The 5 Most Common Surnames in the USA

A surname is considered a part of a person’s full legal name at birth.

This name can be passed from both parents, or just one parent. The format for surnames is usually based on the customs of the region where they originate. However, the format can and usually changes over time.

In many Western countries, the surname appears after a person’s given name, while in East Asian countries, the surname is placed before the given name.

The distribution of surnames in the USA reflects the vast history of immigration to the country. Some immigrants who came to the United States from countries where English was not their primary language decided to Anglicize their surnames once they entered the country.

Common surnames

Five surnames are more common in the USA than any others. Check out the following list and see if your surname made the list.

Surname Smith

This surname originated in England, and it is the most common surname in not only the USA, but also Australia and the UK. Smith is a surname that is prevalent among people who are of Irish, English or Scottish descent. However, many African-Americans also have the surname, which is most likely attributed to African slaves adopting the name of their slave masters and keeping it after the Civil War.

The surname Smith is an old English word that refers to “a smith”. It was used by people who worked with metals.

Surname Johnson

The second most common surname in the United States is Johnson. It also has an English origin. The literal meaning of the surname is son of John, and the name John was derived from Johannes.

The surname became very popular after Christianity became a recognized religion in Europe. John the Baptist and over 1,000 Christian saints are named John, or some variation of the name.

Surname Williams

The Williams surname originated in Wales and England during the medieval era and is a form of the given name William. The meaning of the surname means descendent or son of William. The combination of Old French and Germanic elements translated the name to mean ‘will equals desire’ and ‘helm equals protection’. Those who have this surname can research surname meanings in depth to discover when their family immigrated to the United States.

Surname Brown

The origin of this surname is quite interesting. It was derived and used by those who had brown hair, clothing or complexion, and it is considered the most commonly recognized surname in Western countries.

The surname brown was often used as nickname for the Old English and Middle English words ‘brun’. This root word can also be found in some Old Norse and Old English bynames.

Surname Jones

Similar to Johnson, the surname Jones also has English origins that are translated to ‘John’s son’. Jones is most often found in Wales and the south central area of England. However, it is a common surname in the United States as well.

The first time the surname was recorded was in England in 1273. The name was Matilda Jones. There is some disagreement regarding the first recorded name with the surname Jones. Others have the first recorded surname appearing in 1279. Jones became a very popular name in England during this time because of the influence of Christianity in the area.

Did your surname make the list? Although many surnames have become corrupted when they were translated to another language, you can still trace your surname to discover its history.