Meaning and Origin of: Yi

Family name origins & meanings

  • Korean : the second most common surname in Korea, comprising about 16 percent of the total population. It is found in every part of the country. There are three Chinese characters for the surname Yi, but two of the three are quite rare, and one of these is not found outside North Korea. Although some sources indicate that there are as many as 546 different clans, only about 100 have been documented. The founder of the oldest clan, the Kyŏngju Yi, was named Yi Al–p’yŏng and lived in ad 32. He was one of the six original governors of pre-Shilla Korea. Aside from a few other Yi families that originated from the Kyŏngju Yi clan, most of the other 100 or so clans were formed at the end of the Koryŏ or beginning of the Chosŏn periods. Some Korean Yi families trace their origins back to China. The founder of the Chosŏn Kingdom, or Yi Dynasty, Yi Sŏng-gye, was a member of the Yi clan from Chŏnju. This clan ruled the Korean peninsula from 1392 to 1910.
  • Chinese : from an area named Yi, probably from Yi county in Hebei province.