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Updated August 22, 2022

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If you have English, Cornish, or Welsh roots, then you may be curious about what your last name means and where it came from. Surnames are an important part of our ancestry since they can tell about where our people came from as well as a little bit about their history. Below there a few categories of Cornish surnames so you can learn about their meanings and origins, as well as some history and naming practices as well.

History of Cornish Surnames

You can find names of Cornish origin in several regional besides Cornwell. This includes Wales and Brittany, where Welsh and Breton are also spoken. Many common Cornishmen didn’t have a surname until late into the Middle Ages. This is because it was reserved for people of nobility.

Cornish Naming Traditions and Origins 

How did Cornish surnames come to be? Many names follow patronymics, which is using the child’s father’s first name and adding a suffix to turn it into a surname. Common suffixes added were “o,” “s,” and “y.”
Some Cornish names were derived from place names. In this case, they would use a particular prefix to help describe where they are from. Examples are “tre” for a settlement, “ros” for a moor, “pol” for a pond or lake, “lan” for a religious enclosure or church, “car” for hill, and “pen” for headland.

Other common ways surnames were chosen were based on nicknames, animals, and occupations.

10 Most Common Cornish Surnames and Meanings

  1. Bennett - This Cornish the last name is derived from the Latin name “Benedictus” which means “blessed.”
  2. Chapman - This is an English occupational surname for a merchant or trader.
  3. Davies - This Welsh surname is patronymic for “son of David.” “David” is a Hebrew name that means “beloved.”
  4. Harris - This is a Welsh and English name that was very common in South Wales. It’s patronymic for “son of Harry.”
  5. Pearce - This Anglo-Saxon name was commonly seen in Wales, England, and Ireland. It means “rock.”
  6. Richards - This Cornish surname means “powerful ruler.” It is one of the 3 most popular surnames.
  7. Rowe - This is a common last name in Norfolk and Cornwall. It is a Norman and English habitational name for someone who lived by a row of houses.
  8. Smith - This is a Middle English occupational surname for a blacksmith or metal worker.
  9. Thomas - This is one of the 3 most common Cornish surnames. It is Greek for Twin and seen used as a last name most often in Cornwall and Wales.
  10. Williams - This is another one of the 3 most common Cornish last names. It is of English origin and patronymic for “son of William.”

Last Names Cornish

Image: Cornwall, England

Traditional Cornish Surnames and Meanings

  1. Berriman - This is an English habitational name that is seen in West Penwith in Cornwall. It is used for someone who lived near a stronghold or another fortified place.
  2. Carlyon - This is a place name. There are 3 places in Cornwall called “Carlyon.” It means “fort of rock slabs” in Cornish.
  3. Chenoweth - This is a Cornish topographic name that means “new house.”
  4. Eddy - This surname is commonly seen in Cornwall and Devon. It is a derivation of the personal name “Edwy” and it means “prosperous protector.”
  5. Grose - This Cornish name is topographic for someone who lived near a stone cross set up by the roadside or in the marketplace.
  6. Hawke - This Cornish surname has roots in Devon and Cornwall. It is an Old English derivation of the surname “Trehawkey” which comes from the place name “Trehawke.” It also means “bird of prey.”
  7. Jenkin - This is a variant of the last name “Jenkins.” You may recognize it if your family history includes Welsh, Cornish, or Devon ancestry. It means “little John.”
  8. Lander - This is an English occupational surname for someone who grows lavender.
  9. Lawry - This is a diminutive form of the personal name “Lawrence.” It is of Irish and English origin.
  10. Moyle - This Welsh and Cornish name is derived from a nickname used for someone bald.
  11. Nance - This is a medieval Cornish place name for an estate located in the parish of Illogan. It is derived from the Celtic word “nans” which means “valley.”
  12. Oppy - Thus surname was often seen in Cornwall during the 15th century. It is of Norse origin and it means “God” and “the bear.”
  13. Pascoe - This is both a surname and given name that is derived from the Latin name “Pascal.” It means “Easter children” in the Cornish language.
  14. Penrose - This is a place name for any of the locations in Cornwall and Wales. It is Celtic for “head” and “moor.”
  15. Spargo - This name is derived from the Cornish words “spern” and “cor,” which means “thorn bushes” and “enclosure” respectively. “Spargo” is a habitational name for Higher or Lower Spargo in the parish of Mabe.
  16. Truscott - This Cornish name is derived from the words “dres” which means “beyond” and “cuit: which means “wood.” It is a habitational name from Truscott in the parish of St. Stephens by Launceston.
  17. Verran - This is the shortened version of Trevarren, which is a habitational name in the parish of Tywardreath.

Popular Cornish Last Names on FamilyEducation: Argus, Treen, Penrose

Stefanie Miller

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