Day-Lewis, 55, was the outright favorite to win the Academy Award for his quiet, intense performance as one of America's most revered presidents as he battled to end slavery and the US Civil War.
The British born actor with dual Anglo-Irish citizenship won virtually every award in the run-up to Sunday's Oscar ceremony, including a Golden Globe, British BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild statuettes.
Known for months of meticulous preparation, Day-Lewis is already the holder of Best Actor Oscars for his roles as a paraplegic Irish writer in 'My Left Foot' (1989) and a greedy early 20th century oil baron in 'There Will Be Blood' (2007).
His win for 'Lincoln' made him the first man to win three Best Actor Oscars in the 85-year history of the Academy Awards.
The tall, intellectual actor also became the first person to win an Oscar for playing a US President.
Accepting the award, Day-Lewis thanked the film's director, Steven Spielberg, and then paid tribute to the "mysteriously beautiful mind, body and spirit of Abraham Lincoln."
It took director Steven Spielberg three attempts to persuade Day-Lewis to take on the role of Lincoln.
Once he made the commitment, he threw himself into the part with the same devotion that saw him spending weeks living in a wheelchair for 'My Left Foot' and sharpening knives between takes to capture the menace of Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting in 'Gangs of New York.'
This time, Day-Lewis spent months researching Lincoln's political and personal life, and 19th century language and customs. Months before shooting began, he was texting his screen wife, actress Sally Field, in 19th century vernacular.
Day-Lewis chose to adopt a high-pitched speaking voice for Lincoln, in contrast to the dramatic, booming tones associated with the Civil War president in previous movies and TV portraits.
But it was the humanity he brought to Lincoln that earned most critical praise and his success in bringing to life an American icon in a different, subtle way for a new generation.