade religious persecution in the 1600s. The original surname being Renault. Throughout Ireland's rich history, the Reynolds family name was a prominent one, and even today, County Leitrim is the principal stronghold of the name, nearly half the people in Ireland so called hailing from that area.

Like many Irish families, the Reynolds began emigrating from Ireland in two fronts, early on in America's history, as they settled in the northeast prior to the American Revolution and during the "Irish Famine", when millions of Irish Catholics came to North America.

There is also a branch of the family which traces its origin to Phillipe D'Reynald, a templar knight who was required to return from the Holy Land and take up the legacy of his deceased brother William. However, this branch is more difficult to locate but is believed to have moved through Normandy and Somerset and on to Ireland.

Some of the better-known Reynolds include:

English Reynolds[edit]

Reynolds Family Crest
Joshua Reynolds – self-portrait

Reynolds is a patronymic surname meaning "son of Reynold", where the given name of the father, "Reynold", or "Reginald",[2] was a Germanic name composed of *raginą + *waldą, meaning "Powerful Ruler"[3] (possibly an alteration of the Old French name Reinold). The addition of "s" to the father's first name makes Reynolds a simple genitive case patronymic.[4]

Possessors of these names arrived in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066,[5] and early English chronicles indicate a Norman origin, with the name appearing in England from about 1066. Early records of the name mention Willemus filius Raunaldi who was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, in which "Rainald-us" is a common Christian name.[6] The alternative Saxon origin is less commonly cited (in this etymology, the name is constructed from the Saxon words Rhein, pure, and hold, love).[7]

The name Reynolds appeared in many references, but spellings included Reynell, Reynalds,[6] Renals, Rennels and many more. Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded. Hence, a person would appear to be born with one spelling, married with another, and buried with still another.

Reynolds emerged as a notable family name in the county of Somerset where Sir Richard Reynell (died 1194) held a family seat at Pitney and was given custody of the Castles at Exeter and Launceston by King Richard I when he went to the Holy Land in 1191. In 1198 Godfrey, Robert and Torketil Renoldus were registered in Normandy.

Meanwhile, many of the junior branches had joined the Earl of Pembroke's Irish invasion, where they became the Earls of Cavan, of Lisburne, of Mountmorris. In England the main line was forfeited but Sir Richard's son recovered the lands and became the Earl of Devon. This distinguished west country family also branched to other locations in England, mostly under the name 'Reynolds; for example, Walter Reynolds (died 1327) was the son of a Windsor baker, who became the favourite of King Edward II and Archbishop of Canterbury (1313–1327).

During the 12th century many of these Norman families moved north to Scotland in the train of the Earl of Huntingdon, later to become King David of Scotland.

In Ireland, settlers became known as the "Adventurers for land." They "undertook" to keep the Protestant faith, and were granted lands previously held by the Irish. This family migrated to Ireland during two periods, first with the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, and later, in the 17th century giving rise to the Reynells of Reynell castle. In some cases it is difficult to distinguish early migrants from native Irish Reynolds who derive their name from McRannell, formerly spelled "Mac Ragnaill".

Among settlers to North America bearing the family name Reynolds were Henry, Samuel, Thomas Reynold settled in the Barbados in 1688; Christopher Reynolds settled in Virginia in 1622; Nathaniel Reynold settled in Salem in 1630; Robert Reynolds settled in Salem in 1630 with Mary and his four children; Cornelius, Edward, George, Hannah, James, Mary, Nicholas, Richard Reynolds also settled in Virginia. During the American War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the Crown and moved into Canada as United Empire Loyalists.

More recently, notable bearers of the Reynolds surname include: Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), painter; John Reynolds (US politician) (1788–1865), American politician, Governor of Illinois; James Clark McReynolds (1862–1946), US Attorney General (1913–14) and Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court (1914–41); Albert Reynolds (b. 1935), Irish politician, Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland (1992–95); Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016), American actress, dancer and singer; Christopher Reynolds, Australian Archbishop of Adelaide (1873–1893); as well as Burt Reynolds (b. 1936), American actor.

The most ancient grant[who?] of a Coat of Arms found was a silver shield with a portcullis and three blue bars; A fox was the crest.


The ancient family Motto for this distinguished name was: Jus meum tuebor

Motto translation: I will defend my right.[8]

Or, "Favente Deo ("By God's favour").[9]

Portuguese Reynolds[edit]

Reynolds Family Crest (Portugal)

Originally from Maidstone, Kent, England, the first Reynolds that related to Portugal, Thomas Johnson William Reynolds, born in 1786, was a naval officer but withdrawn, settled later in Chatham, also in Kent, as an importer of fruit, wine corks and virgin cork from Spain and Portugal, until, because of a liver disease, on the advice of a doctor, that Reynolds began a sea voyage that brought him to Porto, where he saw a good opportunity to expand his business. With him came his sons, Thomas, William and Robert Hunter Reynolds, born respectively in 1811 and 1820. His daughter had already been born in Port Elizabeth in 1828.

Portugal proved to be a wealth of opportunities for these Reynolds. His son Robert, was the person that brought him to the Alentejo region, where he began his purchase of cork bark still on the tree, paying in advance, sometimes several years, with risk but with superb profits. Thus came the Alentejo and setting properties in Estremoz, accompanied by a nephew, son of Thomas, born in 1842, named William Reynolds.[10]


People whose family name is or was Reynolds include:

Fictional characters[edit]



PAINHA, José Maria. Chá de Azeite – O Trajecto Empresarial da Casa Reynolds no Alentejo e Extremadura (1838–1890). Estremoz:Câmara Municipal de Estremoz, 2008. ISBN 978-989-95187-8-0.


  1. ^ "Reynolds Surname Meaning and Geographic Distribution".  Retrieved 19 January 2014
  2. ^ Bardsley, C. W. (1996) [1901]. A dictionary of English and Welsh surnames. Genealogical Pub. Co. p. 643. ISBN 978-0-8063-0022-1. OCLC 36426097. 
  3. ^ "REYNOLDS – Name Meaning & Origin". Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Lower, M. A. (January 1849). English surnames. An essay on family nomenclature, historical, etymological, and humorous. University of Michigan Library. p. 160. 
  5. ^ Shelley, C. "Select Reynolds Surname Genealogy". 
  6. ^ a b Harrison, H. (2005) [1912]. Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-8063-0171-6. OCLC 228288696. 
  7. ^ Arthur, W. (1857). An etymological dictionary of family and Christian names. OCLC 1388229. 
  8. ^ "Certificate # 25372201034206 218537". The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname Reynolds. Swyrich Corp. 1998–2010. 
  9. ^ "Selected mottoes for names beginning with "Q" or "R"". Fleur-de-Lis designs. 
  10. ^ Los Reynolds Pérez-Montalvo