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135 Most Popular English (British) Last Names Or Surnames

135 Most Popular English (British) Last Names Or Surnames

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British last names have evolved from the first names that were eventually adopted as family names, taken from places, immigrants, conquests and more. Most surnames in the English region have been derived from patronymic, habitational or topographical names.

But each of these English surnames has a unique history attached to it and has references across Scotland, Ireland, Wales and other regions of the United Kingdom.

Did you know there are more than 45,000 British family names, each having a distinct meaning, history, and story to it? In this post, MomJunction has compiled a list of such 135 British surnames along with their meanings and origins.

Popular English (British) Last Names Or Surnames

1. Adams

It is derived from Adam, which means a ‘Man’ in Hebrew. The origins of this last name date back to the pre-medieval period. In the Old Testament, Adam is also referred to as ‘the earth’ from where God created the man.

2. Allen

Derived from ‘Alan’ this last name was first used somewhere in the 6th Century. It means a ‘Rock’. This was the name of several dukes of Brittany and many Breton settlers, who immigrated to England.

3. Anderson

Anderson Refers to ‘Son of Andrew’. Andrew, which first appeared in the 14th Century in Scotland, is a Greek word that means a ‘Man’ or ‘Manly’. Anderson is known to be one of the most common surnames in Sweden.

4. Armstrong

This surname originated from the Scottish borders. It is derived from an English nickname, which means ‘Someone with strong arms’. Another Irish meaning of this name refers to ‘Son of a strong man’.

5. Atkinson

Atkinson is a variation of Atkin, a name derived from the many forms of nicknames given to Adam. In Hebrew, Adam refers to a ‘Man’.

6. Bailey

It is an occupational name and refers to a steward or official ‘Ballis’ or ‘Balif’. Another variation of this name can be locational, as ‘Bailey’ in Lancashire refers to ‘Berry wood’.

7. Baker

Baker is an occupational surname derived from the trade of bakery products or a person who bakes. A notable Baker famous for her singing and TV show is the English television presenter Cheryl Baker.

8. Ball

This unique surname is the shortened version of Baldwin. Another reference is from a name called ‘Balle’ which means a ‘Slope’ or a ‘Hill’ in Old Norse.

9. Barker

Barker is a spelling variant of Berker, an occupational name which refers to a ‘Tanner of leather’. The first reference of this last name goes back to the pre 7th Century by the Olde English men.

10. Barnes

This topographic name or a metonymic occupational name belongs to the Middle English period and is referred to as ‘Someone who lived by a Barn’ or ‘Worked at a barn’.

11. Bell

This surname originates from the Old French era wherein ‘Bel’ means ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Fair’.

12. Bennett

This last name belongs to the 12th Century and is derived from ‘Benedict’ or ‘Benedictus’ in Latin, which means ‘Blessed’.

13. Booth

Booth is the last name most popular in Northern England and Scandinavia. It is derived from the word ‘Both,’ which was used to denote various types of shelter such as a herdsman’s dwelling on a summer pasture.

14. Bradley

This English surname is derived from the name of a place meaning ‘Broad wood’ or ‘Broad meadow’. The name also has certain references in Irish Gaelic culture.

15. Brooks

The toponymic surname refers to ‘Someone residing near a stream’.

16. Brown

Typically a nickname, Brown has an English, Scottish and Irish origin and refers to someone who has brown skin or hair.

17. Burton

Burton is a habitational surname, which is a combination of two words. Burh means ‘Fort’ and tun means ‘Enclosure’ or ‘Settlement’.

18. Butler

This last name was brought to Ireland with Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th Century. It is an occupational name that refers to ‘a wine steward’ or ‘the chief servant of a medieval household’.

19. Campbell

Popularized by the top model Naomi Campbell, this last name has Scottish Gaelic roots. It refers to someone having ‘a crooked mouth’.

20. Carter

Carter has an English, Irish, and Scottish origin and is an occupational name. It refers to ‘Someone who transports goods by a cart or wagon’.

21. Chapman

This common last name means a ‘Trader’ or ‘Merchant’ or ‘Businessman’. The English comedian Graham Arthur Chapman is a famous bearer of this last name.

22. Clarke

Clarke is an Anglo Irish surname, which refers to a ‘Clerk’. It is derived from the Latin word ‘Clericus’.

23. Cole

Cole means ‘swarthy’, ‘coal-black’ or ‘charcoal’ and has Middle English origin. A famous bearer of this name is the English singer and TV personality Cheryll Cole.

24. Collins

Originated in Britain and Ireland, Collins refers to ‘son of Colin’ and the Irish variation ‘cuilein’ that means ‘darling’.

25. Cook

This is another occupational surname, which originated from the Anglo-Saxon tribes in Britain. It is used for someone who worked as a cook, seller of cooked food, or a keeper of an eatery.

26. Cooper

Bradley Cooper, the world-renowned actor, is a bearer of this last name. This occupational last name refers to ‘Maker’ or ‘Repairer’ of wooden vessels.

27. Corbyn

Corbyn is referred to as someone having ‘raven hair’. It could have derived either from Corbon in Calvados or Corbon in Orne, France. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a famous bearer of this name.

28. Cox

Cox is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word Cooc or Cock, which means a ‘Rooster’. This occupational surname is also native to Belgian and Dutch Limburg.

29. Davidson

Originated from Scottish, northern English, and Jewish regions, Davidson refers to the ‘Son of David’. David, in Hebrew, means ‘beloved’.

30. Davies

Davies is a variation of Davis or Davie and refers to David. The association of this last name is said to be from Wales.

31. Dawson

This is a baptismal name meaning ‘the son of David’. Dawson is of Anglo-Saxon descent that spread to the Celtic countries of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

32. Dixon

Dixon is a variation of Dickson, which is a patronymic surname. First originated in Scotland, Dixon refers to ‘Son of Dick’. Alesha Dixon, an English singer and TV personality, is a famous bearer of this name.

33. Edwards

It is a variation of Edwardes and Edwardson and originated from Olde English pre 7th Century. Edwards refers to ‘Prosperity guard’.

34. Elliott

This last name has various references, and the most common usage was seen during medieval times. It is derived from Elis or Elijah, which means ‘Jehovah is my God’.

35. Evans

Having originated from the Welsh regions, this patronymic last name refers to ‘Son of Evan’. It is the 8th most common surname in the UK, and Hollywood actor Chris Evans is a famous bearer of this last name.

36. Fisher

Fisher is an occupational last name and refers to people who derived their livelihood from fishing or lived by a fishing weir. Actress Carry Fisher was a famous bearer of this last name.

37. Fletcher

Fletcher is the last name of Scottish, English and Irish origin. The occupational surname refers to ‘Arrowsmith’ or ‘Seller of Arrows’.

38. Ford

The habitational surname referred to people who lived near a ford. Another variation is the Irish surname O Fuartháin, which refers to ‘descendant of O Fuarthán’. Harrison Ford is a famous bearer of this surname.

39. Foster

Foster is derived from Fostre, Forstrian or Forster, which refers to ‘nourish’ or ‘rear’.

40. Fox

This last name belongs to the Old English pre 7th century period. The name is taken from the animal Fox and was first used in England and Ireland. Actress Emilia Fox is a noteworthy bearer of this last name.

41. Gibson

This is a surname of English and Scottish origins. Gibson is derived from Gilbert and refers to the ‘Son of Gilbert’ or ‘Son of Gib’.

42. Graham

Originated from Old English, Graham is a variant of Grahame or Graeme and refers to a ‘Grey home’.

43. Grant

Grant originated in English and Scottish regions and is derived from the Anglo-Norman words Graund or Graunt, which mean ‘Tall’ or ‘Large’.

44. Gray

Originated in Scotland, Gray is nicknamed for people having grey hair. Gray is also a habitational name and referred to someone who belonged to Graye, Calvados.

45. Green

It is derived from the word ‘Grene’ and basically a reference to the color Green. The origins of this last name date back to the 7th Century.

46. Griffiths

Originated in Wales, this last name is a patronymic name. This name probably means a ‘Strong chief’ or ‘Son of chief’. Other variations of this name are Griffin, Gruffin or Griffith.

47. Hall

Hall is a variation of Heall, Halle or Holl and is derived from a spacious part of the residence. The name originated from the Scottish, German, English, Irish, and Scandinavian regions.

48. Hamilton

Originated in Scottish and Northern Irish regions, Hamilton is a habitational surname. It refers to the village of Hamilton, Leicestershire, England.

49. Harris

Derived from Harry or Henry, this last name refers to the ‘Son of Harry’. Henry, which means ‘Home-ruler,’ originated in English, Irish, and Scottish regions.

50. Harrison

Originated from English, Irish and Scottish parts of the UK, Harrison is another common British last name and means ‘Son of Harry’.

51. Harvey

Harvey is derived from the Celtic words that refer to ‘battle’, ‘ardent’, ‘worthy’, or ‘strong’. It has English and Scottish origins.

52. Henderson

This common Scottish surname is derived from a patronymic form of Hendry or Henry. It means ‘Son of the Home-ruler’.

53. Hill

Hill is the 36th most common last name in England. Though it has an English origin, it is derived from the Greek or Latin name Hillary, which means ‘Who lives on a hill’.

54. Holmes

Holmes is a habitational or geographical last name that originated in the Northern Middle English region called Holm, meaning ‘An Island’. This last name also has an Irish reference, which means ‘Son of Thomas’. The most famous bearer of this surname is fictional super detective Sherlock Holmes.

55. Howard

Derived from a Norman name Huard or Heward, this last name has Anglo-Scandinavian origin. It means ‘High’ or ‘Chief warden’.

56. Hughes

Hughes originated in the regions of Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and France. It is a patronymic name that refers to ‘Son of ‎Hugh‎’. Hugh means ‘Mind’ or ‘Spirit’.

57. Hunt

This Old English occupational last name refers to a ‘Hunter’.

58. Hunter

It is an occupational last name originated during Olde English pre 7th Century period, and refers to Hunta or Huntian, meaning ‘Hunter’.

59. Jackson

This common surname has English and Scottish origin. The patronymic name means ‘Son of Jack’.

60. James

James is a Latin form of Hebrew name Jacob and has a reference in the New Testament. It refers to a ‘Supplanter’ or ‘One who follows’. James is a common last name in South Wales.

61. Jenkins

It is derived from John, which refers to ‘God has graced me with a son’. This last name originated in Cornwall, England and is also popular in Wales.

62. Johnson

This patronymic last name of English and Scottish origins refers to ‘Son of John’. It is derived from the Latin term Johannes or Yohanan, meaning ‘Jehovah has favored’.

63. Johnston

This habitational last name originated in Scotland. It refers to ‘John’s town’ or ‘St. John’s town’.

64. Jones

It is a variant of Johnson but has Welsh origins. Jones refers to ‘Son of John’ and is a popular last name in Wales and South Central England.

65. Kelly

Kelly is an Irish last name derived from Ceallach that means ‘Bright headed’ or ‘Troublesome’.

66. Kennedy

Kennedy means ‘Someone with an ugly head’ or is derived from the Anglicized form of the term Ceanneidigh referring to the ‘Descendant of Ceanneidigh’.

67. King

In Old English, this last name referred to tribal leaders. It was also referred to someone who served in a Royal household. King has origins in the regions of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

68. Knight

The origins of Knight date back to the Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. It is derived from the Old English word ‘Cniht’ that refers to ‘Servant’ or a ‘Common soldier’.

69. Lawrence

Lawrence has its origins in English, Italian, and French. The habitational last name refers to ‘Someone from Laurentium’ a town near Italy.

70. Lee

Lee, derived from the Old English period, is a variant of Lea, Leah or Leigh that refers to a ‘Meadow’ or ‘Forest’.

71. Lewis

Lewis originated in England and Wales. This last name has several variants such as Lewes, Louis, or Luis. It means ‘Winner’ or ‘Victor’.

72. Lloyd

It belongs to both Old Welsh and Medieval English origins and is derived from the pre 7th Century term Llwyd meaning ‘Grey’.

73. Marshall

Derived from ‘Mareschal’, this last name is of ancient Norman origin. It has certain Germanic elements such as ‘Marah’ meaning ‘Horse’ or ‘Who tended to Horses’. Jim Marshall, known as the Lord of Loud, is a famous bearer of this surname.

74. Martin

A derivative of Mars, this last name has its origins in various countries such as France, Scotland, Germany, and Ireland. It was taken from Martis or Mars, the Roman god of fertility and war.

75. Mason

This surname originated from Italian, English, Irish or French regions. It is derived from ‘Maso’, which means ‘Someone who does stone masonry work’. Actor James Mason is a famous bearer of this last name.

76. Matthews

The patronymic surname means ‘Son of Matthew’. The reference of Mathew is given in the Bible and means ‘Gift of God’.

77. McDonald

This popular Scottish patronymic name refers to ‘Son of Donald’. Donald means ‘World ruler’.

78. Miller

Miller is the last name having Old English and Scottish origin. The occupational name refers to ‘Someone who operates or works at a mill’. Actress Sienna Miller is a famous bearer of this surname.

79. Mitchell

Mitchell is a variant of Michael that refers to a ‘Gift from God’. It has French, Irish, and English origins.

80. Moore

Moore is a topographical last name that derived from Moor. Moor refers to an ‘Area of uncultivated land’. It originated in England.

81. Morgan

Morgan has Celtic roots and belongs to ‘Britons of Wales’. The name is derived from the term ‘Morcant’ which refers to ‘Sea circle’. Television personality Piers Morgan is a noteworthy bearer of this last name.

82. Morris

A very popular last name in the British Isles, Morris is derived from Maurice or Maurus which means ‘Dark’ or ‘Swarthy’.

83. Morrison

Morrison is an Anglo Scottish last name which is also very popular in Ireland. The patronymic surname derived from Morris and refers to ‘Son of Morris’. Morris means ‘Dark’ or ‘Swarthy’.

84. Murphy

It is a variant of Murchadh, Murphey, or MacMurphy. Murphy, meaning ‘Sea warrior’, originated in Ireland.

85. Murray

Murray is a famous last name across Ireland and originated from both Scottish and Irish regions. In Scotland, it is derived from ‘Moray’, which means ‘Settlement by the sea’ and the Irish derivation is from ‘Muireb’ meaning ‘Seafarer’.

86. Owen

Owen is derived from a Welsh first name called Owain and refers to ‘Noble’ or ‘Well-born’.

87. Palmer

The surname Palmer has originated from the Old French word Palmer, derived from the Latin term ‘Palmifer’ meaning ‘Palm bearer’. The original bearer of the surname was a pilgrim who carried palm branches back from the Holy Land.

88. Parker

It is an Old English occupational last name, which refers to the ‘Keeper of the park’.

89. Payne

Payne is derived from ‘Paien’ or the Latin word ‘Paganus’ meaning ‘Rustic’ or ‘Countryman’. It is an Old English patronymic last name. Singer Liam Payne is a popular bearer of this surname.

90. Pearce

Having its roots in the Anglo-Saxon tribes as well as English, Irish and Welsh regions, Pearce derived from ‘Piers’ a form of Peter. Peter means a ‘Rock’.

91. Pearson

Derived from Piers, Pearson is a patronymic last name meaning ‘Son of Peter’. It is common in Ireland but is said to be originated in England. Neil Pearson is a famous bearer of this last name.

92. Perry

Welsh or English in origin, Perry refers to ‘A Pear tree’. Some other reference of the name also describes Perry as ‘Stranger’ or ‘Traveler’.

93. Phillips

It belongs to the early Medieval English era. Phillips is derived from Philein, which refers to ‘A lover for horses’.

94. Powell

This last name is of the Welsh origin and is the Anglicized form of the term Hywel or Howell, which means ‘Eminent’. Powell refers to ‘Son of Hywel’.

95. Price

Price is another Welsh origin name that means ‘Son of Rhys’. The word Rhys means ‘Enthusiasm’ in Welsh. Media personality Katie Price is a famous bearer of this last name.

96. Reid

Reid is an Old English term that means ‘Red’ or ‘Ruddy complexioned’.

97. Reynolds

Reynolds is derived from ‘Reginald’ that means ‘A powerful ruler’. It belongs to English and French origins.

98. Richards

Richards was brought to Great Britain by the Normans in the year 1066, and the origins are said to be Germanic. It means ‘Powerful’ or ‘Brave’.

99. Richardson

This is a patronymic name which refers to ‘Son of Richard’. Miranda Richardson is a famous bearer of this surname.

100. Roberts

Robert means to ‘Bright’ or ‘Renowned’. It is a British last name having a patronymic origin.

101. Robertson

Robertson is the last name having a patronymic origin that refers to ‘Son or Robert’. This name originated in Scotland and England.

102. Robinson

This is patronymic last name of English origin, and refers to ‘Son of Robin’. The name Robin means ‘Fame’ or ‘Bright’.

103. Rogers

Having originated from Anglo-Saxon and Norman regions, Roger means ‘Fame’ or ‘Renowned’.

104. Rose

Derived from the flower ‘Rose’ this last name originated from various regions of the world such as France, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Germany.

105. Ross

Ross is a habitational last name and originated from Scotland and England. It is derived from a Gaelic word which means ‘Headland’.

106. Russell

One of the most famous last names in British history, Russell was brought into the country by Normans. This patronymic name refers to ‘Son of Red’ or in French variation it refers to ‘Little Red-haired’.

107. Saunders

Saunders is derived from ‘Saunder’ or ‘Alexander’. This last name originated from the British Isles, and is actually taken from the Greek name Alexandros, which refers to ‘Defender of men’.

108. Scott

Originated during the Medieval English era, Scott refers to people who belonged to Scotland. Scott is derived from the pre 7th Century word ‘Scotti’.

109. Shaw

Shaw is a topographical last name and refers to ‘Someone who lived by a thicket or a copse’. The name originated from English and Scottish regions.

110. Simpson

Simpson is a patronymic Anglo-Scottish surname and is derived from the words ‘Symson’, ‘Simme’ or Simon’ that refer to ‘Son of Simon’.

111. Smith

Originated in England, Smith is derived from the word Smitan, which means ‘To smite’.

112. Spencer

This last name is used in reference to a butler or steward. During the Norman Conquest of 1066, it is believed that the ancestors of the Spencer family migrated to England.

113. Stevens

Steves is a British surname but has a Greek origin. It is derived from the word Stephanos that means ‘A crown’ or ‘Wreath’. Dan Stevens is a famous bearer of this surname.

114. Stewart

This surname is a variant of ‘Steward’ and has a Scottish origin. Steward is derived from the pre 7th Century Old English word ‘Stigeweard’ that means ‘Hall guardian’ or ‘Warden’.

115. Taylor

Originated from the British Isles of French and Latin origin, Taylor is an occupational last name that refers to a tailor or means ‘To cut’. Elizabeth Taylor was a famous bearer of this surname.

116. Thomas

Thomas is a common last name of Scottish, Welsh, English, Dutch, German, French, and Danish origin. It means ‘Twin’.

117. Thompson

Originated from English and Scottish regions, this last name refers to ‘Son of Thom’, ‘Son of Thomas’ or ‘Son of Tom’. Emma Thompson is a famous bearer of this last name.

118. Thomson

Though similar to Thomas or Thompson, Thomson is a surname that originated from the Welsh and Scottish regions. It refers to ‘Son of Thomas’ or ‘Son of Thom’. The word of Thomas is derived from the Aramaic word that means ‘Twins’.

119. Turner

Turner is a surname of English and Scottish origins and refers to ‘Maker of objects from wood or metal’. Sophie Turner is a popular bearer of this surname.

120. Walker

Originating from English and German regions of Europe, this last name has many variants such as Welker, Walcher, Welcker, or Wallker. It means ‘A walker or someone who walked on a raw and damp cloth to thicken it’.

121. Walsh

This is a common Irish last name that originated from the British and Welsh community of soldiers. It refers to ‘Briton’ or ‘Foreigner’ literally meaning ‘Welshman’.

122. Ward

After the Norman conquest of 1066, this last name migrated to England. Ward is an Old English word that means ‘Guardian’ or ‘Watchman’.

123. Watson

Watson is a patronymic last name that originated from England and Scotland. It means ‘Son of Walter’. Actress Emma Watson is a famous bearer of this surname.

124. Watts

Watts belongs to Norman-French and Germanic pre 7th Century origin. Watts is a short form of Walter meaning ‘Ruler’ or ‘Warrior’ and is an Anglo-Scottish surname. Actress Naomi Watts is a popular bearer of this last name.

125. Webb

Webb is derived from Webber or Web, which means ‘To weave’. It belongs to the Olde English pre 7th Century era.

126. Webster

Webster has an Anglo-Saxon origin and is a famous last name in Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the Midlands. The occupational last name is given to a weaver.

127. West

West is a topographical last name that refers to ‘Someone who lived by the west of a settlement’. This surname originated from English and German regions.

128. White

This surname is of Irish origin and belongs to the Isle of Wight, near Hampshire, England. Thus, it is a topographical last name.

129. Wilkinson

This Anglo-Scottish last name originated in England during the Viking Invasions. Wilkinson refers to the ‘Son of Wilkin’. The name Wilkin is derived from the words will or desire.

130. Williams

This is a common Welsh last name and is derived from the Belgic term ‘Guild-helm’ that refers to ‘Harnessed with a gilded helmet’ or ‘The shield or defense of many’.

131. Williamson

It is a common English patronymic last name, which refers to the ‘Son of William’.

132. Wilson

This is an English and Scottish surname, derived from ‘Will’ a popular medieval name. Will refers to ‘desire’. A notable person having this last name is Owen Wilson.

133. Wood

A famous surname among English folks, the origin of Wood dates back to pre 7th Century Old English period. It is derived from the word ‘Wudu’ that refers to ‘A forest’ or ‘Wood’.

134. Wright

This occupational surname refers to ‘Wryhta’ or ‘Wyrhta’ which means ‘A worker’ or ‘Shaper of wood’. It originated during 700 AD in England.

135. Young

Young is an interesting surname which belongs to Anglo-Saxon pre 7th Century era. It is derived from the word ‘Geong’, which means ‘The young one’.

Last names, too, evolve with time, slang, and usage. An interesting fact about the British surnames was seen during the 19th Century, when migrants from Eastern parts of Europe, anglicized their names and created new surnames.

Are you familiar with any of these last names? And if you have a unique British surname, then do tell us in the comment section below.

The post 135 Most Popular English (British) Last Names Or Surnames appeared first on MomJunction.

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135 Most Popular English (British) Last Names Or Surnames


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