Mental Floss

The Origins of 62 Last Names

Alvin Ward
SasinParaksa iStock via Getty Images
SasinParaksa iStock via Getty Images / SasinParaksa iStock via Getty Images

Last names. You've probably got one or two and they definitely came from somewhere. Whether they’re ancient or modern, last names can have several subliminal meanings. They could signify the beauty of nature, be an abstract concept, or even be derived from one of your ancestor’s jobs. For all you know, your last name is something that Grandma came up with on the fly when immigrating to a new country.

No matter the reason, last names are intimate things that anchor us to our heritage—thus making last names an intriguing and relevant topic to learn more about. Here are the meanings and origins of 62 last names. Is yours on the list? Let’s find out!

1. Green

Woman in a forest with binoculars
Woman in a forest with binoculars / Soft_Light/iStock via Getty Images

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 the "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, look no further than your closet.

2. Smith

Blacksmith forging a horseshoe
Blacksmith forging a horseshoe / amoklv/iStock via Getty Images

Smith is an Old English name given to those who worked with metal. This last name is also related to the 17th century English verb meaning "to strike" or "to smite." This means that Smith may have also referred to a soldier or to the person hitting metal to form it into armor. The last name Smith came to the United States around 1840, with around 20 percent of all Smiths in the United States being recorded in New York. Today, it is the most popular last name in the United States.

3. Schmidt

Wrought iron detail on wooden door
Wrought iron detail on wooden door / wernerimges/iStock via Getty Images

While the Smith last name originated in England, it eventually spread to mainland European countries, where it was adapted into variations according to local languages. Take, for example, “Schmidt." This last name is essentially the German version of Smith, which also derives from the word smitan—a word that actually predates written history. This name was common amongst blacksmiths living in Germany and neighboring countries such as Austria and Denmark. It was also commonly adopted by Jewish people who moved to Germany soon after the last name became common.

4. Lopez

Red wolf
Red wolf / SonyaLang/iStock via Getty Images

The popular Spanish last name was originally a patronymic, meaning “Son of Lope.” While the word Lope means wolf, the “z” on the end denotes son of. What’s more, the word lope is itself a derivative from the Latin word lupus, meaning wolf. This backstory shows just how historic this name truly is. What’s more, Lopez has become a wildly popular last name, proving to be one of the most common last names in Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and even the United States.

5. Thomas

Twin babies crying
Twin babies crying / leungchopan/iStock via Getty Images

While it may be one of the most common last names in the U.S. today, those who bear the Thomas last name might have origins in several European countries. After all, this last name was common in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. While it might seem as if Thomas has a complicated history, its origin remains quite clear: the last name comes from the ancient Aramaic word תאומא, meaning twin, but you can use it on singles or all three triplets.

6. Hill

A small white house on a green hill in the sun.
A small white house on a green hill in the sun. / Antonel iStock via Getty Images

Hill is an English name referring to ... you guessed it ... someone living on a hill! While it's one of the most common last names in the United States and England, it is not exclusively of English origin. For some bearers of this last name, it could have been derived from the Greek name Hilary or the Latin name Hillary. Other people got the name not from location, but rather after their great grandparents decided to change their original last names such as Hildebrand or Hilliard to Hill when arriving in the United States.

7. Lynch

Man on a sailboat
Man on a sailboat / nd3000/iStock via Getty Images

Lynch is one of those last names whose exact roots remain unclear. This name has both an English and an Irish origin. In parts of England, the last name Lynch was used to refer to someone who lived by a hill. In Ireland, on the other hand, it is commonly thought to have meant seaman. This is because it was derived from the Gaelic expression Ó Loingsigh, which translates into ‘descendant of Loingseach.' In Gaelic, a loingseach is a mariner, or “a long ship."

8. Murphy

Vikings rowing in boats
Vikings rowing in boats / gorodenkoff/iStock via Getty Images

While plenty of us have heard of the expression “Murphy’s Law” (meaning that anything that can go wrong will go wrong), you may not be familiar with where this last name comes from. Unlike many last names on this list, this Irish last name traces its origins from two separate phrases, albeit both hailing from the Gaelic language. These terms, namely O Murchadha and Mac Murchadha, both mean sea warrior in English. This means that Murphy is basically a “Lynch” during wartime. There's most likely a Viking connection here.

9. Novak

Woman giving a casserole to a neighbor
Woman giving a casserole to a neighbor / Daisy-Daisy/iStock via Getty Images

While this last name comes from the Slovak language, Novak is common among people from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, and Croatia. This last name 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! Intriguingly, in Slovenia, Novak refers to a peasant who decides to settle in a new land. What’s more, emigration has led to Novak becoming a fairly prominent last name in the United States, where it is even more common than in many of its countries of origin.

10. Gomez

Man kissing his toddler son
Man kissing his toddler son / Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

While fans of The Addams Family may think of the patriarch of TVs most spooky family when they hear this name, it is actually more commonly used as a last name. Gomo, which comes from old Spanish, meant man, while the "ez" at the end of the name makes it mean "son of man" in its entirety. Incredibly common in Spain, Mexico, Colombia and the United States, this last name actually has its fair share of variations. In Portugal, it is “Gomes” while the Catalan (a region in Northeastern Spain) form of the name is “Gomis."

11. Cook

A male chef's hand seasons a rack of ribs.
A male chef's hand seasons a rack of ribs. / Mikhail Spaskov iStock via Getty Images

The Jamie Olivers and Nigella Lawsons of the world might wonder why they missed out on this family name. After all, if your last name is Cook, you probably have some ancestors who did that for a living. This last name traces its roots back to the days of the Anglo-Saxon tribes in Britain. Derived from the Old English word coc (cook), this last name was primarily given to either a keeper of what was called an “eating house” or the seller of cooked meats.

12. baker.

Man at potting wheel
Man at potting wheel / JackF/iStock via Getty Images

Here is yet another last name used to honor those with a talent in the culinary arts. Dating back sometime before the 8th century, Baker is a name of English origin that could have referred to someone baking bread, running a communal kitchen, or owning a kiln for firing pottery. The name is derived from the Middle English word bakere and the Old English word bæcere. Both of these words are derived from bacan, a term meaning “to dry by heat."

13. Baxter

Man holding a loaf of bread
Man holding a loaf of bread / nndanko/iStock via Getty Images

Carrying on with the trend of last names derived from those with exceptional cooking abilities and here is one that was exclusively for the men in this field Baxter, a name of Anglo-Saxon origin, is the masculine version of the Middle English term bakester, which was originally used to describe a woman who bakes. This word is in turn derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century word baecestre, which specifically means a female baker. It seems like it took a while for men to be accepted into the culinary field.

14. Becker

Small house by a forest stream
Small house by a forest stream / Riekkinen/iStock via Getty Images

It turns out that the English were not the only ones with a habit for naming people after their professions. Becker is the German word for baker, and the name might have sprung up for the same reasons Baker and Baxter did in England. It is, however, also possible that the last name denoted someone living by a stream, or bach. This name remains highly prominent in Germany, with a high number of instances also being found in the United States, Australia, and surprisingly, parts of South America.

15. Hall

Long old-fashioned hallway
Long old-fashioned hallway / piovesempre/iStock via Getty Images

While this name might trigger fond memories of Annie Hall, this last name’s origins can be traced back much further than that. Hailing from shared English, Irish, Scottish, German, and Scandanavian roots, this last name became popular in Ireland and the UK in the Middle Ages, where it was given to people who worked in a large house or a hall, or even those who simply lived in close proximity to one. In some parts of Austria and Germany, this name denoted a salt mine.

16. Adams

Stained glass depiction of Adam and Eve in the garden with a snake.
Stained glass depiction of Adam and Eve in the garden with a snake. / Richard Villalon/iStock via Getty Images

This English last name traces its origin all the way back to the Bible. Simply put, Adams means "son of Adam" in England and Scotland. Of course, the name Adam stretches back much further than that. According to several major religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Adam was the first human being to walk on God’s green Earth. The name Adam was first featured in the Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew more than 3000 years ago.

17. Rogers

Statue of Athena holding a spear
Statue of Athena holding a spear / Privizer/iStock via Getty Images

Now it seems as if we’ve begun focusing on all things Bible. Rogers, a name of English origin, is an abbreviated version of "son of Roger." Roger isn't the first man in an alternate version of the Bible, though: His name comes from the legend of the Danish king Hrothgar, who can be found in Beowulf. Hrothgar, by the way, means famous spear. It is believed that this name was first introduced to the English when the Normans (part of the Kingdom of France) invaded during the Conquest of 1066.

18. Thompson

Celtic crosses in old graveyard
Celtic crosses in old graveyard / egal/iStock via Getty Images

Throughout history, there have been plenty of instances of people being named after their fathers. This name, of course, is yet another example of this trend. Thompson is a Celtic name which means either "son of Tom" or refers to a place called Thompson in Norfolk. While Scottish in origin, this last name became highly prominent in English and Northern Irish society as well. In modern times, this last name is not only common in the United Kingdom, but also in countries with significant British expat communities, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.

19. Robinson

European robin in a snowy tree
European robin in a snowy tree / Chris Rogers/iStock via Getty Images

If you assumed that Robinson means "son of Robin,” you would be correct. Alternatively, it could be derived from the name “Robert.” This name, of British origin, has grown to become one of the most frequently used last names in England today (the 15th-most common last name, to be exact)! The Robinson last name is also common in the United States, with a particularly high density of Robinsons being located in the Northeastern regions of the country. It is also fairly common in Canada and, intriguingly, Haiti.

20. Roberts

Sunlight through clouds
Sunlight through clouds / IgorKirillov/iStock via Getty Images

Yet another British last name, Roberts means "son of Robert.” The first name from which it is derived—Robert—has a far more extensive backstory. Robert originally comes from Germanic words, hrod (meaning renown) and beraht (meaning bright). While the last name Roberts refers to the “son of Robert” in Wales, the English meaning of Roberts could also be the “servant of Robert." So the next time you meet a Roberts, you might be in the presence of someone whose ancestor was either a highly respected member of society or that person’s servant.

21. Johnson and Jones

Mosaic of John the Baptist
Mosaic of John the Baptist / Tramont_ana/iStock via Getty Images

While Johnson and Jones both mean son of John, their histories are far more thought-provoking than their direct meanings. The name John comes from the Hebrew Yohanan, which means "Yahweh has been gracious." This name played a pivotal role in early Christianity, with John The Apostle being one of the very first disciples of Jesus. In fact, this name has continued to be adopted by people of faith until this day (take Pope John Paul II, for example). This name has variations in several languages, including the Hebrew Yonatan (separate from Yohanan), the Greek Ioannis, and the Spanish Juan.

22. Jackson

Statue of John the Baptist on the Charles Bridge in Prague
Statue of John the Baptist on the Charles Bridge in Prague / Vladimir Vinogradov/iStock via Getty Images

As you’ve probably noticed, religious texts continue to have an enormous influence on the names that we pick out for our children today. Just like Johnson and Jones, the name Jack is also derived from the Hebrew name Yohanan. This pretty much means that Jacksons and Johnsons are essentially the same—sons of people named after Yohanan. In addition to the late pop sensation Michael Jackson and the United States’s seventh President Andrew Jackson, almost 1 million Americans have this last name today.

23. Evans

Warrior holding a sword and shield
Warrior holding a sword and shield / Massonstock/iStock via Getty Images

Captain America and Avengers fans will be all too familiar with the famous Hollywood actor Chris Evans. This star’s last name—besides meaning "son of Evan"—is a name that changes definition depending on your background. In the Welsh language, Evans is yet another name that evolved from the biblical Yohanan. In Celtic, it means young warrior. It also has a variety of spellings, including “Evins," "Evens," "Evian," and "Evan." Overall, this last name remains popular in English-speaking countries such as Australia and the United States. We're learning a lot about what people used to value: warriors, fame, religion, bakers, and hills.

24. Martinez

Statue of Roman god of war Mars
Statue of Roman god of war Mars / BMG_Borusse/iStock via Getty Images

This Spanish last name, meaning son of Martin, actually has its roots based in Roman mythology. The first name "Martin" comes from the Roman god of fertility and war, Mars. In the 4th century A.D., this name became particularly popular across Christian Europe, since it was borne by the saint Martin of Tours. It is believed to have originated in Old Castille, situated in the heart of Spain. It has since become highly common in Spain, Latin America, and the United States.

25. Anderson

Man lifting weights in a gym
Man lifting weights in a gym / twinsterphoto/iStock via Getty Images

If you fancy yourself as rather macho, then this is the perfect last name for you. Anders, or Andrew, comes from the Greek name for manly—Andreas. Bearing this in mind, the last name Anderson therefore refers to the son of someone truly manly. The name does have a second meaning, however. In Scotland, Anderson became a commonly adopted last name due to the fact that St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. It is also rumored to be an incredibly old Scottish last name, dating back to the 4th century.

26. Wilson

Cat looking longingly at food
Cat looking longingly at food / Chalabala/iStock via Getty Images

Both an English and Scottish last name, Wilson has well-established Germanic roots. The ”Will” segment of Wilson hails from the Germanic word meaning desire. Wilson, therefore, refers to the “son of Will," or perhaps, William (this name is typically shortened to Will). This explanation gives an even deeper meaning to Tom Hanks's best friend (who was actually a volleyball) in the 2000 survival drama Cast Away. Just as the name refers to desire, so too does Tom Hanks’s character desire to escape from the uninhabited island on which he is stranded.

27. Olsen

Old family photos for genealogy
Old family photos for genealogy / Megan Brady/iStock via Getty Images

From the famous twins Mary-Kate and Ashley to Superman’s fictional work colleague Jimmy, more people have this last name that one might think. In fact, Olsen has become a highly prevalent name in the United States and Canada. But where exactly did this name come from? Well, this name is both Danish and Norwegian, with the name Ole coming from an Old Norse word meaning "ancestors' descendants." Olsen could also mean “son of Olaf.” Olaf was the King of Norway who brought Christianity to his country. So I guess the Olsens of the world are either the "sons of ancestors' descendants" or the namesakes of a king.

28. Philips

Man and horse
Man and horse / Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

While plenty of us are familiar with the past American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, not many of us know the origins of his first—and, well, last—name. The last name “Phillips” was first used by the British in the Moors of Wales. It was derived from the British first name “Phillip,” which itself came from the Greek name Philippos, meaning "lover of horses." Whether they like it or not, every Philips in your life is the son of a horse lover.

29. Fox

Sleeping red fox
Sleeping red fox / AB Photography/iStock via Getty Images

While it may seem a little too obvious, the last name Fox was indeed taken from the animal’s name. In fact, it's one of those last names that started out as a nickname. Usually, people who were called Fox were either clever or else had red hair or both. While this name is of a Middle English origin, it has also become a common Ashkenazi Jewish name over time. Today, this last name is most prevalent in English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.

30. Russell

An intricate braid in the hair of a redheaded woman.
An intricate braid in the hair of a redheaded woman. / sUs_angel iStock via Getty Images

Much like the name Fox, this is yet another last name that people were assigned thanks to their character traits. This English, Scottish, and Irish name comes from the Anglo-Norman word meaning red-haired or even red-skinned. It was also historically used as a nickname in both England and France. Many of the Russells in the United States, however, are people of German descent whose family members changed the spelling of their previous last name, Rüssel, to the Anglicized Russell upon arriving in America.

31. White

Curvy river in green landscape
Curvy river in green landscape / wonganan/iStock via Getty Images

White can either be a last name of English or shared Scottish and Irish origin In its Scottish or Irish form, White is an Anglicization of the Gaelic word MacGillebhàin, meaning "Son of the fair gillie," as well as the Irish Mac Faoitigh or de Faoite. This probably referred to a person who had white hair or a very light complexion. It has also been referred to people living near the bend in a river. Interestingly enough, the French also have a last name equivalent to White in their own language: Blanc.

32. Brown

Man in brown suit holding a drink
Man in brown suit holding a drink / Yana Tkachenko/iStock via Getty Images

This last name, of English, Scottish, and Irish origin, is derived from the 7th century Old English word brun. The most common use of the Brown last name was to identify someone who had 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. Today, there are millions of Browns located in the United States, as well as in England, Australia, and Canada.

33. Kim

Pile of gold bricks
Pile of gold bricks / JONGHO SHIN/iStock via Getty Images

This is the most popular last name in both North and South Korea, with one in every five people being a Kim. With more than 10 million Kims in South Korea alone, you may be wondering why this last name has become so popular. Well, for starters, Kim means gold. Denoted by a single hanja (the Korean name for Chinese characters), Kim can also be translated to mean metal or iron. According to several sources, there are approximately 600 Kim clans spread out across the Korean Peninsula, including the infamous ruling family of North Korea.

34. Li

Bowl of plums
Bowl of plums / Sanny11/iStock via Getty Images

As the second most common last name on the planet, you might be wondering why so many people adopted it as their own. Well, this is probably because a lot of people in China lived near plum trees. After all, Li means plum in Chinese. This last name originated in the 9th century, when the Tang Dynasty emperors adopted this name due to it being a branch of the ancient ancestral name Ying, ultimately descending from Huangdi, the first ruler of China. Today, more than 100 million people have this name worldwide.

35. Lee

A meadow filled with purple wildflowers
A meadow filled with purple wildflowers / Raphael Comber iStock via Getty Images

Occasionally spelled Lea, Lea, Leah, or even Lease, this last name is derived from the Old English word Leah. Leah translates loosely to "an open place" in either a forest or the woods, so it might have also referred to a meadow or a water meadow. Its exact meaning heavily depends on the region of England from which its bearer came. The last name Lee has also been altered in some instances to become Atlee, referring to someone living at a clearing or pasture.

36. Stewart

Butler at a door
Butler at a door / Siri Stafford/iStock via Getty Images

This Scottish last name is believed to have existed since the 7th century. It comes from a bizarre-sounding ancient English word stigweard. While stig means house, weard denotes guardian. This Scottish name would originally have referred to a guardian who handled administrative tasks for a big royal household. Later on, its meaning was expanded to include people who acted as stewards of a manor or a manager of an estate. The modern last name “Stewart” has become fairly common in the United States, particularly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

37. Clark

Vintage typewriter with paper
Vintage typewriter with paper / SimoneN/iStock via Getty Images

This English last name has a long and esteemed history. First and foremost, Clark means professional scribe. It could refer to someone who was either a scribe or secretary by trade, or perhaps a religious cleric who performed such duties. This last name is derived from the Old English word clerc (meaning “priest”), while this word is in turn a derivative of the Greek klerikos, which comes from kleros—meaning “inheritance” or “legacy." So if I live near a hill and I'm something of a scribe, would I be a Lynchclark?

38. Walker

Raw wool and tools
Raw wool and tools / LuismiCSS/iStock via Getty Images

This English-sounding last name is not only prominent in the United Kingdom, but in Germany as well. Walker is derived from the Middle English walkere and the Old English wealcan, both of which mean “to walk” or “tread." People who took on this last name could have been performing fulling as their trade, which entails walking on cloth to improve its quality. This last name was particularly common in Western and Northern England and even gained prominence in Scotland, whereby it was adopted as a translation from the Gaelic, Mac an Fhucadair—meaning "son of the fuller."

39. [Another] walker

Two park rangers
Two park rangers / Thampapon/iStock via Getty Images

In addition to fuller, another occupation that also happens to be related to this name. That would be a military officer who would monitor a forest area by, you know, walking. This last name is incredibly common in England, Scotland, and among the British expat communities that settled in Australia, South Africa, and the United States. Its German equivalent also remains frequently used, with at least a few thousand Germans bearing this name along with people in Switzerland and Northern France.

40. Allen

Vellos in an orchestra
Vellos in an orchestra / Lindrik/iStock via Getty Images

This last name has a complicated origin tale, having shared roots in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Originating in Ireland, this name means little rock or harmony in Irish as well as Scottish Gaelic. Some instances of this last name are descended from the Celtic Aluinn, which means handsome. Clearly a pleasant family name to bear, Allen is one of the 50 most common last names in England. So please enjoy using your Harmony wrench to build your next swanky piece of IKEA furniture.

41. Myers

A black sign with golden letters reading City Hall
A black sign with golden letters reading City Hall / pabradyphoto iStock via Getty Images

If you happen to be either an Austin Powers or Wayne’s World fan (or both), you might be interested to learn where the hilarious comedian Mike Myers got his family name. As a name of English origin, most Americans and Canadians with this last name trace their family roots back to Anglo-Saxon England. Myers is derived from the Old English term maire, meaning "son of the mayor." It may have also been used as a nickname for someone pompous. There is also a variant of this name—Meyer—which is commonly used by people of either German or Jewish descent.

42. Singh

Regal lion
Regal lion / Andrew_Deer/iStock via Getty Images

Considering that this last name means lion, it is no wonder that so many people adopted it as their own. Having originated in India, this last name is awarded to a son once he has achieved his manhood. Currently the ninth most common last name in the world, it was originally used by Rajput Hindus and remains frequently used by Hindus hailing from Northern India. This last name has also been heavily adopted by people of the Sikh faith and is common amongst Sikhs who live in India as well as those who have settled in the United States.


Hot priest
Hot priest / Rawpixel/iStock via Getty Images

Considering that it means priest in English, it makes sense that this last name has a long religious history. The Cohen family name originates from the Hebrew word Kohen, used to describe the Jewish priests who served in the holy Temples of Jerusalem. As such, Jewish people whose patrilineal ancestors were Kohens adopted this last name, leading to it becoming the most common last name in Israel today. Intriguingly, this name might also come from Gaelic Irish where it meant "son of wild goose."


Female park ranger with lions
Female park ranger with lions / via Getty Images

As you’ll soon find out, Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spiderman) is not the only person with this last name to have experienced close encounters with dangerous animals and insects. With its origins in England, the first people to bear the Parker family name were gamekeepers who were employed to run medieval parks. Much like Spiderman himself, an enormous portion of Parkers who immigrated to the United States during the 1800s settled in New York City, thereby lending some authenticity to this superhero’s story.

45. Wright

Woman using a power tool
Woman using a power tool / PIKSEL/iStock via Getty Images

When the legendary Wright Brothers built and operated the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane, they probably didn’t realize the close connection between their last name and their achievements. The Wright family name comes from an Old English word for craftsman, and was usually given to someone who made things with wood, like windmills or wheels. Exactly like their surname suggests, Wilbur and Orville Wright were particularly good with their hands, having constructed hang gliders, box kites, and wind tunnels themselves.

46. Carter

A donkey in front of a green cart that has a sack in it
A donkey in front of a green cart that has a sack in it / tom-ster iStock via Getty Images

Anyone who has watched Coach Carter might think that people with this name tend to have a knack for basketball. The truth, however, is far different. A last name of English origin, Carter derives itself from the Anglo-Norman French term, cartier. Just like its roots suggest, Carter originally referred to someone who had a job which involved transporting goods via cart, hence Cart-er. Today, most Carters live within the United States, while other countries with a high volume of instances of this last name include Australia, Canada, and England. Just some of the famous figures with this last name include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Shawn Carter—more commonly known as Jay-Z.

47. Schneider

Female tailor
Female tailor / Artem Peretiatko/iStock via Getty Images

Including the likes of actors Rob and John Schneider, this is a surname belonging to people from a wide array of cultural backgrounds. Originally, Schneider meant tailor in German. It has since become an incredibly common German family name, with numerous French, Swiss, Dutch, and Jewish people also adopting this last name. It also has a Dutch variant (Sneijder), a Polish variant (Szneider) and an Afrikaans one (Snyman). It also happens to be popular in the United States today. The English version is, of course, Taylor.

48. Muller

Windmills and tulips
Windmills and tulips / Olena_Znak/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a soccer fan, you’re probably familiar with the superstar German midfielder Thomas Muller. As you’ve probably guessed, this name is of a German origin. In German, Muller meant someone who operated a mill. Soon after its creation, this surname became popular in central European countries such as Austria (where it is the fifth most common last name) and Switzerland. The English version of this name is, also of course, Miller, and they both would have needed a Wright to build their mill.

49. Cooper

Warehouse full of barrels
Warehouse full of barrels / saiko3p/iStock via Getty Images

Are there any The Hangover fans in the house? If so, you’d probably like to know where Bradley Cooper gets his last name from. Primarily of English origin, a cooper was someone who made wooden vessels, such as barrels, buckets, and tubs. While directly derived from the Middle English word couper, its origins can be traced back to the Dutch kuper (kup means “tub”). If you happen get a bunch of barrel makers together in tiny cars then you might have many coopers in Mini Coopers.

50. Moore

Yorkshire moors
Yorkshire moors / Danielrao/iStock via Getty Images

From James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore to Hollywood star Demi Moore, there is a whole host of famous faces who share this last name. But where exactly does it come from? While Moore may be a common name in Hollywood, its roots are actually traced back to England. This is one of those surnames that bears multiple meanings. It may have meant someone who lived by a moor or someone who worked on boats.

51. Perry

Close-up of a bunch of golden pears on the branch of a pear tree
Close-up of a bunch of golden pears on the branch of a pear tree / PaulGrecaud iStock via Getty Images

With the likes of comedic legend Tyler Perry and hit singer Katy Perry coming to mind, this surname traces its origins back to several European countries. In Old English, if you were named Perry, it meant that you spent a lot of time near pear trees. That sort of feels like a lazy nickname situation. In French, it was someone who worked in a quarry. In Wales, this surname translates to “son of Herry” (a variant of Harry) and in Ireland, it has remained a fairly common last name since the 17th century. It also has a Portuguese variant, Pereira, along with Perri—an Italian last name that many people changed to Perry after arriving in the United States.

52. Turner

Wood being turned on a lathe
Wood being turned on a lathe / CarlosAndreSantos/iStock via Getty Images

Hold on there, Pirates of the Caribbean fans! While you might think that Will Turner was one of the first people to bear this name, you'd be mistaken. Traced back to England, Turner comes from the Anglo-Norman French torner, meaning “lathe." While it could refer to "one who works with a lathe," it also has a couple of other possible origins as well. It might mean "turn hare," or someone who can run faster than a hare. Today, it remains one of the most common names in England.

52. torres

Belem tower in Lisbon Portugal
Belem tower in Lisbon Portugal / FedevPhoto/iStock va Getty Images

With Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, and Jewish roots, Torres means tower in both Spanish and Portuguese. So, someone with that last name was someone who lived by a tower, which is surely a sign of nobility or some other high status. This name remains popular in Spain today, while proving incredibly common in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and certain parts of South America as well.

53. Hoffman

Female farmer in a wheat field
Female farmer in a wheat field / dmbaker/iStock via Getty Images

Ever wondered where actor Dustin Hoffman got his last name from? Well, here’s your chance to find out: In German, Hoffman either means someone who was a steward on an estate or a worker who is associated with a farm. Either way, do not hassle the Hoffman! Today, Hoffman remains common among people of German descent, as well as Dutch, Jewish, and Polish people. There is also a large population of Hoffmans in the United States, Canada, and South Africa today.


Cannon overlooking a river
Cannon overlooking a river / Sean Pavone/iStock via Getty Images

With its origins spanning across Western and Central Europe, the origins of this last name certainly prove tough to break down. Lewis comes from many cultures and has a few different meanings. 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 become Lewis in English. They all came from the Frankish name Hludwig which meant "famous battle."

55. Young

Female teacher and children in preschool
Female teacher and children in preschool / Rawpixel/iStock via Getty Images

Anyone who thought that the song "Forever Young" was little more than wishful thinking clearly hasn’t met anyone with this last name. This surname has broad origins in England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. As you may have suspected, Young referred to the youngest child in a family. You might also have earned the last name if you were young at heart. Either way, earning this last name is certainly a compliment. Young also has variations in German (Jung), Dutch (Jong), Swedish (Ljung), French (Lejeune), and Korean (Yong or Yeong).

56. Weber

A woman weaving at a hand loom.
A woman weaving at a hand loom. / WichitS iStock via Getty Images

This German family name means weaver. It is commonly believed to have stemmed from the Old English word webbe, which meant "to weave." Following mass migration to English-speaking countries, you may or may not realize that plenty of Webers altered the spelling of their last names to “Webber” or even “Weaver”—much like Hollywood actress Sigourney Weaver. Despite often having its spelling changed, the original Weber remains a popular surname in its native Germany, along with Austria, Switzerland, and even the United States.

57. King

Statue of King Edward VII
Statue of King Edward VII / AmandaLewis/iStock via Getty Images

With civil right leader Martin Luther King Jr. and tennis legend Billie Jean King among those bearing this name, it certainly seems like King lives up to its noble connotation. 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

Brown bear cub climbing a tree
Brown bear cub climbing a tree / guyonbike/iStock via Getty Images

While this is primarily known as a Spanish surname, its exact roots are disputed to this day. With the first references of this name going back to 843 A.D., it has been long disputed whether the name’s roots are Iberian, ancient Basque, or—believe it or not—ancient Celtic. The etymology of Garcia isn't certain but most believe it came from a Basque word meaning bear, or young bear.

59. Rodriguez

Female chief executive officer
Female chief executive officer / fizkes/iStock via Getty Images

Rodriguez is one of the most common last names in the United States today, particularly in California and New Mexico. While common in the U.S., Rodriguez is a surname of Spanish origin, meaning "famous chief." It is incredibly common in Mexico, Spain, Portugal, and South American countries such as Colombia and Peru. It may also have come from a word meaning red-haired one. So, if you're a famous red-haired chief, then this is the ideal family name for you.

60. Campbell

Model of teeth with braces
Model of teeth with braces / zlikovec/iStock via Getty Images

As any fan of Scream would attest, actress Neve Campbell sure spends a lot of time screaming with her mouth opened wide. Given the meaning of her last name, this makes perfect sense. The modern surname Campbell derives from two Scottish-Gaelic words: cam meaning crooked and bell meaning mouth (shout out to all the crooked mouths out there). As a result of large Scottish immigration during the 16th century, it also became a popular name across the pond in Ireland, particularly in the northern regions. Today, it is the third most common last name in Northern Ireland and the fourth most common family name in Jamaica.

61. Abdullah

Muslim women praying
Muslim women praying / Rawpixel/iStock via Getty Images

With ancient religious roots, this Middle Eastern last name remains highly common in the region today. Abdullah means "servant of God" in Arabic. It was the name of the father of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, who passed away before Muhammad was born. Because it indicates servitude and humility before God, this last name is one of the most popular last names in the Middle East. In addition to Muslims, this last name has also gained popularity with Arab Christians and Jews. The countries with the highest instances of the Abdullah name include Iraq, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

62. Mwangi

Tall skyscrapers
Tall skyscrapers / Elijah-Lovkoff/iStock via Getty Images

While a last name of Kenyan origin, Mwangi has become a popular last name in several central African countries, including Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, and Uganda. This name is also common amongst people of Kenyan descent who live in Western countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Mwangi is the most popular last name in Kenya, and it means "rapid expansion." Considering that Kenya is currently the 29th most populated country in the world with a whopping 47.6 million people, this name certainly does well to live up to its reputation!

In this episode of The List Show, John Green examines the origins of 62 surnames. For a transcript, click here.