Top Ten Most Common Surnames in the United States

Some names in the Unites States just appear everywhere. In fact, nearly 6%, or 6 out of 100 people, in the Unites States have a surname on this list based on the most recent census records. In total, this is equivalent to more than 21,000,000 people. Here are the top ten most common surnames in the United States:



The name Wilson is an English surname derived from a patronymic form of Will. The medieval Will was derived from several names containing the Germanic element wil, which means “desire.” The first documented occurrence of the name “wilson” was recorded in England around 1300 AD. In England, the name Wilson is even more prevalent than it is in the United States and ranks as the 8th most common surname.



Originally appearing at the end of the 9th century when patronymic names were first starting to appear, the name Rodriguez means “son of Rodrigo.” Rodrigo is an homage to the Visigothic King, Roderic, who ruled before the Muslim conquest of Spain.



The name García has been attested since the Middle Ages. Originally of Basque origin, the name García first appeared in the Kingdom of Navarre and eventually spread out to the surrounding areas of Castile and other Spanish regions. The meaning of the name García is simple. It means “the young” similar in nature to the French word “Garcon” which means “young man.” Like many of the most common surnames in the world, the name García is of patronymic origin. Beyond the United States, García is currently the most common surname in Spain and the second most common surname in Cuba. 



Davis originates from Wales and means “son of David” and is derived from the Hebrew name “David,” meaning “beloved.” The rise in popularity of the name Davis occurred during the Middle Ages due to the biblical King David of Israel. The popularity of the name in Britain was even more popular due to the fact the it was the name of the Patron Saint of Wales. Although, historically, little is known about Saint David, he is believed to have been a 6th century monk and bishop.



Perhaps no name of this list has such a complex origin as the name Miller. Often attributed to English, Scottish, and German origin, the name Miller is an occupational name derived from a miller. The very first documented account of the name Miller was in 1327 where the name Miller was included in Subsidy Tax Rolls in Sussex, South East England. Additionally, the name Miller particularly has an extended history in Northern Ireland where many migrants from Northern England and Scotland settled in the 16th and 17th centuries.




First appearing on record in England in 1273, Jones has been a classic name for many centuries. Currently, Jones is the most common surname in Wales where nearly 6% of the population is borne by it. Ultimately, the name Jones is derived from the name John, which in turn is derived from the Hebrew name Yochanan (Johanan). Most people don’t realize it, but the surname is also very common in Ireland in a slightly different form as a result of it being Gaelicized as MacSeoin.



It is thought that the name Brown evolved out of a nickname given to people concerning the complexion of an individual based on either the color of their hair or the color of their clothes. Unlike most surnames, Brown, is considered to be a descriptive surname rather than a patronymic name or occupational name. Variations of the name Brown have been recorded as early as the 11th century. Additionally, the name Brown has also originated independently in the United States as an Anglicization of other surnames when immigrants migrated here. An example of such is the German name Braun which commonly got converted to Brown upon arrival.



Williams is the patronymic form of the first name Williams. The meaning of the name Williams is “descendant of William.” Williams is one of the most common surnames in the entire world. It currently ranks as the second most common name in Wales, the third most common name in all of the United Kingdom, the fifth most common name in New Zealand, and as you can see, the third most common name in the United States. The first account of the name Williams occurred in the late 13th century.



The name Johnson is a name of Norman origin.  Like many names, Johnson is a patronymic name of the given name “John” and literally means “son of John.” The name John is believed to be derived independently from both the names Johannes from Greek and the name Yochanan from Hebrew. The name is extremely popular throughout Europe as well.



Smith is the most common surname in the United States, United Kingdom, and in Australia. It is the second most common surname in Canada and the fifth most common in Ireland. The name Smith is believed to be an occupational name for blacksmith, or for those who work with metal.


Featured image: Flickr by Loz Pycock

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