Your surname can tell you much about your family history.
Here is an A-Z of the more common surname meanings....
Abbot: A baptismal name "son of Abraham".Ackerman: An occupational name for a ploughman or farmer.
Adams: Descendant of a man named Adam, from the Hebrew word meaning of "red earth".
Andrews: Greek name meaning "manly or warrior like".
Anderson: Son of Andrew.
Andre: From the Greek Andreas meaning manly.
Appleton: From a place in which there was an orchard.
Arkwright: A maker of bins or metal chests
Armitage: Someone from Armitag in County Staffordshire.
Armstrong: Nickname for a strong man.
Arrowsmith: A maker of iron arrow tips.
Ash or Asher: Dweller near an ash tree.
Asquith: Someone from Askwith in Yorkshire meaning "dweller near an ash tree".
Atkins: Son of Anthony.
Attlee: From the old English word "lear" meaning "dweller at the pasture or meadow".
Auger: From the Old English word "ealdgar" meaning "spear".
Austen or Austin: From the Latin word Augustus which meanings increasing.
Bailey: Name for a bailiff or one who lived near a bail, the wall of a fort.
Baldwin: Brave friend.
Ball: Nickname for a bald man.
Banks: Someone who lives near a riverbank, or Irish for corpulent.
Barker: A tanner who used tree bark when turning hides into leather.
Barnes: Meanings include bear, spear, young aristocrat or one who worked in barns.
Bean: Meaning pleasant, kindly or a seller of beans.
Bennett: Descendant of Benedict, meaning blessed.
Bewes: Someone who came from the Norman town of Bayeux
Blair: From the Gaelic blar - battlefield.
Bligh: Nickname for a happy person.
Bloggs: A maker of of blocks as in shoemaking.
Bloom or Bloomer: An ironworker who ran liquid metal into moulds.
Booth: Someone who lived in a hut or bothy, probably a shepherd.
Botham: Someone who lived in a broad valley.
Bronte: From a Gaelic name meaning bestower, a generous person.
Brooker: Dweller at the brook.
Buchanan: Low ground belonging to the cannon or cannon's house.
Burbage: Fort or manor on a brook (various places).
Burd: Girl, maiden.
Burgess: Citizen, freemason inhabitant of a borough.
Burton: From a settlement near a fortified manor.
Cadbury: From Cada's fortress. Cada probably meant lump as in fat person.
Calder: Rocky, violent water. Places in Cumberland.
Cambridge: Bridge over the Cam, place in Gloucestershire.
Campbell: From the Gaelic carn beul, meaning crooked mouth.
Capper: Cap maker.
Chaplin: The servant of a clergyman.
Carmen: Male person.
Chegwin: From a place with a white house. (Cornish)
Churchill: West Country settlement with a church on a hill.
Clark: Member of a minor religious order who had not taken vows of celibacy.
Clayton: Place in the clay or place with good clay for pottery.
Cleve: Cliff, slope or river bank.
Cliff: Cliff, slope or river bank.
Coleman: A charcoal burner.
Collard: Double dim.
Conner: Inspector, examiner.
Crawford: From several places derived from Crawe (crow) and Ford (river crossingCruise: A bold or fierce man.
Curtis: Someone courteous, whose manners are suitable for the royal court.
Dainty: Nickname for someone considered fine, handsome or pleasant.
Dangerfield: Originally from a French town called Angerville.
Davison: Descendant of David, a biblical name meaning "beloved".
Dean: From a valley.
Death: One who played the part in plays or pageants.
D'Eath: Camouflaged form of the name Death.
Dench: Descendant of a Dane.
Dewhurst: "Wet wood" a place in Lancashire.
Dexter: A male dyer
Dimbleby: Settlement near a ravine.
Diver: "Rope dancer, tight rope walker".
Dolittle: A reputation for idleness.
Drake: "Dragon" or standard bearer".
Draper: Cloth maker/seller.
Drew: Ghost or phantom.
Dunlop: Muddy hill.
Duran: Son of Durant
East: Newcomer from the east, dweller to the east of the village.
Eastwood: From a wood to the east of a settlement.
Eaves: Rim, edge or border.
Edison: Descendant of Edith, meaning prosperity and strife.
Edmead: God nature, humble minded person.
Edmonds: Old English name meaning prosperity and protector.
Edridge: Prosperity/happiness powerful.
Edward: Prosperity/happiness guardian.
Efford: Ford useable at ebb tide. Places in Cornwall Devon and Hampshire.
Elliman: Oil maker, seller.
Ellinger: Dweller at the alder treesEnfield: Open country with lambs. Place in Middlesex.
Erwin: Wild boar friend.
Escott: Eastern cottage. Place in Devon.
Evans: Descendant of Evans, a Welsh form of John.
Ewer: Water bearer.
Ewhurst: Places in Hampshire, Surrey & Sussex.
Eyton: Place on a river.
Fairbanks: Someone who lived near a bank of ferns.
Fairfax: A loyal person.
Field: Lived on a cleared field.
Finch: A reference to the bird, which formally had a reputation for stupidity.
Finlay: "Fair hero" Gaelic.
Fish: Catcher or seller of fish.
Firth: Living on or near scrubland.
Flanders: Submerged land. (from the Flemish).
Flemming: Descendant of someone from Flanders.
Fletcher: A maker of arrows.
Flesher: A butcher
Flynn: Red haired.
Foreman: Pig man or swineherd.
Forsyth: Man of peace.
Foss: Ditch or Roman road called the Fosse Way.
Fowler: A bird-catcher.
Fox: A cunning or clever one
Frain: Ash tree.
Francis: From a Latin name meaning Frenchman.
Freeman: Someone who is not a serf.
Fullerton: Bird catchers place. A place in Hampshire.
Furnell: Furnace, also places in Normandy.
Gabriel: "God is a strong man" Hebrew.
Gall: Son of a foreigner.
Gallaway: Stranger or foreigner.
Gamble: "Old" mainly a Norfolk surname.
Garnon: "Moustache" an oddity amongst the clean shaven Normans.
Gascoigne: Someone from Gascony, south-west France.
George: Greek for a farmer.
Gibb: A cat especially a tom cat. Also son of Gilbert
Gilbert: A Germanic name meaning pledge and bright.
Gillow: A retreat at the pool, a place in Herefordshire.
Gladwin: Glad friend.
Godfrey: "god peace" Germanic.
Godman: Good man or householder.
Godwin: God's friend or protector.
Goodwin: God's friend or protector.
Gossard: Goose herd or a simple task.
Grealey: Pock marks (literally hailstone marked)
Greening: Son of "Grening" an old personal name
Greer: A variant of the Scottish name MacGregorGregory: Watchful.
Grimshaw: Grimm's wood; a place in Blackburn Lancashire.
Gunn: Originally a Norse name meaning "battle"
Haggard: Keeper of falcons.
Hacker: Wood cutter; a maker of hoes, picks or bills.
Hall: Someone who worked or lived near a manor house.
Hallam: At the rocks or slopes, a place in west Yorkshire.
Halliwell: Someone living near a holy spring.
Hampshire: The shire county of Southampton.
Harcourt: Falconer's, hawker's cottage.
Hardcastle: Cheerless dwelling, place in West Yorkshire.
Harvey: A person who is battle worthy.
Higgins: From a Gaelic name meaning fire.
Holt: Wood. Name of several places in Britain.
Homer: Helmet maker.
Hook: Crooked backed, hook nose. Various places in Britain.
Hooper: One who makes hoops for casks and barrels.
Hornblower: One who summoned workmen.
Horrell: Felon hill, where felons we hanged.
Howe: Hill, burial mound.
Housden: Son of Hugh
Hucker; Haggler, bargainer.
Hugh: Dweller by the projecting piece of land,
Humphreys: An old French name meaning bear cub and peace.
Huston: Place with a house.
Iden: Woodland pasture.
Ince: Living on an island.
Ingham: From Inga's homestead.
Inglis: Scots form of English.
Inman: An innkeeper.
Islip: Slippery place on the river Ise
Izzard: Descendant of Isolde, meaning ice and battle.
Jay: Nickname for someone like the bird - acquisitive and a great chatterer.
Jenner: An engineer, originally of military machines.
Jessup: Descendant Of a man named Joseph.
Joel: Son of Johel a popular first name of 14th-14thJowett: Descendant of Julian, from the Roman name Julius.
Keane: A proud, brave man.
Kedge: Lively or brisk.
Keech: Butcher or lump of animal fat.
Keeworth: Enclosure made with ploes.
Kennedy: Helmeted, or having an ugly head.
Kidman: A goatherd, or as frisky as a young goat.
Lachian: A Viking - from lakeland in Scandinavia.
Large: Nickname for a generous man, as in largesse.
Latimer: A clerk who has knowledge of Latin.
Lawley: From Lawley meaning "Lafa's clearing" in Shropshire.
Leigh: From open country or heathland.
Leonard: From the Norman, lion brave.
Lincoln: Lake settlement.
Little: Nickname for a small person.
Lovejoy: A happy person.
Manning: A tough guy.
Marshall: Descended from a farrier.
Merry: Someone of a cheerful disposition.
Middlemiss; From the middlemost area around Kelso.
Morrison: Descended from Maurice (Moorish, dark complexioned).
Munson: Occupational name meaning "The monk a man of the cloth"Murphy: Sea warrior.
Napier: Someone concerned with table-linen.
Naylor: A nail-maker.
Neil: From the Irish for "champion".
Newman: Newly arrived in an area.
Nicholas: From the Greek for "victory and people"
Nighingale: A good singer.
Nolan: From the Gaelic for "Noble"
Norton: Living in "a north settlement".
Nunn: Pious as a nun.
Oakley: Dweller in an oak clearing.
Ogilvy: Scottish for a "high plain".
Owen: Well born or noble.
Packard: An itinerant hawker.
Pagett: A young boy acting as a household servant.
Parfitt: Fully accomplished professionally.
Patel: Hindi for village leader.
Paine: Country dweller.
Phillips: Greek for horse lover.
Quant: Finely dressed or clever.
Quicke: Lively; or someone who worked on a dairy farm; or dweller near poplars
Quirke: From a Gaelic word meaning heart.
Rennie: Descendant of Reynold.
Ramsbotham: From the bottom of a valley of wild garlic.
Richard: Germanic name meaning power, brave.
Rimmer: The rhymer, poet or singer.
Roberts: Germanic name meaning fame, bright.
Rogan: Gaelic meaning "Red hair or ruddy complexion.Ryan: Devotee of St.Riaghan
Sawyer: Someone who sawed wood.
Scruton: From the settlement of Scurfa's people.
Shackleton: From a settlement on a tongue of land.
Shakespeare: A quarrelsome soldier
Shaw: From a small wood or copse.
Shearer: A sheep-shearer.
Sixsmith: A maker of sickles or ploughshares.
SorensenA French/Dutch name meaning harsh or severe.Spencer: A household servant.
Stewart: An estate manager.
Taylforth: From a ford over the river Tayle in County Devon.
Thomas: An Aramaic name meaning "twin".
Thorpe: An old Norse word for "village".
Tucker: A fuller, who cleaned and thickened freshly woven cloth.
Tully: From the Gaelic for "peace loving" or "flood".
Turner: A wood turner.
Unwin: From the Old English Humwin meaning "bear cub" or "friend".
Urquhart: From the barony of this name on Loch Ness.
Valentine: Strong, healthy.
Vaughan: From the Welsh for "little"
Venables: From the French, meaning "hunting ground"
Waddington: From the settlement of "Wada's people".
Wagstaff: A functionary who wielded a staff of office.
Wainwright: A wagon-maker.
Walters: Germanic, meaning "rule" and "army".
Welsh: Man from Wales "Welshman".
Wentzell: Czech name meaning "Greater Glory"Whitbread: Baker, or nickname for a man with a white beard.
Wilson: Descendant of William, meaning "willpower" and "protection".
Yale: From Ial in Denbighshire.
Zola: Italian meaning "clod, bank of earth".
To be continued:-
From the Name Seekers surname meanings database
Dictionary of Surnames by Basil Cottle
Collins Dictionary of Surnames by Leslie Dunklin.
This page was last updated on 15-Jan-2011.