Last names. You've probably got one or two, and they definitely came from somewhere. Whether it's ancient or modern, signifies the beauty of nature or an abstract concept or a job, or is something Grandma came up with on the fly, last names are intimate things that anchor us to our heritage.
Here are the meanings and origins of 62 last names (maybe including yours).
Welcome, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans. Did you know that the last name Green has been around since before the 7th century? You could have gotten that name by playing the role of the "green man" on May Day, which involved dressing in green clothing and leaves. But people were also given the name Green if they just liked wearing the color green a lot. So if you're interested in changing your last name, look no further than your closet.
Smith is an old English name given to those who worked with metal. It's probably related to a word that meant "to strike" or "to smite," which means it may have referred to a soldier or to the person hitting metal to form it into armor.
Similarly, Schmidt is basically the German version of Smith, which also derives from the word smitan, which pre-dates written history.
The popular Spanish last name Lopez came from lupus, the Latin word for wolf.
It's from the ancient Aramaic word תאומא, meaning twin, but you can use it on singles or all three triplets.
Hill is an English name referring to, you guessed it, someone living on a hill. Other people got the name not from location, but from the name Hildebrand or Hilliard.
In parts of England, Lynch meant someone who lived by a hill. In Ireland, though, it may have meant seaman.
Slightly different, Murphy comes from the Irish term for a sea warrior, which is basically a Lynch during war time. There's most likely a Viking connection here.
Novak comes from the Slovak word for new or newcomer. Good to know if people start calling you that as soon as you get to Serbia.
Gomo, which comes from old Spanish, meant man, and the "ez" at the end there makes it mean "son of man."
If your last name is Cook, you probably have some ancestors who did that for a living.
Dating back before the 8th century, Baker could have referred to someone baking bread, running a communal kitchen, or owning a kiln for firing pottery.
Baxter is the masculine version of the word bakester, which originally meant a woman who bakes.
Becker is the German word for baker, and the name might have sprung up for the same reasons Baker and Baxter did in England, but it's also possible that the last name denoted someone living by a stream, or bach.
They were the people who worked in a house or a hall. Or even if you just lived near one.
Adams means "son of Adam" in England and Scotland. They borrowed the Adam part from Hebrew, of course.
Rogers means "son of Roger." Roger isn't the first man in an alternate version of the Bible, though: His name comes from the legend of the Danish king Hrothgar, who can be found in Beowulf. Hrothgar, by the way, means "famous spear."
There are of course, a ton of these "son"s. Let's just get a bunch out of the way. Thompson, which is Celtic, means either "son of Tom" or refers to a place called Thompson in Norfolk.
You would be correct in assuming that Robinson means "son of Robin." Or Robert.
Roberts means "son of Robert," and Robert means "fame" and "bright."
21. Johnson and Jones
Johnson and Jones both mean "son of John." The name John comes from the Hebrew Yohanan, which means "Yahweh has been gracious."
The name Jack is also derived from Yohanan, so Jacksons and Johnsons are really kinda the same.
Evans—besides meaning "son of Evan"—is a name that changes definition depending on your background. In Welsh, it also evolved from Yohanan. In Celtic, it means "young warrior." We're learning a lot about what people used to value: warriors, fame, religion, hills.
It's a Spanish last name meaning "son of Martin," and "Martin" comes from the Roman god of war, Mars.
The Greek word for "manly" gave us Anders and Andrew, and therefore Anderson, the son of Anders.
The Will part of Wilson is from the Germanic word meaning "desire." Gives an even deeper meaning to the Tom Hanks' best friend in Castaway.
The name Ole came from an Old Norse word meaning "ancestors' descendants". So I guess the Olsens of the world are the "sons of ancestors' descendants."
The Greek name Philippos, meaning "lover of horses", gave us the name Philip. Therefore, every Philips in your life is the son of a horse lover.
The name Fox was taken from the animal's name. It's one of those last names that started out as a nickname. Usually, people who were called Fox were clever or else had red hair or both (probably just one or the other).
Then there's the name Russell, which is an Anglo-Norman word meaning "red haired" or even "red-skinned."
White probably referred to a person who had white hair or a very light complexion. It's also referred to people living near the bend in a river.
The original Brown was someone with brown hair or who wore a lot of brown clothes. But really, wasn't that everyone in like the 5th century? I guess that explains why there are so many Browns.
Kim means "gold." It's also the most popular surname in South Korea. One in five people living there is a Kim.
Li can mean "plum" or someone who lived near a plum tree. It's the second most popular surname on the planet.
The direct translation of Lee from Old English is "an open place," so it might have referred to a meadow or a water meadow.
The Scottish name would have denoted a guardian who handled administrative tasks for a big royal household. It comes from the ancient word "stigweard."
Clark means "professional scribe." So if I live near a hill and I'm something of a scribe, would be a Lynchclark?
Walker could have been someone who did fulling, which was walking on cloth to improve its quality.
39. [Another] walker
Another occupation related to that name: military officers who would monitor a forest area by, you know, walking.
This name means "little rock" or "harmony." So please enjoy using your Harmony Wrench to build your next swanky piece of IKEA furniture.
In English, Myers means "son of the mayor." It may have also been used as a nickname for someone pompous.
Singh means "lion." Sikh in origin, it's given to a son on achieving manhood.
It's Hebrew for "priest." But the name might also come from Gaelic Irish where it meant "son of wild goose."
The original Parker was a gamekeeper. Or maybe a park keeper. Makes sense.
The name comes from an Old English word for "craftsman," and usually denoted someone who made things with wood, like windmills or wheels.
Carter is also English. It originally referred to a job in which someone would transport goods via cart, hence Cart-er.
Schneider means "tailor" in German. The English version is, of course, Taylor.
In German, Muller meant someone who operated a mill. The English version of that one is, also of course, Miller, and they both would have needed a wright to build their mill.
In England, a cooper was someone who made barrels. If you get a bunch of barrel makers together in tiny cars you have many coopers in Mini Coopers.
Moore has multiple meanings. It may have meant someone who lived by a moor or someone who worked on boats, or someone who was dark-skinned, like Othello.
In Old English, if you were named Perry, it meant that you spent a lot of time near pear trees. That sort of feels like a lazy nickname situation. In French, it was someone who worked in a quarry.
Turner also has a couple different origins. It might mean "turn hare," or someone who can run faster than a hare. It could also mean "one who works with a lathe".
In Portuguese and Spanish, Torres means "tower." So, someone with that last name was someone who lived by a tower.
In German, Hoffman meant someone who was a steward on an estate. Or someone associated with a farm. Either way, do not hassle the Hoffman.
Lewis comes from many cultures and has a few different meanings. An English Lewis was the son of a Lowis. Lewis also developed various first names in France and Germany and Normandy and so on. Those with the last name Llewellyn, in Welsh, usually becomes Lewis in English. They all came from the Frankish name Hludwig which meant "famous battle."
Young referred to the youngest child. You might also might have earned the surname if you were young at heart.
Weber is German for "weaver." It probably stemmed form the Old English word webbe, which meant "to weave."
In English, King obviously means leader, but many people adopted it who weren't rulers, and it was used as a nickname quite often. You'll notice, for instance, that the Queen of England is not named Elizabeth Queen. But the name became popular among American immigrants from Ireland, and in the 16th century it was also common to give orphans in France the last name Roi, meaning "king."
The etymology of Garcia isn't certain but most believe it came from a Basque word meaning "bear," or "young bear."
Rodriguez means "famous chief." But it may also have come from a word meaning "red-haired one." So, if you're a famous red-haired chief, you're all set.
Campbell derives from two Scottish-Gaelic words: cam meaning "crooked" and bell meaning "mouth." Shout out to all the crooked mouths out there.
Abdullah means "servant of God." It's popular among Arabic Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Mwangi is the most popular surname in Kenya, and it means "rapid expansion."
In this episode of The List Show, John Green examines the origins of 62 surnames. For a transcript, click here.