Surname Meanings

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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.

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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.

Burn: Stream.

Burton: From a settlement near a fortified manor.

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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 crossing

Cruise: A bold or fierce man.

Curtis: Someone courteous, whose manners are suitable for the royal court.

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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

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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 trees

Enfield: 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.

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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

Flood: Stream/gutter.

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.

Frith: Woodland

Fullerton: Bird catchers place. A place in Hampshire.

Furnell: Furnace, also places in Normandy.

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Gabriel: "God is a strong man" Hebrew.

Gail: Cheerful.

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 MacGregor

Gregory: Watchful.

Grimshaw: Grimm's wood; a place in Blackburn Lancashire.

Gulliver: Glutton.

Gunn: Originally a Norse name meaning "battle"

 

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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.

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Iden: Woodland pasture.

Ince: Living on an island.

Ingham: From Inga's homestead.

Inglis: Scots form of English.

Inker: Inkmaker.

Inman: An innkeeper.

Islip: Slippery place on the river Ise

Izzard: Descendant of Isolde, meaning ice and battle.

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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-14th

Jowett: Descendant of Julian, from the Roman name Julius.

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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.

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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.

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Madoc: Fortunate.

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.

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Napier: Someone concerned with table-linen.

Naylor: A nail-maker.

Negus: Gooseherd.

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.

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Oakley: Dweller in an oak clearing.

Ogilvy: Scottish for a "high plain".

Owen: Well born or noble.

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Packard: An itinerant hawker.

Pagett: A young boy acting as a household servant.

Parfitt: Fully accomplished professionally.

Parker: Gamekeeper.

Patel: Hindi for village leader.

Paine: Country dweller.

Phillips: Greek for horse lover.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Unwin: From the Old English Humwin meaning "bear cub" or "friend".

Urquhart: From the barony of this name on Loch Ness.

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Valentine: Strong, healthy.

Vaughan: From the Welsh for "little"

Venables: From the French, meaning "hunting ground"

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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".

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Yale: From Ial in Denbighshire.

Yates: Gate-keeper.

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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.