In some cases, your surname, or the surnames of your ancestors, can indicate what country your family might have originated from. The meaning behind a surname might change, depending on what country your relative was from.
The top ten most common surnames in the United States are not exactly the same as the top ten most popular surnames in the UK, (although some names made both lists). The most common surnames in the U.S are: Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, and Taylor.
The most common surname in the UK is Smith, (which is also the most common surname in the U.S.). This name comes from the word “smitan” , a word from Anglo Saxon origins, which means “to smite”. This name was first used to describe soldiers, (who smote their enemies). Later, in the Middle Ages, there were blacksmiths, and other smiths, who made armor for soldiers. The surname Smith can be linked back to both concepts.
The second most popular name is Jones. It is the most popular surname in Wales. This name derives from the first name John, or Joan. Jones first became popular as a surname after the Crusades, in honor of St. John the Baptist. Number three is the surname Williams. This name has Germanic origin, and came to the UK around the time of the Norman Conquest. It derives from the first name Wilhelm, which can be broken down into “wil”, meaning “of strong mind” and “helm”, which means “helmet” or “protection”. Many Kings were named William, adding to the popularity of this name.
Number 3 is Brown. It comes from the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon word “brun” or the Olde Norse word “Bruni”. It refers to a person with brown hair or complexion, or who wore brown (like a monk). Some Browne’s are descendants of Hugo le Brun, (a knight), from one of the ancient tribes of Galway, or from the Browne’s of Killarney.
Number 5 is Taylor, which derives from “tailleur”, a French word that means “cutter-out of cloth”. This is one of those names that refer to a kind of job. Number 6 is Davies, which first appeared after the Crusades. It comes from “son of David” and has biblical references. Number 7 is Wilson, which holds the same meanings as Williams. Number 8 is Evans, which comes from medieval Welsh origin. It means “son of Ifan” or “son of Evan”. Number 9 is Thomas, which has origins that can be traced to many different countries, and is another that became popular after the Crusades. The tenth most common surname in the UK is Roberts. This name has Germanic origins from before the 7th century. It derives from Hrodbeorht, which is made up of “hrod”, meaning “renown” and “beorht”, meaning “famous” or “bright”.
Image from Vibracobra23 on Flickr