The Origins of 62 Last Names
Last names. You've probably got one or two, and they definitely came from somewhere. Whether it's ancient or modern, signifies the beauty of nature or an abstract concept or a job, or is something grandma came up with on the fly, last names are an intimate thing that anchor us to our heritage.
Here are the meanings and origins of 62 last names (maybe including yours).
Welcome, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans. Did you know that the last name Green has been around since before the 7th century? You could have gotten that name by playing the role of "green man" on May Day, which involved dressing in green clothing and leaves. But people were also given the name Green if they just liked wearing the color green a lot. So if you're interested in changing your last name, maybe look no further than your closet.
Smith is an old English name given to those who worked with metal. It's probably related to a word that meant "to strike" or "to smite," which means it may have referred to a soldier or to the person hitting metal to form it into armor.
Similarly, Schmidt is basically the German version of Smith, which also derives from the word smitan, which pre-dates written history.
The popular Spanish last name Lopez came Lupus, the Latin word for wolf.
It's from the ancient Aramaic word תאומא, meaning twin, but you can use it on singles or all three triplets.
Not all of these are gonna be big shockers, okay? Hill is an English name referring to, you guessed it, someone living on a hill. Other people got the name not from location, but from the name Hildebrand or Hilliard.
In parts of England, Lynch meant someone who lived by a hill. In Ireland, though, it may have meant seaman. Please note the spelling there.
Slightly different, Murphy comes from the Irish term for a sea warrior, which is basically a Lynch during war time? There's most likely a Viking connection here.
Novak comes from the Slovak word for new or newcomer. Good to know if people start calling you that as soon as you get to Serbia.
Gomo, which comes from old Spanish, meant man, and the "ez" at the end there makes it mean "Son of Man."
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If your last name is Cook, you probably have some ancestors who did that for a living.
Dating back before the 8th century, Baker could have referred to someone baking bread, running a communal kitchen, or owning a kiln for firing pottery.
Baxter is the masculine version of the word Bakester, which originally meant a woman who bakes.
Bcker is the German word for baker, and the name might have sprung up for the same reasons Baker and Baxter did in England, but it's also possible that the last name denoted someone living by a stream or a "bach."
15. Hall is also named after an occupation.
They were the people who worked in a house or a hall. Or even if you just lived near one.
16. Adams means "son of adam" in england and scotland.
They borrowed the Adam part from Hebrew, of course.
17. Rogers also means "Son of Roger."
Although Roger isn't like the first man in an alternate version of the Bible. His name comes from the legend of the Danish king Hrothgar, who can be found in Beowulf. Hrothgar, by the way, means "famous spear."
18. Thompson is celtic.
There are of course, a ton of these sons. Let's just get a bunch out of the way. Thompson means either "son of Tom" or refers to the place Thompson in Norfolk.
19. Robinson means "son of Robin."
20. Roberts is "Son of Robert."
And Robert means "fame" and "bright."
21. There are at least two sons of john.
22. Jacksons are in that same family.
The name Jack is also derived from Yohanan, so Jacksons and Johnsons are really kinda the same.
23. Evans means "Son of Evan" but has multiple meanings.
Evans is a name which changes meaning depending on your background. In Welsh, it also evolved from Yohanan. In Celtic, it means "young warrior." We're learning a lot about what people used to value: warriors, fame, religion, hills.
24. Martinez Means "Son of Martin."
It's a Spanish last name, and "Martin" comes from the Roman God of War, Mars.
25. Anderson means "son of Manly."
The Greek word for "manly" gave us Anders and Andrew, and therefore Anderson, the son of Anders.
26. And Wilson Means "Son of Desire."
Since the Will part of Wilson is from the Germanic word meaning "desire." Gives an even deeper meaning to the Tom Hanks' best friend in Castaway.
27. Olsen Means "Sone of Ole."
The name Ole came from an Old Norse word meaning "ancestors' descendants". So I guess the Olsens of the world are the sons of ancestors' descendants. Phew.
28. Philips, of course, means "Son of Philip.
The Greek name Philippos, meaning "lover of horses", gave us the name Philip. Therefore every Philips in your life is the son of a horse lover.
29. Fox started as a nickname.
The name Fox was taken from the animal's name. It's one of those last names that started out as a nickname. Usually, people who were called Fox were clever or else had red hair or both (probably just one or the other).
30. Russell was the anglo-norman word for ginger.
Then there's the name Russell, which is an Anglo-Norman word meaning "red haired" or even "red-skinned."
31. White was also a nickname first.
It probably referred to a person who had white hair or a very light complexion. It's also referred to people living near the bend in a river.
32. Brown referred to someone with brown hair.
Or who wore a lot of brown clothes. But really, wasn't that everyone in like the 5th century? I guess that explains why there are so many Browns.
33. Kim Means "Gold."
It's also the most popular surname in South Korea. One in five people living there is a Kim.
34. Li can also mean "Plum."
Or someone who lived near a plum tree. It's the second most popular surname on the planet.
35. Lee means "Meadow."
The direct translation from Old English is "an open place," so it also might have referred to a water meadow.
36. Stewart Means "household guardian."
The Scottish name would have denoted the person who handled administrative tasks for a big royal household. It comes from the ancient word "stigweard."
37. Clark was a professional scribe.
I live near a hill and I'm something of a scribe, so I guess I would be a Lynchclark?
38. Walker was a fuller.
Walker could have been someone who did fulling, which was walking on cloth to improve its quality.
39. Or another professional walker.
Another occupation related to that name: military officers who would monitor a forest area by, you know, walking.
40. Allen means "Little Rock" Or "Harmony."
So please enjoy using your Harmony Wrench to build your next swanky piece of IKEA furniture.
41. In English, Myers denoted the son of the mayor.
It may have also been used as a nickname for someone pompous.
42. Singh Means "Lion."
Sikh in origin, it's given to a son on achieving manhood.
43. COHEN is hebrew for "Priest."
But the name might also come from Gaelic Irish where it meant "Son of Wild Goose."
44. PARKER was a gamekeeper.
Or maybe a park keeper. Makes sense.
45. Wright was a craftsman.
The name comes from an Old English word for "craftsman," and usually denoted someone who made things with wood, like windmills or wheels.
46. Carter moved goods.
Carter is also English. It originally referred to a job in which someone would transport goods via cart, hence Cart-er.
47. Schneider means "Tailor" in german.
The English version is, of course, Taylor.
48. In german, Muller meant someone who operated a mill.
The English version of that one is, also of course, Miller, and they both would have needed a wright to build their mill.
49. In England a Cooper was someone who made barrels.
If you get a bunch of barrel makers together in tiny cars you have many coopers in Mini Coopers.
50. Moore has multiple meanings.
It may have meant someone who lived by a moor or someone who worked on boats, or someone who was dark-skinned, like Othello.
51. In Old English, Spending time near a pear tree got you called Perry.
That sort of feels like a lazy nickname situation. In French, it was someone who worked in a quarry.
52. Turner might mean you're fast or spin things.
Turner also has a couple different origins. It might mean "turn hare," or someone who can run faster than a hare. It could also mean "one who works with a lathe".
52. In portuguese and spanish, torres means "tower."
So, someone with that last name was someone who lived by a tower.
53. In German, Hoffman meant someone who was a steward on an estate.
Or someone associated with a farm. Either way, do not hassle the Hoffman.
54. LEWIS COMES FROM MANY DIFFERENT CULTURES.
Thus, it has a few different meanings. Like, an English Lewis was the son of a Lowis. Lewis also developed various first names in France and Germany and Normandy and so on. Those with the last name Llewellyn, in Welsh, usually becomes Lewis' in English. They all came from the Frankish name "Hludwig" which meant "Famous Battle."
55. Young was for for the youngest child.
You might also might have earned the surname if you were young at heart.
56. Weber is german for weaver.
It probably stemmed form the Old English word "webbe," which meant "to weave."
57. King means ruler.
In English, King obviously means leader, but many people adopted it who weren't rulers, and it was used as a nickname quite often. You'll notice, for instance, that the Queen of England is not named Elizabeth Queen. But the name became popular among American immigrants from Ireland, and in the 16th century it was also common to give orphans in France the last name Roi, meaning "king."
58. Garcia might have something to do with a bear.
The etymology of Garcia isn't certain but most believe it came from a Basque word meaning "bear," or else "young bear."
59. Rodriguez means "Famous Chief."
But it may also have come from a word meaning "The red-haired one." So, if you're a famous red-haried chief, you're all set.
60. Campbell is a combination of terms.
It's two Scottish-Gaelic words: "Cam" meaning "Crooked," and "Bell" meaning "Mouth." Shout out to all the crooked mouths out there.
61. Abdullah means "Servant of God."
It's popular among Arabic Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
62. Mwangi is the most popular surname in Kenya.
And it means "rapid expansion."
In this week's episode, John Green examines the origins of 62 surnames. For a transcript, click here.
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