English Last Names and Meanings
England has a long and varied history intertwined with many different nations and lands. English is a Germanic language but was also influenced by Welsh, Gaelic, Italian, French, Scandinavian, and other European languages. Immigrants from Ireland and Scotland also influenced many English last names.
Many Americans owe their last name to their English ancestors that settled here. As a result, many English last names are influenced by occupation, region, and the individual’s father’s name (patronymic last names).
A portion of English last names are influenced by region; for example, the last name Burton, like the famous film director Tim Burton, refers to a town in Leicestershire.
The Vikings and the Romans also frequently invaded and occupied England in its early days, and both cultures left traces of their language on the land and English surnames. Last names in England and the UK didn’t become the norm until the Norman invasion of 1066.
Like many other cultures around the world, England has surnames based on the father’s given name. For example, the last name Adams means “Son of Adam.” Therefore, it was common for a son to have a different last name than his father.
- Anderson - Son of Andrew
- Davidson - Son of David
- Dawson - An old English variation of Son of David
- Edwardson - Son of Edward
- Evans - Son of Evan
- Harrison - Son of Harry or Henry
- Hughes - A name from middle English which means son of Hugh
- Johnson - Son of John
- Robinson - Son of Robin or Robert
- Williamson - Son of William
England and Scotland have a turbulent history. Scotland spent much of its time under British rule, and as a result, many baby names and surnames were traded back and forth over the years.
- Mitchell - Hebrew origin. The name means one who is like God.
- Murray - A Celtic surname that means sea settlement.
- Paterson - A name of Latin origins, it is the Scottish version of Patrick’s son.
- Sinclair - An old French name that refers to people who came from the Norman region of Santa Clair
- Wright - An occupational last name for a craftsman
Many common English last names come from their ancestor's occupation. Therefore, it was common for a person to take on their job’s name to differentiate themselves from others with the same first name.
- Archer - One who works with bows and arrows
- Armstrong - This name can be traced to the Norman invasion and the “Forten Bras” warrior clan. Forten Bras translates to strong in the arm.
- Bailey - This name refers to a bailiff or steward.
- Baker - One who makes and sells bread
- Clarke - An English and Irish name meaning one who works as a clerk
- Fisher - A fisherman, one who works on the sea
- Gilbert - This name derives from an old English word that means pledge or hostage
- Mason - A stoneworker or bricklayer
- Tailor - One who makes or mends clothing
- Weaver - One who weaves cloth
Top 5 Surnames in England
The top 5 most common last names in England stem from a variety of sources. Smith is by far the most common surname in England, with roughly one out of every eighty-eight people with the name.
- Smith - Occupational surname for one who works with metal
- Jones - A family name that means son of John
- Taylor - Occupational name of English origins for one who makes clothing.
- Brown - Related to the complexion of the person, someone with darker skin
- Williams - A patronymic last name that means son of William
Use the list below to find your last name and learn about its meaning and origins.
Most Popular English Last Names on FamilyEducation: Harris, Bell, Smith
About L. Elizabeth Forry
L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom experience.