17 Most Common Surnames in the United States

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By Jonathan Trent

The diversity of the United States makes it a melting pot of different names with origins from all across the world. However, there is a selection of surnames that appear more than most. Here are 17 of the most common surnames in the United States.

Smith

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Smith is by far the most popular surname in the United States, with the 2010 census revealing that 2,376,206 people share it, as Business Insider states. It dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and is taken from the job occupation of a blacksmith (metal worker), which was one of the most important roles in medieval civilizations.

Johnson

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The second most common surname in the US is Johnson, which has Anglo-Norman origin, meaning ‘son of John.’ There have been two US presidents with the name, both of whom took over from assassinated presidents. Andrew Johnson in 1865-1869, taking over from Abraham Lincoln, and Lyndon Johnson in 1963-1969, who took over from John F. Kennedy. 

Williams

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Williams is another popular US surname originating from medieval England and France, deriving from the French/German name Wilhelm, which means will (desire) and helmet (protection). Famous Williams include tennis players Serena and Venus Williams and the playwright Tennessee Williams.

Brown

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The origin of the fourth most common surname in the USA, Brown, is unfortunately rather unexciting. It derives from a nickname given to people for the color of their hair or the clothes that they wore in medieval England. The first recorded use of the surname is in its Old English form, Brunus, in 1066. 

Jones

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Jones is similar to the surname Johnson, also meaning ‘son of John.’ It comes from Wales, where it remains the most popular surname, attributed to over 170,000 Welsh people, as reported by the BBC. In the USA, it’s the fifth most popular surname.

Garcia

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Garcia is thought to have originated from the Basque region of Spain, brought over to North America following the Spanish invasion of Mexico in 1521. According to many, Garcia comes from the word ‘garze’ which means ‘young’ in Basque. The surname is said to have first been recorded in the USA in the 1800s.

Miller

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The surname Miller derives from England and Scotland, with its original meaning being heavily debated. The obvious origin would be the occupation with which it shares its name, although it’s also believed to be geographical, referring to people from Molendinar, a settlement in Glasgow.

Davis

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Davis is thought to have originated from England or Wales, with the former believing it to be a royal reference, and the latter believing it to be a reference to Dyfed, a county in southwestern Wales. Despite being the eighth most popular surname in the US, it’s the 68th most popular surname in Wales, 66 places behind its variation, Davies. 

Rodriguez

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With the ‘ez’ section meaning ‘son of,’ the surname Rodriguez means ‘son of Rodrigo,’ and is thought to originate from Roderic, the last Visigothic king before the Muslim conquest of Spain in 711. The name likely came to North America when the Spanish invaded Mexico in the 1520s. 

Martinez

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The surname Martinez is also of Spanish origin, meaning, you guessed it, ‘son of Martin.’ It’s the tenth most popular name in the USA, as well as being popular in Spain, Argentina, and Italy, where it was introduced following Spanish dominance of the country in 1559. 

Wilson 

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The surname Wilson is common all over the English-speaking world, and originated from the term ‘son of Will.’ Whitehouse.gov highlights that one of the most notable Wilsons to come out of the USA is Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States who led the US troops into the First World War.

Anderson

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With 36 different variations spanning multiple languages and areas in which it’s used, Anderson is one of the most commonly used surnames in the world. As well as being the twelfth most common surname in the USA, it’s the most popular surname in Sweden and the fifth most known in Norway and Denmark.

Thomas 

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The surname Thomas has one of the most diverse origins, descending from Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. In many cases, its popularity is believed to be a result of the role Jesus’ disciple Thomas plays in the Bible.

Taylor

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Although the surname Taylor is spelled differently from the occupation of a tailor, it’s believed that the former derives from the latter. The name first arrived in England after the Norman occupation in 1066, when the French word ‘tailleur’ (cutter of cloth) entered circulation. 

Moore

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The origins of the surname Moore are murky, with some saying it originates from the Irish name Ó’Mórdha. If so, its frequency in the United States would make sense, as the USA has the second largest population of Irish emigrants, according to the U.S. News & World Report.

Jackson

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Meaning ‘son of Jack,’ the surname Jackson has English/Irish origin, although the name Jack comes from the Hebrew name Yochanan. The name belongs to historic Americans such as the former president Andrew Jackson, and the singer Michael Jackson. 

Martin

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The surname Martin spreads throughout Europe in all its variations, as well as most of North and South America, due to the colonization of the two continents. Some of its historic derivations include the Scottish Gaelic name MacMartin and the Latin name Martinus, which itself comes from Mars, the god of war.