Etymology of Last Names

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The Etymology of Last Names


The History of Last Names

Surnames A-Z

Surname History

When communities consisted of just a few people, surnames -- last names/family names -- weren't important. As each town acquired more and more Johns and Marys, the need was established for a way to identify each from the other. The Romans had begun the practice of using "given-name + clan-name + family-name" about 300 B.C. In the English-speaking part of the world, the exact date that surnames began to be adopted can't be pinpointed. The Domesday Book compiled by William the Conquerer required surnames, but hereditary surnames are not considered to have been commonplace until the late 1200's.

William Camden wrote in Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine: (1586)

About the yeare of our Lord 1000...surnames began to be taken up in France, and in England about the time of the Conquest, or else a very little before, under King Edward the Confessor, who was all Frenchified...but the French and wee termed them Surnames, not because they are the names of the sire, or the father, but because they are super added to Christian names as the Spanish called them Renombres, as Renames.

Some surnames refer to occupations (Carpenter, Taylor, Brewer, Mason), a practice that was commonplace by the end of the 14th century. Places of residence were also commonly used (Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale) as a basis for the surname, for reasons that can be easily understood. Less apparent is the rationale behind the adoption of animal references (Wolfe, Fish, Byrd, Katt), although it may have been to identify a similar trait in the bearer of the name (John Fox might have been sly). Relations of those with royal rank often adopted the title as a surname (King, Abbott, Steward, Prince) and colors (Brown, Black, White, Gray) were adopted for less obvious reasoning.

Physical features that were prominent when surnames began to be adopted were also borrowed as an identifier (Long, Short, Beardsly, Stout) as were dispositions of the bearers (Gay, Moody, Sterne, Wise). Sometimes the name told its own story (Lackland, Freeholder, Goodpasture, Upthegrove) and sometimes they might have been selected to elicit envy or sympathy (Rich, Poor, Wise, Armstrong).


names are those that identify the father and various cultures did so by different means. The Scandinavians added "son" to identify John's son or Erik's son. The Norman-French used the prefix "Fitz" to mean child of, as in Fitzpatrick, for child of Patrick. Many other cultures had their own prefixes to indicate of the father('s name) , including the Scots ('Mac'Donald), Irish ('O'Brien), Dutch ('Van'Buren), the French ('de'Gaulle), Germans ('Von'berger) Spanish/Italian ('Di'Tello) and the Arab-speaking nations ('ibn'-Saud). Sometimes the prefixes were attached to places rather than the father's name, such as traditional family land holdings or estates.

When surnames were being adopted, many were the result of nicknames that were given by friends, relatives, or others. Some nicknames were extremely unflattering -- to the point of vulgarity -- but most of those have vanished, having been changed by descendants through spelling changes or simply by changing names after emigrating.

Some names were simply acquired when those without a surname acquired a need to have one. A lady-in-waiting for royalty might have had no traditional surname, but would require one if no longer in the service of royalty. In times of political turmoil, a deposed ruler might require a smaller staff, and long-time servants would find themselves among commoners -- and suddenly in need of a surname. Names were sometimes invented as combinations of other words.

The Chinese were the first to adopt surnames to honor their forebears, with the family name placed first, rather than last. Thus, the family name of Sun Yat-sen is Sun.

Surnames A-Z




Abbott: English Occupational name for the man who lived in the house of the Abbott, or sometimes as a nickname for the sanctimonious person. Requested by Darryl Rogers

Alexander: is a name common throughout the early British Isles taken from the English given name Alexander, which means "defender of men."

Alarcon: is a Spanish Place name derived from Alarcon in Cuenca and Cordoba.

Alarid: may be a version of the name Alard (Alar-i-d) which is a Patronymic name derived from the given name Adelard. From Old English adal=noble + hard=hardy. Another variation of the name is spelled Allard. Requested by Inez Alarid.

Allard/Alard/Allert: English Patronymic Name...from the old name Adelard. It's components are adal = hardy + hard. Allart and Allert are variations of the name.

Allender: English/Scottish patronymic name, from the Celtic name of antiquity – Alan, from Ailin = rock and sometimes derived from Allen as the name of a town or settlement. Requested by Rick Allender

Anderson: is the ninth most common surname in America, and owes that position to the popularity of the name Andrew in England, Scotland, and Scandinavian countries. Andrew (man) was the first of the disciples called by Jesus, and was a revered name due to its church influences through medieval times. St. Andrew is the patron saint of both Scotland and Russia and many given names were chosen to honor the saint. Patronymic surnames are names used to describe a man by using his father's name. In Norway the name takes the form Andresen, Anders, and Enders; the Swedes in American eliminated the extra -S- they normally include to become Anderson. It was Andersson and Anderssen before they emigrated. The French form is Andre, with an accent mark above the ending letter. Andrews is largly found in Scotland, along with McAndrew -- the prefix Mc being another patronymic designation -- which is also found in Ireland. In Italy, the name is D'Andrea, in Poland it is Andrzejewski, in the Ukraine it is Andrijenko, and in Czechoslovakia, Andrew takes the form of Ondrus. Requested by Karla Anderson.

Appel/Appelbaum: The German Place names Appel and Applebaum/Appelbaum described the man who lived by the apple tree, and Appelt is a likely variation.

Arnold/Arnatt/Arnett: English Patronymic Name...Arnett is a variation of Arnatt, which is derived from Arnold, a Norman given name. The Norman arn = eagle + weld = rule combined to form Arnold.

Ashmore: is an English Place name that was derived from the Old English oesc = ash + mor = marsh...for a literal translation of ash-marsh. The man who lived near there often acquired that as his surname. Requested by Andy Ashmore.

Atkins is a Patronymic name, derived from the early given name Adam (Hebrew adama = red earth or man), originating in England, France, Catalan, Italy, Germany, and Poland, as well as the Ashkenazic Jewish, Dutch and Flemish. Diminutive forms of Adam are Adkin, Atkin, Aitkin, Adnett, Adnitt, and Ade. Italian variants are Adami, Dami; Polish and Jewish versions include Adamski. The Hugarian cognate is Adam, in Provencal it is Azam, in Spain, Adan.

Atnip: English Place Name...The Medieval English said atten to mean "at the" creating names like ATWOOD meaning "at-the-woods." The Old English word heope (pronounced like hip) meant "rose-hip." Atten+heope or "at-the-roses" can easily be anglicized as Atnip. Requested by: Earl Atnip

Austin is an English Patronymic name, derived from the given name Aoustin introduced into England by the Normans. Requested by Laura Cohn.

Ayers is a patronymic version of the surname Ayer, an English Nickname for the man who was well known to be the heir to a title or fortune, from the Middle English word eir, eyr = heir. Variants include Ayr, Ayre, Eyer, Eyre, Hayer, Heyer, among others.




Bailey is an English occupational name for a steward or official, from the Middle English bailli = carrier, porter. In Scotland, the bailli is the magistrate and bailiff is a form that has evolved elsewhere. Occasionally, the name is derived as an English Place name from a Middle English word derived from Old French baille = enclosure. In this form it originally meant the person living by the outer wall of the castle, but Old Bailey, a place in Lancashire which formed part of the outer wall of some medieval castle, also became the origin for surname for people from that location. There are numerous variations in many countries, including Baillie (Scotland), Bayless, Bailess, Lebailly (French), Bally (Swiss), Baglione (Italian), and Bailloux (Provencal).

Baker: As you might suspect, this name originated in the occupation of a medieval townsman, where many of the most frequently found surnames were derived. Baker is the 7th most frequently found occupational surname in America.

Baldwin is an English Patronymic name from the given name comprised of the Germanic elements bald = bold, brave + wine = friend. Baldwin was an extremely popular given name among the Normans and in Flanders during the Middle Ages. The first Christian king of Jerusalem was Baldwin, as was the count of Flanders who lead the Fourth Crusade and became the first Latin Emperor of Constantinople in 1204. Occasionally, Baldwin is an Irish surname adopted by bearers of the Gaelic name O'Maolagain, as a result of an association with an English term meaning bald, as a nickname. Congnative forms of the English version are Baudouin (French); Baldovino, Balduini, Baldoin (Italian); Valdovinos (Spanish); and Baldewin, Ballwein, Bollwahn, and Bollwagen (German).

Ballard: Many times nicknames that had become attached to people, stuck as their surname. Some were cruel, some weren't too bad. Those that had particularly cruel names either changed the spelling or changed their names altogether. Ballard is the nickname that the English sometimes gave to those whose head were short in the hair department. Bald, Balch, and Ballard are typical English Nicknames for that description.

Barna/Barner: Hungarian Patronymic name from the given name Barnaby, who was St. Paul's companion and a fairly common early given name.

Barnes: English Place Name, from Barnes (in Surry or Aberdeenshire) so named because of the barns that were located there. There were also Barnes families who were known by the name of their father (English Patronymic Name) who was called Barn, a pet form of Barnabas -- a name not used much these days that means 'son of prophesy or consolation.' Some Barnes families are descended from Beorn, a given name that meant 'nobleman' and still others had a patronymic designation from Bairn, a name often given to a young child of a prominent family.

Barrington: English Place name, from several locations by that name, the one in Gloucester derived from Old English Beorningtun (settlement of Beorn), the Somerset location derived from Bara's Settlement. Occasionally Barrington is an Anglicized form of O'Bearain , descendant of Bearan (spear).

Barron: English Nickname that called attention to noble birth or exalted rank.

Bass/Basso: English/Italian Nickname...Surnames were often taken from nicknames given to the progenitor of a family -- in the case of Bass, the English used the word as a nickname for a small or thin person, along with Block, Grubb, Littell, Short, Smalley, etc. In Italy, the same nickname is Basso. Requested by: Pamela Childs

Bauer is a German status name for a peasant or a nickname for the "neighbor, fellow citizen," with variants Baumann, Gebuhr, Pauer, among others.

Beard was a fairly common English Nickname, for the man who wore a beard, and a number of surnames were derived from it. The suffix -den or -don is from an Old English element for dune, or hill. Bearden in that context would be "Beard's Hill" a fairly good description for a medieval location, from which many surnames drew their meaning.

Beattie/Beaty/Beatty/Beatie/Beatey: Scottish/Northern Irish Patronymic name...derived from the name Bartholomew. Bate was a pet form of that given name, and sons of Bate might be known as Beattie, Beatty, or Beatey.

Beck/Beckman/Bachman: German Place Name...There were many names for the 'one who dwells by the stream' and in Germany they included Beck/Beckman/Bachman. Requested by: David Verdoorn

Beebe: English Occupational name for the man who lived near the bee farm or apiary.

Bekker is a variation of the German Occupational name Becher, the occupation of the man who created wooden vessels such as cups, mugs, and pitchers. It is derived from Middle High German becher, from Greek bikos = pot, pitcher. Occasionally it referred to the German man who worked with pitch, a substance used in waterproofing such items; and also, Becher originates sometimes as a Jewish name of uncertain origin or an English Place name as a variant of Beech.

Bennett/Bennet: English Patronymic name from the name Bennet, which means 'blessed' – a popular name during the middle ages. It has variations in several languages, and spellings. American singer Tony Bennett uses two versions -- his artworks are signed Anthony Benedetto, his name before being American-ized. Requested by Bevan Bennett. He was `blessed' – Bennet – with a great voice!

Bentley: is an English Place name that is a combined form of the Old English word leah, which meant 'clearing in the woods.' The bent-leah was the 'clearing in the woods with the bent grass,' and Bentley was the man who lived there.

Benz/Benzer: In early times when advertising was in its infancy, (before television and the proliferation of literacy -- and the subsequent decline due to the aforementioned...) innkeepers had pictures placed on their hanging outdoor signs for identification. The bear was one of the popular depictions. Benz is a German place name derived from the place of the 'bear sign' with Benzer as a derivative.

Bettencourt: French Place name to describe someone from Bettencourt, France. There are several spelling variations of the place name. Bettencourt was originally or Germanic origin; Betto's court, with Betto a variant of the personal name Bert with the suffix court, which means farmyard. It is prevalent in Portugal where it was first recorded in the 1300's.

Biedenweg, an unusual German place name, means "by the way" as a location of where someone lived -- 'way' meaning course or path. An Old Middle German given name was Budde, which evolved into several surnames. Budde's Way, or the path to Budde's settlement or enclosure, might have been taken as a surname for someone who lived along that trail -- as Buddeweg or Budweg.

Billings: English Place name for the man who was one of "Billa's people" or who is from Billinge (which is derived from an Old English term for sword) in Lancashire.

Bixby is an English place name from "Bekki's homestead" in Lincolnshire.

Blackburn: Scottish Patronymic/Place name...Blackburn is somewhat of an oddity in that many Scottish families with the name originated from the town of Blackburn, which was named for an original settler. He likely got the name because of where he formerly lived -- black-burn being the reference to a 'dark stream.'

Blain: is a Scottish Patronymic name derived from Blane, or Blaan -- given names that honored St. Blane, a Scottish Saint.

Blalock and Blaylock are English Nicknames for the man who had the black hair, or the Bla'ck locks.

Blauer: is a Bavarian nickname for one who is associated with the color blue...either by wearing blue clothes, or blue eyes -- or sometimes having a pale complexion.

Blount/Blunt: English descriptive name...derived from the Old French word blund -- which meant 'blond, or yellow-haired.'

Boeuf is a French Nickname for a powerfully built man, from the Old French boeuf = bull. Variants are Leboeuf, Boey, and Boez. Cognates are Boff, Leboff (England), La Bau, Boe, Boi, Lo Voi (Italian), and others.

Bohm: and its variants are German Nicknames derived from the terms used to identify a person from Bohemia. From Old German Baii + heim=home. Variations include Bahem, Boehme, and Boehm, among others.

Booth is an English Place name for the man who lived in a small hut or bothy from the Middle English word bothe, and usually designated a cowman or shepherd. It has Scandinavian origins and denoted the various kinds of temporary shelter, and is more common in Northern England and Scotland. Variations include Boothe, Boothman, Boden, Bodin.

Bowen: is a Welsh Patronymic name from the given name Owen. In early times, when they said "son of" they said it ap or ab. For example, William ap'John, was William the-son-of John. In the case of Owen, it was William ap'Owen -- which when said the least bit quickly, immediately becomes, William Bowen. Occasionally, Bowen is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic O'Buadhachain (descendant of Buadachain).

Bower: English Place name for the person who lived in a small cottage or occasionally, an occupational name for the house servant, derived from Old English bur = cottage, inner room. Variants include Bowers, Bour, Bowerer, Boorer, Bowering, and others. Dutch versions include Van Buren, Van Buuren, and Van den Bueren.

Bowman is a name that is quite literal; it's the English Occupational name for the archer, from Old English boga = bow + mann = man, although occasionally it is an Anglicized form of the German and Dutch surname Baumann -- consult your heritage for the correct version. Variants of Bowman are Boman, and Beauman. The cognate form in Dutch and Flemish is Boogman.

Bradford: English Place Name...Settlers near a crossing point on a watercourse often adopted 'ford' as their surname. A wide crossing was a 'broad-ford' and those living there - Bradford. Incidentally, Bradford was one of the 50 surnames of people arriving on the Mayflower in 1620. Requested by: Glenn Bradford

Brake: English place name -- which derived from the way they described bushes or a thicket in medieval times. The person who lived by the 'bracken' thicket or bushes sometimes acquired the surname Brake.

Bredon, Breden, Breedon of English origin. It is derived from places (in Leicestershire and Worcestershire) that are comprised of the Old English elements bre=hill + dun=low hill.

Brett is the ethnic name for a Breton, from the Old French word bret. The Bretons were Celtic-speaking folks who were driven from SW England to NW France in the 6th century by the Anglo-Saxon invaders. Some returned in the 11th century with William the Conqueror. As an English surname it is most commonly found in E. Anglia where many Bretons settled after the Conquest. Variations are Britt, Breton, Bretton, Brittain, Bret, Lebret, Breton, Bretonnier, Bretegnier, Bretagne, and Bretange. There are numerous cognative versions as well. Requested by Judy Brett.

Briggs: A North English and Scottish variant of Bridge, derived from the Old Norse bryggja. Bridge is an English Place name for the man who lived near a bridge, or an English Occupational name for the keeper of the bridge. Building and maintaining bridges was one of three main feudal occupations, the cost of which was occasionally offset by a toll charged to cross, and the keeper of the toll often acquired the surname. Variations are Bridges, Brigg, Briggs, Burge, Bridger, Bridgeman, Brigman. German cognitives include: Bruckmann, Bruckman, Bruck, Bruckner, Bruckner, Pruckner (Austria), Brugge, Brugger, Anderbrugge, Toderbrugge, Terbruggen (at the bridge). Van Bruggen is Flemish, and Van der Brug is Dutch. Other versions exist in additional countries.

Bronowitz/Bronisz: Polish Patronymic Name... owitz and owicz are typical patronymic endings applied to a given name in several languages of Slavic origin. Bronowitz would be the 'son of Bron.' Bron, by the way, meant 'defender.' The surname Bronisz is taken directly from that given name. Requested by: Paul Pruitt

Brown: is one of the more common surnames, as you might expect. Among the light-skinned English anyone with a darker complexion, brown hair, tendancy toward brown clothing, etc. were often described that way, and it stuck as a surname. There are a number of derivatives in many countries.

Bruno: Brown is one of the more common surnames - it is the most common of the surnames derived from nicknames. Bruno is the form the name takes in Italy and occasionally in Germany.

Buhl is a German nickname for a relative of an important man, who is not the head of the household, from Middle High German buole=kinsman. It is also occasionally known as a nickname for a lover, in the same context the word "paramour" is used.

Bulmer is an English Place name from a place in Essex that was recorded in the Domesday Book as Bulenemera. It is derived from the Old English elements bulena (the plural of bula = bull) + mere = lake, for a literal meaning of 'lake of the bulls.'

Burckhardt/Borrows/Burg/Burge/Burks/Burr/Burris: German Place Name...The principal surnames that refer to a fortified castle, an imposing structure, or the peasant who lived nearby were Borrows, Burg, Burge, Burks, Burr, and Burris -- which all came from the Old English word burg which meant fort. Borg is generally the designation used in Sweden, Norway, and Germany. Burckhardt was an especially well fortified castle in Germany at the time surnames were being adopted.

Burgess: English Descriptive Name...taken by men of free birth, but not noble birth, who held substantial land for which they paid very little rent, and had no obligation to render services to the lord or king. Franklin and Freeman were names originating under the same circumstances.

Burlingame/Burling/Burlingham: Burling and Burlingame are corruptions of Burlingham, which was the 'settlement of Baerla's people,' and an English Place name.

Burney: English Place name from Bernay , Normandy which had its name originations in the Gaulish given name Brenno, or from Berney in Norfolk (recorded in the Domesday Book as Ralph de Bernai , a Norman who received land grants there). Occasionally, Burney is an Anglicized form of the given name Biorna , a Gaelic version of the Old Norse Bjarni (bearcub, warrior). Variations are Berney, Burnie, McBurney, MCBirney, and Mac Biorna.

Burnham: an English Place name from various locations; Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, various villages in Norfolk, and Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex. The name Burnham is derived from Old English burna = stream + ham = homestead. A man from one of the Burnham settlements might have that name as his identifying surname.

Burns: English Place name. The man who lived in the lone cottage by the small stream was called Burn, or Burns. The -S- was often added to names as an aid to pronunciation. Other names with the same origin are Brooke, Bourne, Beck, and Beckett. Requested by Ian Worthington.

Burnstein: German/Jewish Acquired name...Many German-Jewish names were simply the result of a desire for something pleasant-sounding when Jews in Europe were obliged to take surnames in the early 1800's. Those who picked such names usually were compelled to pay a hefty tariff to the government officials for the privilege -- Amber (burnstein) is a color with positive connotations and it also served as a descriptive name for some early day settlements, which may have been located in an area noted by that color. Elsdon C. Smith, in his work American Surnames, suggests that Bernstein was generally adopted because of its pleasing sound.

Burris: The medieval castle was an imposing structure and was often used as a reference point for those who lived nearby. The English word burg meant fort, and the principal names describing the English man who lived near one were: Burg, Burge, Borrows, Burks, Burr, Burris. It's an English Place name. Requested by Beverly Burris Daniels

Butler is an English and Irish Occupational name for the wine steward, who was the chief servant of a medieval household, from Anglo-Norman French butuiller = bottle. In the households of nobility, the title denoted an officer of rank and responsibility.




Cain: English nickname, derived from the Middle English word cane = reed or cane, and described the tall, thin man.

Callicott: is a variation of Caldicott, an English Place name from any number of settlements originally spelled Caldecote, from Old English ceald = cold + cot = cottage or dwelling. Some suggest the name was in reference to unattended shelters for travelers, although in the Domesday Book (1086) many of these places had achieved some status. Variants are Caldicot, Caldecott, Caldecourt, Callicot, Callcott, Calcut, Caulcutt, Caulkett, Cawcutt, Corcut, Corkett, Corkitt, Coldicott, Coliccot, Collacott, Collecott, Collicutt, Colcott, Colcutt, Colkett, Clocott, Chaldcot, and Chalcot.

Camden: English Place name derived from the Old English elements campas = enclosure + denu = valley. Cambden is a variation.

Camp: is an English Place name that along with Field, Prindle, and Viles were references to the man whose home was the house in the open field (as opposed to the forest or some other recognizable feature). Requested by Tammy Miller.

Carberry: Scottish Place name in the parish of Inveresk, Lothian which was first recorded as Crebarrin.

Carlisle is an English Place name for the town in Cumberland derived from the British ker =fort + Romano-British settlement named Luguvalium. How kerLuguvalium becomes Carlisle is yet another story. Variations of this name include Carlyle, Carlile, and Carlill.

Carpenter: At the time surnames were adopted, the average man built his own cottage and did not require the skill of the Carpenter, who usually was hired by those who were of some means, and required products only a craftsman could provide. It's an English Occupational name. Requested by Dan Carpenter.

Carr: was a term used in old Scotland to describe 'low, wet ground' and the person who lived by that area was often identified by it. Carson is a Scottish Place name that describes the man who lived by the carr -- the low, wet ground.

Carrera: French Place Name from the Latin carraria = cart. It was the name used to refer to the man who `lived on the vehicle road' or busy thoroughfare where many carts traveled. Requested by Larry Hatfield.

Carpinito: Spanish/Italian surnames are notorious for the number of spelling variants and pet forms. Carpineto is an Italian version of a French Place name for the dweller by a conspicuous 'witch elm' tree, or near a group of such trees, from Old French charme, derived from the Latin carpinus. Variants include Charmes, Charne, Carne, Decharme, Duecharme, Ducharne, and cognizant forms in addition to Carpinito/Carpineto (which are diminutive forms) are: Carpe, Ducarpe (Provencal), Carp, Carpin, Carpini, Carpino, Carpine, Carpene, and Carpano, among others (Italian).

Carter is an English Occupational name for the transporter of goods by cart or wagon from Anglo-Norman French caretier, a derivative of Old French caret which originally implied 'carrier.' Occasionally it is a form of McArthur. Variants include Charter and cognates include Carreter, Carretier, Cartier, Charretier, Chartier, Chareter, Charater, Carratier, Carratie and Carretero.

Cartwright: is an English Occupational name. One of the primary specialized crafts along with CARPENTER was that of the Cartwright, who fashioned the wheeled carts that traversed the early roads. Requested by Fred Hensley

Cash: is an English Place name that was given to the man who lived near the Cash -- or oak -- tree. Requested by William Hopkins.

Caswell: English Place name that identified the man who lived near a spring or stream. In his case the water was identified by the watercress nearby: Ole English cressa -- Cressawell, which evolved into Caswell.

Cates is an English Patronymic name from the Old Norse nickname Kati, which meant 'boy' and speculation that it was derived from the nickname Kate (from Catherine) should be tempered with the knowledge that the Kate nickname wasn't used for Catherine until after the Middle Ages, when Cates was already established as a surname.

Chamberlin: is a variation of Chamberlain, an English Occupational name that originally was the job held by the one who was in charge of the private chambers of the master of the house, and later was a title of high rank. Variations include Chamberlaine, Chamberlayne, Chamberlen, and Champerlen.

Chandler: The Chandler worked with wax, and in addition to making candles, he fashioned wax objects or icons that were used in church offerings. Chandler is an English Occupational name. Requested by Gloria Markus.

Clayton: is an English Place name that incorporates the most common ending found among English names -ton. In Old English, tun was the word for town, and it was used with other descriptions to pinpoint settlements. Clayton, or Clay-town, was the settlement on the soil of clay. Requested by Andrew Clayton

Clifton is an English Place name, as determined by the suffix -ton- which originated in the Old English term tun meaning "settlement" or "enclosure." The Old English word clif meant "slope" which makes Clifton a "settlement on the slope," and a man who lived there might be described that way. There are towns all through England by the name of Clifton.

Cobb: English Patronymic name that is derived from Jacob 'the supplanter' or 'may God protect' (depending on whom is asked...) Cobb is a pet form of the name Jacob. Requested by William Hopkins.

Coggins :Irish/Welsh place name derived from a spot near Cardiff, which is a Welsh word for bowl, and likely described the terrain at the time. Requested by Kathy Hooten Gorodetzer

Coghill is a Scottish version of the Danish name Kogel for the maker of hoods, or someone who wore one regularly.

Collard is derived in a round-about way from the given name Nicholas. In several European languages where the accent tends toward the second syllable in Ni-chol-as, the first syllable is eventually lost due to lazy pronunciation. It's called aphetic loss, for example, when the word esquire becomes squire over time. Collard was derived as a pejorative form of Coll. Other variations are Colle (French), Cola and Colao (Italian), Colle (Dutch), Col and Colla (Flemish).

Colley/Coley/Collie: English Nickname from W. Midlands derived from the Old English word colig which meant `dark' and was sometimes used to describe a swarthy or darker skinned man. Requested by Larry Hatfield

Collins/Cole/Coles: English Patronymic Name...Nicholas was an extremely popular name in early times -- in the 4th century, Nicholas was the patron saint of children. Many names were derived from Nicholas, such as Nichols, Nickles, Nickleson, McNichols. Collins derived from the ending of Nicholas.

Conway: Welsh Place Name from Conwy, a town in N. Wales named for the Conwy River, which was named from an Old Brit term that meant `reedy.' It is also sometimes derived from the Scottish place Conway in Beauly Parish and was recorded in 1215 as Coneway. Conway when descended from Ireland usually an Anglicized version of Mac Commidhe, a name which meant `head smashing.'

Coomer/Coomber: English Place Name...Coomer is a variation of Coomber from the Old English cumb which was a short, straight, valley. Requested by Nancy Kincaid

Coop: There are several variations of Coop, the English Occupational name that describes the maker of wooden barrels. Cupp, Coope, and Cooper are the most common.

Cooper is the primary spelling of the English version of the Occupational surname for the barrelmaker or repairer of wooden vessals. The widespread adoption of this surname is testimony to the fact that the cooper was one of the valued specialist trades in the Middle Ages all through Europe. English variants include Copper, Coupar, Cupper, Kooper, Coope, Coupe, and Cooperman (among others --always) and cognates are Kiefer (German), Kupper (Low German), Kupker (Frisian), De Cuyper, Cuyp (Flemish), Kuijper, Kuiper, Kuijpers, Kuypers, Cuijpers, Cuypers (Dutch).

Colson/Coulson/Collson: English Patronymic Name...Coulson originates from a very popular Middle Ages given name - Nicholas. Cole was a pet form of Nicholas used in England (primarily) and Coulson is a Scottish/Irish variation on a pet form of Nicholas. Requested by Kylie Lacey

Copeland: originates in Cumberland county England and cope-land is "bought land," a way that the man living there was referenced in early times.

Corder: is an English Occupational name for the maker of string, and occasionally as a nickname for the maker of ties.

Cotter: English Occupational name from Middle English cotter a status term during the feudal times which described the tenant farmer or serf who planted only five to ten acres and lived in a cottage on the farm and payed for his place by service rather than rent. There are several variations for the name of this modest farmer, including Cottier, Cotman, Kotter, Kother, Kotter, Kother, Kather, Cotterel, Cotterell, Cottrell, Cotterill, Cothererill, Cotterel, Cottereau, and Cottarel.

Cottle: English Occupational name which described the tenant farmer or serf who planted only five to ten acres and lived in a cottage on the farm. There are several variations for the name of this modest farmer.

Cotton: Cotton originated from the village naysayer, who always said "I don't COTTON to that idea!" Just kidding. It also doesn't have anything to do with the fluffy white stuff. Cot was a shortened form of cottage, and was used as the ending of many English surnames such as Wolcott, etc. and in a diminutive form with the suffix -on the English Place name Cotton was derived. The man who came to be known by that name lived near the small cottage, or at the cottages. Requested by James Cotton.

Couldridge: Just as the name 'Colegate' designates a 'cool gap in the mountain range,' the name Couldridge is an English Place name that designates a 'ridge of mountains where it is cold.' Spellings of names were not standardized until the 1800's and -o- and -ou- were often mixed with the same intent. Requested by Mark Couldridge.

Coupar, when not a variant of Cooper, is a Scottish Place name from Cupar in Fife, likely of Pictish origin, with an unknown meaning. There are also locations Cuper Angus, and Cupar Maculty, but no known surnames are derived from these. The first known bearer of the place name in Scotland was Solomone de Cupir, who was a witness to a charter in 1245.

Cowell: English Place Name...In Merry Old England they stayed out 'til the cu's came home, and pastured the milque cu on the hyll. Cu-hyll -- or cowhill -- was a reference to the places in Lancashire and Gloucester where cattle grazed on hillsides. Some people from that area took it as a surname. Requested by: Norma Cowell

Craddock/Cradduck: Welsh nickname from the Old Welsh term caradog, which meant `amiable.'

Craft: is a variant of Croft, an English Place name for the man who lived by an arable enclosure, normally adjoining a house. It is derived from Old English croft , with variations Crofts, Craft(s), Cruft(s), and Crofter. Occasionally it is a place name from Crofts in Leicestershire, which got its name from the Old English croeft = craft or skill, and likely referenced a mill located there.

Crim: English Place Name...Those who took the name Crim kept their dwelling near a small pond or pool.

Crisp: English Nickname for the man with curly hair, from an Old English term. Variations include Crispe, Chrisp, Cripps, Crippes, and others.

Cross: English Place name for the man who lived near the stone cross set up by the roadside or marketplace, from Old Norse kross. Cognitives include De(la)Croix, Croix, (French); Croux, Lacroux, Lacrouts, De(la)croux (Provencal); Croce, DellaCroce, Croci (Italian); Cruz (Spanish); Kreutzer, Kreuziger (German); Vercruysse (Flemish), Krzyzaniak (Polish), and Van der Kruijs (Dutch).

Crowell: is an English Place name from Oxfordshire and denoted the man who lived by the "crow's stream."

Crowley: is an Irish Patronymic name, and it means 'grandson of Cruadhlaoch,' whose name means 'tough hero.' Requested by Laura Cohn.

Cunningham: Scottish/ Irish Place/ Patronymic Name...Cunningham is a Scottish place name near Kilmarnock and was referenced in 1153 with the spelling Cunegan. Cunningham is a polygenetic name (it has more than one source) -- the other is the Irish patronymic name derived from O'Cuinneagain, a descendant of Cuinneagan, who fashioned his name from conn or con which was used to designate the leader or chieftain.

Curry: English place name in Somerset named for the river Curry.




Daniel/Daniell/Daniels: English, French, Portuguese, German, Polish and Jewish Patronymic name, from the Hebrew given name Daniel (meaning God is my judge). Variations are too numerous to list, but will be added as queries concern them.

Darby: English Place name taken from a Middle Ages term that described "where the wild animals are" and the man who lived nearby could easily be described by that surname.

Daugherty is another Anglicized version of the Scottish and Irish Patronymic name O' Dochartaigh "descendant of Dochartach" which was a nickname meaning 'unlucky' or 'hurtful.' The most common form of the name as Anglicized from the Gaelic is Doherty. Docharty is the common Scottish variation.

Davenport: English Place Name...Many of the surnames that originated in England came from places where the progenitor lived... The name Davenport was first used in England's county Cheshire, where the Dane river flowed. Davenport was the 'town on the Dane River' and became the name of some who made their homes there. Requested by: Susan Davenport-Wagner

David/Davis/Davies: was the patron saint of Wales, and the name was popular throughout early a result, there a many surnames derived from the given name David, including Davis, and Davies as the Welsh equivalent. Requested by Michael Stroupe.

Davies: English Patronymic name derived as a diminutive form of the given name David. Requested by Doug Strohl

Dazey: is a variant spelling of Deasy, an Irish Patronymic name from the Gaelic Deiseach, a nickname for a member of 'Dei's community.'

Dent: English Place comes from 'Dent' hill in Yorkshire, England. The first to use it as a surname lived in that area.

Dibley: is an English Patronymic name, based on a corruption of the name Theobald (folk, bold), which when said often and quickly enough, became Dibald and formed the basis for the surnames Dibble and Dibley. Requested by Fred Hensley

Dinse is a German cognate of the English surname Dennis, which is patronymic from the medieval given name Dennis, from the Latin Dionysius and the Greek Dionysios, which meant 'follower of Dionysos.' The big-D was the eastern god introduced to the classic list late in the game. St. Denis was an early martyr (3rd Century) who became the patron saint of France and the namesake of many medieval Christians. Variations are Denniss, Denis, Denness, Dinis (English); Denis, Denys (French); Dionisio, Dionis, Dionisi, Doniso, Donisi, Denisi (Italian); Denys, Dinnies, Dinse (Low German); Denys (Polish); Divis, Divina (Czech); and Denes, Dienes, Gyenes (Hungarian), among many others.

Disney: is an English Place named derived from a French place -Isigny- which was Isinius' estate in France. Many who followed William the Conqueror into England became known by the French towns from which they emigrated. Micky Mouse is said to have been from there.

Dixon/Dickson/Dickinson/Dickey/Dix/Dickens: English Patronymic Name...The love of the English for Richard the Lion-Hearted in the late 1100's caused a rash of names in his honor, in addition to three often-used nicknames that derived from Richard: Rick, Hick, and Dick. The son of a man given the latter of the nicknames was "Dick's son" which evolved into Dixon, Dickson, Dickens, Dix, and Dickinson. In colonial America, Dick's River (in Kentucky, for example) was spelled Dix as often as Dick's until it was standardized, sometimes as late as the 19th century. Requested by: Karen Dixon

Doherty is an Irish and Scottish Patronymic name from the Gaelic O'Dochartaigh, meaning 'descendant of Dochartach', whose name meant Unlucky or Hurtful. Variants are O'Doherty, O'Dougherty, Dougharty, Doghartie, Dogerty, Daugherty, Doggart, Dockert, and Docharty, among others.

Donaldson is a Scottish and Irish Patronymic name form of the surname Donald that comes from the given name Domhnall and is comprised of the Gaelic elements dubno = world + val = might, rule. Variants are Donnell, Doull, Doole, and patronymic versions include Donaldson, McDonald, McConnell, O'Donnell, O'Donill, and O'Daniel (when derived from Gaelic O'Domhnaill).

Donathan has roots in the Irish given name Donndubhan (brown Dubhan)and was Anglicized as many of the longer Irish names commonly were. They're called Patronymic when the surname is derived from the father's name.

Donovan: is an Irish Patronymic name from the Gaelic O Donndubhain, which means descendant of Donndubhan, from the roots Donn = brown + dubh = black. Requested by Alan Engebretson.

Dowd/Dowda/Duddy: Irish Patronymic Name for O'Dubhda, a common name in Kerry County, where the term dubh = dark. Requested by Jane Cowart

Driscoll/O'Driscoll: Irish name Driscoll was the one given to the man who served as an interpreter -- the prefix -O- means 'of, son of, or grandson of' -- so, O'Driscoll is the descendant of the Irish interpreter. Requested by Chantell O'Driscoll.

Drummond is a Scottish place name to describe the man who lived near the ridge, from the Gaelic druim = ridge. Gilbert de Drummyn is the earliest known bearer of the name, and signed a document as the chaplain to Alwyn, Earl of Levenax circa 1199.

Duckworth: English Place name from Duckworth in Lancashire which was derived from the Old English given name Ducca + OE word = enclosure, translating literally to Ducca's word or Ducca's Enclosure.

Duguid is a Scottish nickname for a do-gooder or a well-intentioned person, from Northern Middle English du = do + guid = good. The earliest known bearer of the name is John Dugude, who was in Perth in 1379 and went to Prussia with the King's service in 1382. It is most commonly found in the Aberdeen area.

Duke is an English nickname for someone who gave himself airs and graces, from Middle English duke (from Latin dux = leader), or an Occupational name for a servant employed in a ducal household. Occasionally, it is a surname taken as a Patronymic version of a shortened form of the given name Marmaduke, which is of Irish origin, said to be derived from 'mael Maedoc' which meant 'devotee of Maedoc' a name borne by several Irish saints. Cognates are Duc, Leduc (French); Duca, Duchi, Lo Duca (Italian); Deuque (Portuguese); and Duch (Catalan).

Dull: It depends on whether you are of Scottish descent, or English descent concerning Dull. If you are a Dull Scot, you hail from Dull (a plain) which is a village and parish in Perthshire. If your ancestors originated in England, the name is a nickname that is not as unflattering as some that wound up as surnames. Requested by Christy Dull.

Dunaway: English Place Name...which refers to one who lived 'on the road to the hill.' Requested by: Brian Dunaway

Dungen is the general spelling with an umlaht (dots) over the U, and is a German Place name as a variant of Dung, the surname given to the man who lived on a pieces of raised dry land amidst marshy surroundings. Dunk, Donk, and Dunkmann are other versions.




Edwards: is an English Patronymic name from the Middle English given name Edward from the Old English eadward, derived from ead=prosperity + weard=guard.

Elliott: and its spelling variations are all based on the popular Middle Ages given name Elijah (My God is Yahveh). Among the many surnames that were adopted as English Patronymic names from Elijah were Ellis, Ellison, Elias, and Elliott. Requested by Janet Elliott.

Embery: is a variant of the surname Amery which is an English Patronymic name. The name was brought to the British Isles with the Normans, many of whom were referenced by the towns they emigrated from, or by the Norman given names of their fathers. Amery is derived from Old French amal=bravery + ric=power, and derivatives include Amory, Emery, Emary, Emberry, Embrey, and Imbrey, among others.

Erwin: and its counterparts Ervin/Irvin/Irwin are German Patronymic names from the Old German given name Eorwine which means "sea, friend." On occasion the name can be traced to Scottish roots and the places called Irvine and Irving, which meant 'green river.' If you are of Scottish descent, then the second is a strong possibility.

Fairfull/Fair/Fairchild: English Nickname....Both 'fair' and 'full' have their origins in Middle English words; full - the meaning of which has passed to us unchanged, and fere, which meant comrade, friend, or 'friendly one.' The earliest meaning of fair was beautiful, so Fairfull would be "filled with beauty" or if derived from 'fere,' - "full of friendliness." Not all nicknames that survived as surnames were as flattering! Requested by: Timothy Fairfull

Falla/Fallas is an English (by way of the Normans) place name that describes the man who hailed from Falaise in Calvados, which happens to have been the birthplace of William the Conqueror. He brought many with him, and others followed shortly after, who became known by their place of emigration.

Farquharson: Scottish Nickname from Gaelic fearchar (Celtic elements mean man+dear) to signify a beloved person. Descended from Farquhar Macintosh, a grandson of laird of Macintosh who was at Braemar before 1382.

Feingold: German Jewish names originated in the early part of the nineteenth century when European Jews were compelled to take surnames. Many chose purely ornamental names, of which Feingold is an example that means 'fine gold.'

Finn isn't always Irish, of course, but when it is -- it's derived as an Anglicized version of the Gaelic nickname Fionn, meaning 'white,' which could have denoted prematurely white hair, or fair complexion, etc. When Finn is of English origin it is derived from the Old Norse given name Finnr with the same meaning. Occasionally, the name is of Ashkenazic Jewish origin, but its exact meaning in that context isn't clear. Variations are Finne, Fynn, Phinn, McGinn, Finsen (Danish), McKynnan, Kinnan, O'Finn, O'Fionn, and many others.

Fort: English/French Place/Descriptive name...Fort is found in several countries, all deriving from an English/French term meaning strong/brave that was derived from the Latin word fortis. Some with the name were descendants of a strong/brave person -- others were those who lived at or near the fort, which was the term eventually used to describe a strong or fortified location.

Foster/Forester: In the English Middle Ages, the forests and woods were almost always owned or controlled by the lord of the manor -- but people had no reservations about sneaking in and taking firewood, game, or whatever else they might require. To keep the poaching to a minimum, the lord retained a man to watch the forest -- often called a Forester, and sometimes called a Foster. The name stuck as an English Occupation surname when they became adopted.

Fox: Although in some cases Fox refers to the nature of its originator -- as in sly as a fox, most animal names were derived from the pictures that decorated the signs at the medieval roadside inns. Literacy was an issue, most could distinguish the pictures, and the family at the sign of the Fox often took that as a surname. Requested by William Hopkins.

Fritz/Fritsch/Fritzch: German Patronymic Name...The Germans were fond of using shortened or pet versions of names when acquiring surnames. Fritz is a patronymic surname taken from a pet form of Friedrich, which means "peace, rule." Fritsch and Fritzch are versions of the given name held by a long ago ancestor.

Froman: from the Old French fromant = corn, a French occupational name for the corn merchant.

Fulton: /English/Scottish Place name, In Scotland, Fulton was the 'fowl enclosure'

Fuller: English Occupational name for the dresser of cloth. The fuller scoured and thickened cloth by trampling it in water. Related Fuller information page here.

Fullerton: English Place name...for the 'village of the birdcatchers' in Hampshire. From Old English fuglere = bird-catcher (Fowler).




Gaches/Gache/Gachlin/Gachenot/Gachon: French Place/Occupational/Nickname When the name originated in Provencal, it referred to the person living by the lookout spot . In more northern areas of France, the name was the occupational title for a wood sawyer. Less frequently, the name was a nickname given to a wasteful person, derived from Old French gaschier to spoil. Requested by: Paul Carr

Garcia: Spanish Patronymic Name from the given name Garcia which means "spear, firm."

Garrison: English Place/Occupational name, derived from Middle English garite = watchtower. The garrison were troops stationed at the fort or castle, and the name could also describe one who lived near the garrison's watchtower.

Garwood: English Place Name derived from the Old English gara (triangular land) and wudu (wood). The early Garwoods were those who lived by the triangular stand of trees. Requested by: Eva Garwood

Gaunt: English Place name derived from the town of Ghent in Flanders from which skilled workers migrated to England during the Middle Ages. It was also the nickname given the thin or gaunt man.

Gay: English and French nickname for the cheerful person.

Gee: If the man named Gee didn't come from the town Gee in Cheshire, then it was a nickname he was given by his less-than-tactful associates who pointed him out by his lameness or infirmity.

Gilmore: Irish Occupational Name...In old Ireland, the words gil, kil, maol, and mul designated a follower, devotee, or servant" of someone. Those with the name Gilmore are descended from the "servant of Mary." Requested by: Wouter Sas

Glabb/Glab/Glabski: Polish Place name/Nickname, variation of Glab/Glabski, a low-lying spot or valley or a Polish Nickname for a fool (the literal meaning of glab is cabbagestalk). Better go with that first definition!

Godfrey: is an English Patronymic name from the French given name Godefrei, comprised of the Germanic elements god + fred, frid = peace. Variations are Godfray, Godfree, and Godfer. French cognatives include Godefroi, Godefroy, Godefrey, and others. German: Govert, Goffer, Goffarth. Flemish = Govaard, Godevaard, Govard.

Gold/Gould/Guild(Scottish): English Patronymic Name derived from the Old English masculine personal name from the precious metal. Requested by: Sheri McGregor

Gollaher , and the more frequently seen Gallagher, are Anglicized versions of O'Gallchobhair, which means descendant of Gallchobhar, derived from gall = Foreign, stranger + chobhar = help, support. Other variants include Gallacher, Gallaher, Gallogher, Galliker, Gilliger, O'Gallagher, and O'Galleghure.

Goode: When not referring to the man of high morals, is an English Patronymic name, taken from a shortened form of the given names Godwine, Godric, or Godmund.

Gore is a French nickname for an idle individual (don't tell Vice-President Al though!) that has versions Lagore, Gouret, Gorron, Gorin, Goury, Gorel, Goureau, Gorichon and Gorillot, among others.

Goss: Polygenetic (several sources)... It originated near the same time in England, France, Hungary, and Germany. As an English place name, it described one who lived near a moor or wood...a descendant of Goss -- a pet form of Gocelin "the just" was called by the name, as was the descendant of the Goth...The dweller at the sign of the goose was sometimes called Goss, as was the dweller at the thorns. There was a former Austrian town called Goss, and some residents took that as a surname. And if that isn't enough, Goss is also a shortened form of the Germanic element god - which means good. You can pick your favorite! Requested by Jerry Goss

Gough: English Occupational Name...of Celtic origin for the man who worked as a smith, from the Gaelic gobha or goff. It was common in E. Anglia and was introduced by the followers of William the Conqueror. It is also sometimes derived from the Welsh nickname for a red-haired man... coch = red.

Griffin: A mythical beast, half-lion and half-eagle -- that decorated signs at some of the roadside inns during the Middle Ages. Most people did not read or write at the time, but all could recognize the pictures. The man who lived at the sign of the griffin was sometime called by that name.

Griggs is a variant of the English Patronymic surname Gregory, from the same given name that was popular throughout the Christian countries during the Middle Ages. It derives from the Greek Gregorios, a variant meaning 'to be awake or watchful' but was later associated with a term that meant 'good shepherd.' Sixteen of the popes were named Gregory, starting with Gregory the Great in 540 AD.

Guerin and Geurin: (spellings weren't standardized until the 1800's) are both versions of the surname Waring, being the Irish form of the French given name Geran. That was taken from the Norman name Warin which meant 'guard.' Kind of a long way 'round to achieve an Irish Patronymic name.




Hackney is an English Place name, comprised of the elements Haki (Old Norse nickname for a man with a crooked nose or hunched figure, meaning similar to 'hook') + Eld English eg = island, literally, Haki's Island, or Hook's Island. The man from there might take the name Hackney.

Haffner/Hafner/Hefner/Heffner: German Occupational Name...Lathes and potter's wheels have been around since ancient antiquity; in Germany, one who fashioned pottery was the hafner . Requested by: John Haffner

Hagan: It's an Irish Patronymic name for the son of Hagan. Originally from the Gaelic form O'Hagain, it's one of the many that dropped the -O- identifier.

Hall: English/German/Danish/Norwegian/Swedish Place name, derived from various words for "large house" including OE heall, and OldHighGerman halla.

Halterman: The southern Germanic term for hillside or slope is halde and the German Place name for the man who lived on the halde was Halder, Halter, Haldermann, Halterman(n), Haldner, Hald, Halde, or Halt.

Hamilton: is an English Place name, derived from its elements hamil =treeless hill + tun =settlement, for a literal translation of 'treeless hill town.' Hamilton was earlier described as Hameldon, Hambledon, and Hambleton.

Hampton is an English Place name from hamrh=water meadow or homestead + tun=town or settlement/enclosure. The man who lived at the settlement near the water-meadow was called Hampton.

Handlen: is a variation of Hanlon/Hanlin which is one of the 'Fighting Irish' surnames. A number of Irish names ref