Paus (earlier spellings include Pauss and de Paus) is a Norwegian and Swedish family of clergymen, civil servants, merchants, industrialists and land-owners, among others, which can be traced to the second half of the 15th century and a man named Oluf. The oldest documented member of this family was canon at St Mary's Church in Oslo—the royal chapel and seat of the Chancellor of Norway—Hans Olufsson (1500–70), who was a priest in Norway both before and after the Reformation in Denmark–Norway and Holstein. The clergy of St Mary's Church were part of the so-called royal clergy (kapellgeistlighet), subordinated only to the King and outside the jurisdiction of the bishops. The canons of St Mary's Church were ex officio members of the secular nobility as decreed by a 1300 royal proclamation and held the (non-hereditary) rank of knight. As a member of the high clergy in the 16th century, his prebend included the income of no less than 43 church estates, which after his death passed to Jens Nilssøn. His son Povel Hansson (born ca. 1545–50) was a burgher of Oslo, a merchant and a ship-owner. He was the father of two clergymen who became the patriarchs to two lineages of the family. They were Hans Povelsson Paus (b. 1587), who became parish priest in Fredrikstad, and Peder Povelsson Paus (b. 1590), who became provost in Øvre Telemark. According to genealogist Finne-Grønn, Hans was "most likely" married for the first time to a daughter of the burgomaster of Oslo, Anders Nilssøn (brother of Bishop Jens Nilssøn), and secondly to Ingeborg Lemmich. Peder was married to Johanne Madsdatter, who according to Finne-Grønn most likely came from a family "well above the ordinary burghers." Many of their descendants also were priests. According to a printed oration in Greek by Hans Povelsson Paus' son, Anders Hansson Paus (born 1622), published at the University of Franeker, Chancellor Jens Bjelke, Bjelke's son-in-law Sten Willumsen Rosenvinge, Daniel Bildt of Hafslund and Bishop Ole Boesen were benefactors of his father who paid for his education. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the family was one of the families known as patricians in Norway. The family is also known for its relation to playwright Henrik Ibsen.

The family has been believed to be descended from a 14th century noble family in earlier literature, but the exact circumstances were never established. A Catholic member of the family, papal chamberlain and art collector Christopher Tostrup Paus, was conferred the hereditary title of count by Pope Pius XI on 25 May 1923, a title that was also recognized by the Kingdom of Italy. As he lived in Sweden, the (comital branch of the) family joined the Sveriges Ointroducerade Adels Förening in 1924, thus becoming part of Sweden's unintroduced nobility. The comital branch became extinct in 1943, as Christopher Paus did not have children.

The family's coat of arms features in red a silver bull's head, in the upper dexter corner a six-pointed golden star. It was adopted in the 19th century, as an interpretation of a 14th century seal used by the lawspeaker of Oslo, Nikolas (or Niculos in some sources) Sigurdsson Paus, believed (but not verified) to be related to the same family. Two documents with seals from 1330 and 1344 are preserved, and their texts included in Diplomatarium Norvegicum. The figure in the seal has been interpreted both as a bird and as a bull. It was given its modern design by Hallvard Trætteberg, Norway's preeminent heraldic artist, and published in his book Norske By og Adelsvåben. Family members used other coats of arms in the 17th and 18th centuries, including a coat of arms featuring a wild man used by judge Cornelius Paus (1662–1723) and a coat of arms featuring a bird and a serpent used by judge Peder Paus (1691–1759). A document signed by the oldest documented ancestor, Hans Olufsson, in 1544, is preserved, but the seal has been lost.

Since the 16th century, members of the family have been priests, judges, ship-owners, merchants, bankers, military officers, members of parliament, ambassadors, industrialists, and artists. From the 17th to the 19th century, family members were prominent in Telemark (formerly Bratsberg) county. Branches of the family also live in Sweden, where members of the family own and have owned several estates, among them Trystorp and Herresta. The family has intermarried with the Swedish branch of the Tolstoy family, and the Norwegian families Wedel-Jarlsberg, Løvenskiold, von Munthe af Morgenstierne, Wilhelmsen, and others. Paus & Paus, an industrial company founded in 1906 by members of the family, existed until 2001.

As Henrik Ibsen points out in an 1882 letter to Georg Brandes, the family was one of the patrician families dominating the port town of Skien, where he grew up.

The origin of the Paus name is unclear and several theories have been asserted. The genealogist S. H. Finne-Grønn has suggested that the name originated in a (possibly related) family in the 14th century, possibly under influence from German in late mediæval Norway. Historian, genealogist and Ibsen biographer Halvdan Koht suggested it could be a patronymic based on the first name Paul. The researcher Ivar Utne has suggested that the name is cognate with the word pave, the Norwegian word for pope (Latin for "father", also "paus" in Dutch means pope), being used as a nickname.

Famous family members include:

  • Hans Paus (1656–1715), priest and poet
  • Ole Paus (1776–1855), shipowner, step-father of Knud Ibsen
  • Christian Cornelius Paus (1800–1879), judge, Governor of Bratsberg and Member of Parliament, uncle of Henrik Ibsen
  • Christopher Blom Paus (1810–1898), shipowner and banker, uncle of Henrik Ibsen
  • Ole Paus (1846–1931), factory owner and banker
  • Count Christopher de Paus (1862–1943), papal chamberlain, land owner, art collector and socialite
  • Nikolai Nissen Paus (1877–1956), surgeon and President of the Norwegian Red Cross
  • Ole Otto Paus (1910–2003), General
  • Bernhard Paus (1910–1999), surgeon and Grand Master of the Norwegian Order of Freemasons
  • Thorleif Lintrup Paus (1912–2006), Ambassador
  • Brita Collett Paus (1917–1998), founder of the catholic charity Fransiskushjelpen.
  • Lucie Paus Falck (1938–), Labour politician, Secretary of State
  • Arne Paus (1943–), figurative painter
  • Peder Nicolas Paus (1945–); Chairman of the Board of Questerre Energy Corporation
  • Ole Paus (1947–), singer
  • Pontine Paus (1973–), fashion designer
  • Marcus Paus (1979–), composer

Famous descendants of the Paus family include playwright Henrik Ibsen (maternal grandmother and father's stepfather). The Paus family was Henrik Ibsen's closest relatives after his parents and siblings. Ibsen named the character Hedvig in The Wild Duck for his grandmother Hedvig Altenburg née Paus. Also romantic painter Thomas Fearnley and astronomer Carl Frederik Fearnley descended from the family on their mother's side.

In Norway, the fictional character "Jennings" was named "Stompa", an acronym of "Stein Oskar Magell Paus Andersen."

Read more about Paus:  Quote