The most popular last name in the US is Smith, followed by Miller, Johnson, Anderson, Jones, and Williams, according to the latest data from ancestry.com, a leading genealogy company.
The most common last names in the country are all of English, Irish, Scottish, or Welsh origin. This is because the first settlers in North America were from those countries.
It was not typical to use last names in England until 1066 when the country saw a surge in its population. The last name was usually inspired by the person’s occupation, their father’s name, a nickname, or where they lived.
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Occupation as an inspiration
The name Smith most probably came from “blacksmith.” “John the smith” transformed into John Smith. The last name Appleby might have come from tending to an apple orchard or living near one. It’s obvious what someone with the last name Carpenter did for a living. The same goes for names like Brewer, Cook, Dyer, Archer, Baker, Farmer, Judge, Potter, Taylor, Mason, Page, and Weaver.
Another popular last name, Robertson, could reflect descendancy from someone known as “Robert’s son.”
Popularity according to region
Some names are more prevalent in certain regions of the US than others. People named Brown are common on the East Coast, but in the Northwest, you’re likely to hear Anderson more often. When it comes to the Southwest, there’s a lot more variety. California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have large Latin American populations, and last names like Chavez, Garcia, Martinez, and Hernandez are very popular.
Rising and waning popularity
Between 2000 and 2010, the most common last names in the country became even more popular with few exceptions. In the top 50, the only last name to become less common was “Hall.” It dropped from 30th in 2000 to 45th in 2010. Likewise, the Foster last name dropped from 87th to 99th in this period and now risks dropping out of the top 100 entirely.
What’s in a name?
The name Hall is derived from halla (Old German), heall (Old English), and holl (Old Norse). All of these words mean “hall” or “large residence.” This last name is both occupational and spatial in nature. A person who lived near a town called Hall or in or near a large hall might have gotten the nickname “of the hall” along with their first name. This became their last name after several generations.
Someone who worked in a hall as a servant might have had the moniker bestowed upon them.
Foster means “the one who keeps the forest.” It might also be connected to “foster child” or “foster parent” or be derived from Forester. Assuming it’s occupational in nature, its declining popularity could be due to the relevance of forest-related careers, as the forestry and timber industry isn’t as big as it once was.
Between 2000 and 2010, Spanish-origin names saw the most significant jump in volume. They included names like Ramirez, Hernandez, and Rodriguez. Another name that became hugely popular was Nguyen, which has its roots in the Vietnamese royal dynasty.
Most popular first names
In 2021, the most popular name for a boy was Liam and Olivia for girls. Other popular male names are Noah, Oliver, William, Benjamin, Elijah, James, Lucas, Jack, Mateo, Henry, Jackson, and Theodore. Along with Olivia, the most popular girl names in the US last year were Amelia, Ava, Emma, Charlotte, Sophia, Isabella, Harper, Elizabeth, Mia, Evelyn, Luna, Eleanor, and Camila.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists the most common baby names in May each year. The list is created using statistics from the previous year. Some names with popular variants don’t rank as high as you may believe because the SSA counts each variation and spelling as a separate name. When you combine all variations and spellings, Sophia is the most popular girl’s name, and Jackson is the second most popular boy’s name in the US.
Choosing the best name for your baby
It’s best to stick with a classic name but not a boring one. Names like Celeste, Willa, and Ophelia for girls and Miles and Edwin for boys have been around for a very long time. Before you decide on a name, check the meaning. For example, Cameron means “crooked nose,” and Cecilia means “blind.”
- Don’t stress too much
- Take a look at your family tree
- Avoid passing trends
- Honor your culture
- Contemplate all nicknames
- Consider the middle name
- Say it out loud
- Don’t forget about the initials