The Surprising Meanings Behind America’s Most Common Last Names

You can probably think of at least a few different families you know with the last name of Smith. That’s because it’s the No. 1 most common last name in America. Read on to find out the other 14 most common surnames and where they came from.

1. Smith

Actor Will Smith smiling

Will Smith probably has a blacksmith in the family tree. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

According to the United States Census Bureau, Smith is the most common surname in America, occurring 2,442,977 times. Smith is an Anglo-Saxon name that is born out of the blacksmith occupation. It derives from the word smitan, which means “to strike with a hammer.” If you’re a Smith, chances are your family started with a blacksmith.

Next: This name arrived in England in 1066

2. Johnson

Dwayne Johnson smiling

Dwayne Johnson shares his last name with nearly 2 million people. | Aaron Davidson/Getty Images for HBO

Johnson is the second most common last name in America, occurring 1,932,812 times. The last name Johnson arrived in England in 1066 along with the Norman Conquest, the military conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy. The name literally means “son of John” and was very popular in the Middle Ages due to the name’s biblical origins.

Next: The third most common last name in America 

3. Williams

Serena Williams attends Glamour's 2017 Women of The Year Awards

Williams originated in medieval England and Wales. | Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Glamour

Williams, the third most common last name in America, originated in medieval England and Wales. It means “son of William.” According to Ancestry.com, there are many Williams families in Texas.

Next: This last name comes from England, Scotland, and Ireland.  

4. Brown

Sterling K. Brown at the Emmys

It was most likely a nickname for the tone of hair or skin. | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The fourth most common American last name, Brown, originates from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Ancestry.com says it was originally a nickname referring to a person’s hair color or complexion. The Census Bureau reports 1,437,026 Browns.

Next: A patronymic last name 

5. Jones

Rashida Jones might have family who hail from England and Wales. | Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/AFP/Getty Images

Another popular American last name, Jones is also English and Welsh. Jones is actually a patronymic from the name John, a common name in Wales and England. The Census Bureau reports there are 1,425,470 people with the last name Jones.

Next: A last name of Spanish and Portuguese decent

6. Garcia

Leury Garcia may be Dominican, but his name has Spanish and Portuguese roots. | Elsa/Getty Images

There are 1,166,120 Garcias in America. This last name is of Spanish and Portuguese decent. Ancestry.com surmises that the name “may well be of pre-Roman origin, perhaps akin to Basque (h)artz ‘bear.’”

Next: This last name directly translates to “mill keeper.”

7. Miller

T.J. Miller in 2016

T.J. Miller might have had a relative who was a mill keeper. | Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Another common American last name, Miller refers to the occupation of a mill keeper. The name is English and Scottish. According to the census, there are 1,161,437 people with the last name of Miller.

Next: The sons of David

8. Davis

Actress Viola Davis attends the Viola Davis Walk Of Fame Ceremony at Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Viola Davis’ last name was popular in Medieval Europe. | Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

Davis is the eighth most common surname in America, occurring 1,116,357 times. Davis is another patronymic name that means “son of David.” And David is a Hebrew name that means “beloved.” It was a highly popular name in medieval Europe thanks to the biblical King David of Israel.

Next: Another last name from Spain and Portugal

9. Rodriguez

The name has two different points of origin. | Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Rodriguez is both Spanish and Portuguese in origin and derives from the first name Rodrigo. And according to House of Names, Rodriguez is also from the German personal name “Hrodric,” which translates to “renowned power.” “Thus, the name Rodriguez combines this personal name with the patronymic suffix ‘-ez,’ and refers to ‘a famous ruler,'” says House of Names.

Next: This last name comes from the name Martin.

10. Martinez

Actress Natalie Martinez

Actress Natalie Martinez gets her name from the first name Martin. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The 10th most common American last name, Martinez, is another Spanish patronymic surname. “Martinez comes from the personal name Martin, which is itself derived from the Latin Martinus, whose root is Mars, the name of the Roman god of fertility and war,” says House of Names.

Next: A last name that is both Spanish and Jewish in origin

11. Hernandez

Gymnast Laurie Hernandez

Gymnast Laurie Hernandez could have roots in Spain or Italy. | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Hernandez is both Spanish and Jewish in origin and derives from the first name Hernando. “This surname also became established in southern Italy, mainly in Naples and Palermo, since the period of Spanish dominance there, and as a result of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century, many of whom moved to Italy,” says Ancestry.com.

Next: One of the most common Spanish last names

12. Lopez

The Spanish surname comes from the word meaning wolf. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Lopez is the 12th most common American last name, occurring 874,523 times. Lopez is Spanish in origin and is also considered one of the most common Spanish surnames. The name comes from the medieval first name Lope, which is Latin for lupus, meaning “wolf.”

Next: A last name that derives from the first name Gonzalo

13. Gonzalez

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu accepts the Best Director Award for 'Birdman'

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is one of over 800,000 people with the name. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Gonzalez is another Spanish surname. It derives from the first name Gonzalo, which is of Visigothic origin, “based on the Germanic element gunþ ‘battle,'” says Ancestry.com. According to the census, there are 841,025 Americans with the last name Gonzalez.

Next: This name means “desire.”

14. Wilson

Owen Wilson stands in a dark suit

Wilson comes from wil, which means desire. | Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Wilson is both English and Scottish in origin. Like many of these last names, it derives from a first name. Wilson is born from the name Will, a popular medieval name. “Will” is derived from the Germanic “wil,” which means “desire.”

Next: Son of Andrew

15. Anderson

Pamela Anderson Press Conference For FrogAds

Pamela Anderson’s last name just makes the list. | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Anderson is the 15th most common last name in America. There are 784,404 people with this last name. Like Wilson, it is English and Scottish in origin. It translates to mean “son of Andrew.”

“In this form, it is more common in the Lowlands, but it is widespread in Scotland in different forms,” says ScotWeb. “In the Highlands, it was rendered as MacAndrew, of medieval Scottish origin. Both names share the same Scottish Gaelicderivation of ‘Gilleaindreas’ — literally a servant of St. Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint.”

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