The development and use of surnames vary greatly by culture. Many of the last names in use today developed to denote where someone came from, their job, or who their father was. Some have been passed down through families, while some were imposed by others.
Regardless of their complicated history, last names as first names for a baby is not a new trend, as we discovered when researching this list of 100 options.
Last Names as First Names for Boys
Many surnames began as a label to denote whose son someone was, so it’s rather fitting to choose a last name for a surname.
Aiken is a Scottish surname meaning man.
The surname Aiken evolved from a first name, Atkin, which is a form of Adam. Using this as a first name takes Aiken full circle, back to its original use as a first name.
Ainsley is an Anglo Saxon name meaning solitary woodland.
Ainsley Harriott is a famous British chef and author known for his light-hearted, friendly style and infectious laugh. His TV shows and books are enjoyed around the world.
Alder is from the Old English name Æðelhere meaning noble army.
The alder tree’s name comes from a Latin root that means red or brown, so perhaps this will be suitable for a baby with red-brown hair.
As a surname, Alexander was the 118th most common name in the U.S. in the 2000 census, but as a first name, it ranked at number 20.
Anderson is a Northern European surname that means son of Andrew.
While many of us assume the surname-as-a-first-name trend is new, Anderson proves that it’s not. As far back as the 1800s, Anderson was in regular use as a first name in the U.S.
Ash comes from the Old Norse aska, meaning to burn, glow, and Ashton means town of the ashes.
When first in use as a first name, Ashton was used more often for girls. However, since Ashton Kutcher became famous, it has become more frequently used as a boys’ name.
Austen evolved from the Ancient Roman name Augustus, which means most venerated.
The surname of author Jane Austen is seen less frequently than the more common spelling Austin. It will also distinguish your child from Austin Powers, hopefully saving them from a lifetime of hearing “Yeah, baby.”
A Celtic name, Baird, is a contraction of Mac An Baird, which means son of the bard.
A bard was an ancient Celtic minstrel or poet. They wandered the country and brought entertainment to towns and villages. Perhaps this would be a good choice for a family who works in entertainment.
Baron evolved from the Latin baro, meaning man, servant, mercenary.
When England was invaded by the French, they adopted the Norman feudal system. Those who served under the French king were given lands and the title Baron.
From the Old Norse bjǫrn and ing, meaning settlement, Barrington means bear town.
When American record producer, rapper, and singer JPEGMAFIA was born in New York, his parents named him Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks.
Depending on the origin, Beck can be an Old Norse name from bekkr meaning stream or from the Middle High German becker, meaning baker.
Families with German or Scandinavian heritage might consider this short, choppy first name. If you’re a baker with German heritage, you’re definitely onto a winner.
From the name of multiple English towns, Bentley means woodland clearing of bent grass.
We adore this surname as a first name, but the downside is that most people will assume you have named your child after the car company.
Birk comes from the Latin root bhereg, meaning shine, white, or bright.
This is a tempting choice for your shining star of a baby, but beware. In the UK, berk has the same sound and is slang for a swear word we can’t politely write here.
Blake comes from Old English and, somewhat confusingly, could be used for both blac, meaning pale or white, and blæc, meaning dark, black.
As a first name for boys in the U.S., Blake goes back to the 1800s. Steadily climbing the charts since the 1940s, it has also seen brief spurts of popularity as a girls’ name, as proven by actress Blake Lively.
Burkhardt is German, and it comes from burgh and means fortress or castle.
Burkhardt is pronounced BOORK-hahrt, so you may be condemning your child to a lifetime spent correcting other people who are mispronouncing their name.
From Old English, Byron means farmstead.
Well established as a first name, you may be surprised to find this one on the list. However, it did begin as a surname, most notably that of poet Lord Byron.
The meaning of the Scottish and Irish surname Carson is unknown.
Carson has been in steady, low-key use as a boys’ name for two centuries. However, in the 1990s, it gained traction, reaching a peak of number 70 on the list of the most frequently chosen boys’ names in the U.S.
Chase comes from the word for the pursuit of an animal in the hunt.
Two U.S. Navy ships have been named Chase. The USS Chase (DD-323) was a WWI destroyer, and the USS Chase (DE-158) was a destroyer escort in WWII.
Emerson evolved from Ancient Germanic roots and means son of the ruler.
Emerson is a popular forename in Brazil and is the name of Emerson Moisés Costa, who is simply known as Emerson.
Finley comes from the Gaelic fionn, meaning white, fair, and laogh, which means warrior.
If you want to avoid the more common, Anglicized spelling of this name, you can consider using the original Gaelic form Fionnlagh.
Garrett has Germanic roots and means strong spear.
Swimmer Garrett Weber-Gale broke the world record during his leg of the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The team won the gold medal for that race and gold in another.
In the U.S. 2010 census, Griffin came in at number 122 on the list of the most frequently recorded surnames in the U.S. Since the late 1990s, it has stayed even in popularity as a first name in the number 200-range.
Hanson is a medieval surname meaning son of Han.
When the surname Hanson was brought to the U.S. by European immigrants, their accent determined how the name was written. Consequently, some names were recorded as Hanson while others Hansen.
Holden comes from Old English and means deep valley.
The main character and narrator In J.D. Salinger’s novel TheCatcher In The Rye is Holden Caulfield. While some consider Holden an iconic representation of teenage angst and rebellion, others consider him a whiney, inexperienced teen. The name began surging on the charts after the introduction of Holden Snyder, a romantic male lead on U.S. soap opera, As The World Turns.
A Germanic surname Hudson means son of Hudde.
Hudson is an excellent example of how names evolve in strange ways. The Hudde in son of Hudde is a medieval pet name for people named Hugh. In turn, Hugh comes from the Germanic hug, meaning heart, mind, spirit.
In the 2010 U.S. Census, Jackson was listed as the 19th most frequent surname, and it was used by 708,099 people. Concurrently, it was riding high in the first name charts and was number 17 in 2019.
Kendrick is a British surname with three different meanings, depending on the area of the Uk you’re in.
English Kendrick comes from the Old English Cenric, meaning bold ruler. The Welsh Kendrick comes from Cynwrig, meaning has the qualities of a great King. Finally, Scottish Kendrick comes from McKendrick, anglicized from Mac Eanraig, meaning son of Henry.
A German surname, Kiefer, means either barrel maker or pine tree.
Kiefer Sutherland was named after the American writer, producer, and screenwriter Warren Kiefer, who directed Sutherland’s father, Donald Sutherland, in his first film.
An Old English boy’s name, Kingsley means King’s clearing (in the wood).
Kingsley is used predominantly as a boys’ first name in both the U.S. and the UK. However, it has recently experienced growing popularity as a girls’ name on both sides of the Atlantic.
Lamont comes from the Old Norse Logmaðr, which means lawman.
Considering the roots of its meaning, Lamont could be a suitable last-name-as-a-surname choice for those in the law enforcement or legal professions.
Derived from an Old English word, Landon means ridge.
While some people assume Landon to have become a recent player in the last name as a first name game, it has been in use since the 1600s.
Lincoln has a combination of Latin and Celtic roots and means colony by the lake.
After seeing limited but steady use as a first name since records began, Lincoln exploded in popularity at the turn of the century. It went from 897th most used boys’ name in the U.S. in 1996 to 41st in 2019.
Despite the fact he was “born” James Hewitt, the X-Men character is better known as Logan, making this a popular choice for fans of Hugh Jackman’s most memorable role.
Marshall is a German name from elements meaning horse and servant.
There are multiple U.S. cities named Marshall, the largest of which is Marshall, Texas, with a population of approximately 23,000. This is in contrast to Marshall, Alaska, which has a population of 414.
As with many surnames, Mason was a professional name, in this case for stonemasons.
In 2011 and 2012, Mason was the second most popular name given to boys in the U.S. It was held off the top spot in both years by Jacob.
Mercer comes from the Latin merx, meaning commodity, merchandise, goods.
This name comes from the same root as the English word merchant. So if you want your child to be a titan in the retail business, then this could be the name to set him on his way.
Merrill evolved from an Irish name and means bright sea.
Merrill has traveled all of the name bases. Muirgel was an Irish girls’ name that became the English and French Muriel. It then made its way to Merrill, the surname, and now it is becoming a first name once more.
Merritt evolved from the Old English place name meaning boundary gate.
Although they sound the same, this name is not to be confused with the word merit, which comes from the Latin meritum.
Miller means someone who mills grain.
If the English version of this surname doesn’t appeal, how about the Dutch name Mulder, the Swedish Möller, the German Mueller, or the Spanish Molina?
From a Hebrew word, Mikha’el or Mitchell means who is like God.
Mitchell is used more frequently than you would imagine. You may not hear it often because it is commonly shortened to the nickname, Mitch.
Norris comes from the Latin nutricius and means wet nurse.
Norris McWherter, along with his twin brother, Ross, was the founder of The Guinness Book of Records. He had a photographic memory and could provide the details of any record in the book.
Parker was the surname given to park keepers at a time when parks were sprawling estates.
In the early 1800s, it was not unusual to name your son Parker, but by the 1950’s it had fallen into rare usage. However, it has recently become fashionable once more, for boys and girls.
The exact meaning of Paxton is unknown.
The name is often listed as meaning peaceful town. This definition is from the Latin pax, meaning peace, and the ton is taken to mean town. However, it means Pœcc’s town, and the meaning of Pœcc is unknown.
Like Paxton, Peyton means Pæga’s town, and the meaning of Pæga has been lost.
Type Peyton into a search engine, and the first thing that comes up is quarterback Peyton Manning. A completely different Peyton, in every way possible, is Peyton List. This list makes our boys’ and girls’ names list, although it is more popular in the U.S. for girls now.
Reed evolved from reudh, the Proto-Germanic root meaning red.
The surname Reed was traditionally given to people with red hair, most commonly in Scotland and Ireland, making this a clever option for a redheaded child.
Rhett is from the Old Dutch raet, which means advise, counsel.
Rhett Allain is an associate professor at Louisiana University, teaching physics. He wrote a piece in 2016 about how he fears Rhett is becoming too popular and used scientific methods to plot the “Rhettsplosion” in the States.
Rockwell means rock spring and was used for people who lived near a spring or rocky pool.
Rockwell is a typeface designed in 1934 and still in regular use today. You can see it on Marshall amps and bottles of Malibu Rum.
Sawyer is an Old English surname used for people who sawed wood.
The term sawyer is still used in the logging industry for people using a chainsaw and those using a crosscut saw. It also crops up in construction where it’s used for people using a concrete saw.
Sullivan has a complicated history but ultimately means son of the little dark eye.
The strange meaning of Sullivan comes from the fact it is an Anglicized form of the Irish Ó Súileabháin, which means descendant of Súileabháin. Ó Súileabháin means little dark eye, hence Sullivan’s odd definition.
Thompson means son of Tom, and Tom comes from the Aramaic name תָּאוֹמָא, or Ta’oma’, which means twin.
Also spelled Tomson, this is rarely used as a first name, so it’s a good choice if you want to go the surname as a first name route but don’t want to use any of the usual suspects.
Last Names as First Names for Girls
While surnames are inherently gender-neutral, there’s no denying some are more popular for girls than boys. However, not all of our picks are what you might consider feminine.
Addison means son of Adam.
Traditionally seen as a boy’s name, Addison became popular for girls in the U.S. during the early 1990s. Other countries were late to the party, with Addison hitting the girl’s names charts in Canada in 2007, in Australia in 2008, and in England and Wales in 2017.
Arden comes from the Dutch name Aarden, meaning clay, earth.
Although it is unclear, it seems that this may have been a name used for potters or other artisans who worked with clay, making this a clever choice for anyone involved in pottery. Actress Arden Cho starred as Kira in the hit television show Teen Wolf.
Bailey comes from the Latin baiulus, meaning porter.
Seen most often as a female first name in the U.S., Bailey is still predominantly a boys’ name in the rest of the world. In the U.S., it continues to remain a popular last name as a first name, coming in at number 158 in 2019.
Bellamy comes from the French bel ami. It means beautiful friend.
A pretty yet strong name, we like that Bellamy can always be shortened to Bella. But why would you want to do that to such a cool last name?
Blair is from the Gaelic blár, which means plain, battlefield.
With its battlefield roots, we think Blair is a fabulous choice for those whose families have a military background, especially if their ancestors are from Scotland.
Cameron is from the Gaelic cam meaning crooked and sròn meaning nose.
The rather unflattering crooked nose definition of Cameron is at odds with its pretty, feminine sound. Although many would argue about it being a girls’ name or a boys’ name, we don’t think it matters.
The true roots and meaning of Carlin are unknown.
Many claim this name comes from Carl or Karl, which could mean man or freeman. However, it could also be from ceorl, meaning man of low degree. Either way, it’s a good last name to use as a first name.
An Irish Gaelic name, Cassidy means descendant of the curly-haired.
There are plenty of reasons to choose Cassidy. It can be shortened to Cass or Cassie. Alternatively, you can use the Irish Caiside, which has the same meaning.
Channing is of unknown meaning.
Channing Tatum may be the first person you think of when you hear this as a forename, but it seems that many Americans are flocking toward this as a girl’s name once more.
Colby comes from Koli, an Old Norse nickname meaning dark.
The nutty-tasting Colby cheddar was developed in the town of Colby, Wisconsin, in 1885. Every year in July, a festival is held in the town, celebrating Colby cheddar. Aside from its role as a cheese, Colby is a great unisex last name to use as a first name.
Darcy is from the Norman French d’Arcy, meaning someone from Arcy.
Fort de Bois-d’Arcy is a French national monument. It houses France’s film depository and is central to the country’s program of digitizing nitrate-based films. Darcy, a strong last name, enjoyed a run of popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Devon could be from the place name or a variant of Devin.
The English county of Devon was named after the Celtic tribe, the Dumnonii, whose name means of the earth. Devin may come from the Latin divine, meaning to foretell, or the Irish Ó Damháin, meaning descendant of the fawn.
Everly means boars in the clearing of the woods.
While this has a rather rough meaning, we think Everly is a delicate girls’ name and a workable alternative to Beverly. Out of last names that can be first names, this one has taken off in recent years, landing at number 43 in 2019.
Fallon is an Irish surname that means descendant of the leader.
Although we adore Fallon, we may need a few more years to erase the 1980 soap opera from our minds when it comes to this cool last name. Dynasty introduced this last name as a first name to many of us.
A Spanish name, Flores means son of Floro.
Floro is a Spanish and Portuguese version of the name Florus, which means flower. Floro is a viable alternative to the more frequently seen Flora.
Greer comes from a Latin root and means watchful, alert.
Closely related to Gregory and all of its various incarnations as a surname in Scotland, Greer is instead spelled Grier.
Harlow is the name of a town in England and means army hill.
If you are looking for a tough last name to use as a girl’s name, Harlow might be it. If you’re looking for a military connection, Harlow is an excellent option.
An occupational surname, a Harper was someone who made or played the harp.
Harper Lee is an excellent example of the fact that the use of surnames in general and this last name in particular as a first name is nothing new. The author of To Kill A Mockingbird was born in 1926.
Hayden means valley of the hay.
Hayden reached peak popularity as a boys’ name in 2007 and as a girls’ name in 2008. You will also see it spelled as Haydyn.
Hayley comes from the English town name meaning hay clearing
Although Hayley was originally a surname, it is one of the names on this list that is firmly established as a forename, in all its different spellings. Hayley Mills was a huge child actor in the 1960s. Fictionally, Hayley Marshall was a popular character on the television shows The Originals and The Vampire Diaries.
Hester is an evolution of Ishtar, an Assyrian, Assyrian, and Babylonian name of unknown origin.
If someone says Hester isn’t a girls’ name, point out that it’s from the name Ishtar, a goddess of love, fertility, and war.
James has been a top 20 boys’ name since government records began in the 1800s. During the same period, James has been used as a girls’ name at a steady rate, hovering between 500 and 700 on the name charts.
Kennedy is an Irish name meaning descendant of Cennétig.
Cennétig mac Lorcáin was king of the Dál gCais, an Irish tribe and King of Thomond, the area of Ireland now known as Limerick. Although it’s an old last name, Kennedy has a more modern twist because of the U.S. president.
Larkin is a Medieval form of Laurance, which means from Laurentum.
A quirky alternative to Laurance, Larkin could be a good choice for those considering a surname with Irish or Russian origins as a first name.
A Germanic name, Levin means beloved friend.
In some parts of the world, such as Switzerland, this is a relatively common first name. However, there are few instances of it being used as a forename in the U.S. If you’re looking for a rare last name for your U.S. baby, this could be it.
Lowin is a German name, and it means lion.
The German language has masculine and feminine versions of words. You‘ll see Loew listed as meaning lion, which is correct. But Lowin is the feminine form, and we think it’s the better alternative as a first name.
MacKenzie is a Scottish surname meaning son of handsome.
If you’re a parent who believes themselves to be a giant basket of eye candy, then perhaps naming your daughter MacKenzie is your covert way to tell the world. This popular last name lends itself to all kinds of nicknames, such as Mac, Kenzy, and Z.
Madison is an English surname that means son of Maud.
After the 1984 movie Splash, Madison went from unknown as a girls’ first name to the second most frequently chosen girls’ name in 2001.
An Old French word, Mallory means unfortunate.
Explorer George Mallory was last seen alive approximately 800 vertical feet from the summit of Mount Everest in 1924. His remains were found in 1999, but it’s still unknown whether he reached the peak.
Marley is an Old English surname meaning pleasant wood.
A whopping 24,000 girls have been given the name Marley in the U.S., which is over ten times the number of boys. However, in much of the rest of the world, you will see it used more often for boys.
McKenna is a Gaelic surname meaning son of he who was born of fire.
In the 2010 census, McKenna was the 1,284th most frequently occurring surname in the United States, but had yet to make an appearance on the forename charts. By 2019, it had reached number 289 on the list of popular girls’ names.
Medina is a Spanish name that evolved from the Arab madinah, meaning city.
This name was carried from Spain to the Americas by conquistadors and imposed on many indigenous families. Medina is now more common in Argentina than in Spain.
Monroe began as a name given to people by the River Roe in Ireland.
The Monroe Tree is a giant sequoia in Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, California. It is the 10th largest giant sequoia in the world, with a circumference of over 91 feet at its base.
Nieves is a Spanish name that means snow.
Nieves is both a first and last name in Spain. It evolved from the Spanish religious title Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, which means Our Lady of the Snows.
The name Paisley comes from Latin and means church.
Paisley is the name given to a fabric pattern in Britain. The pattern is of Persian-Indian origin but became known as Paisley in the UK after it was produced at a mill in Paisley, Scotland.
Peyton means Pæga’s town, but the meaning of Pæga is unknown.
Peyton Randolph was the first President of the Continental Congress, the first transient government of the U.S. after the civil war. In 2019, 2,848 baby girls were given the name of Peyton in the U.S.
Piper was a surname given to people who played the pipe.
In our opinion, the English language version of the name works better than its German cousin, Pfeiffer, as a first name. One of the lead characters on the television show Charmed was named Piper, which may have contributed to its popularity.
Raleigh is a European surname that means red woodland clearing.
The town of Raleigh in North Carolina was named after English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh who was responsible for the attempts to establish a colony at Roanoke.
Evolved from the Irish surname Riodhgach, Reagan means impulsive.
Reagan first saw use as a girls’ name after the release of the 1971 movie, The Exorcist, in which the main character was called Regan O’Neil. It’s still highly popular, ranking at number 102 in 2019 in the U.S.
The English name Riley means clearing in the rye.
Predominately used as a boys’ name in the rest of the world, Riley has become more frequently used as a girls’ name in the U.S.
Rowan comes from the Proto-Germanic root ro, meaning to row.
In European folklore, the rowan tree was thought to have magical properties. In particular, it was said to protect people from evil spirits.
Shelley means clearing on the bank.
Mary Shelley was the 19th-century author who wrote Frankenstein, arguably the first example of the science fiction genre, making this an option for literature and science fiction buffs alike.
Sloan is an Irish name meaning raid.
The Sloan Research Fellowship is one of the oldest in the United States. Several recipients of the fellowship have gone on to win Nobel prizes.
Sorrell comes from the Old French sor, which means yellow-brown.
There are a number of ways to spell Sorrell, so if you choose this as a name for your baby girl, you may spend a lot of time correcting people.
Stockard comes from the Dutch stoken, meaning to hit with a stick.
Perhaps the most famous bearer of this as a first name is American actress Stockard Channing. She has worked on both stage and screen with multiple award nominations but is still perhaps best known as Rizzo in the movie, Grease.
Tatum means bringer of joy.
Tatum O’Neal is the youngest person to win an Academy Award. She won the Oscar at the age of 10 for her role in the 1973 movie Paper Moon.
Taylor comes from the Latin taliare, which means to cut.
Possibly the most famous Taylor in the world at the moment is Taylor Swift, who was named after the singer-songwriter James Taylor.
Teagan evolved from Tadhg, an Irish name meaning poet.
In 2016, the Social Security Administration listed Teagan as the 150th most popular name chosen for baby girls in the United States that year.
Tempest is from the Latin tempestas, which means storm.
Tempest is the name of a ship in the game Mass Effect: Andromeda, which we think makes it a good option for gamers looking for inspiration.
Winslow is an Old English girl’s name meaning friendly hill.
Winslow Homer was an American landscape painter who is famous for his beach scenes and seascapes. He also produced terrific images of pastoral life and mountains.
When Last Is First
Choosing a last name as a first name has a bit of a trendy feel at the moment, but don’t let that put you off. There is a long, historical tradition in some cultures of using surnames as first names.
That means you’re not only trendy; you’re traditional. It’s your child and your choice what to name them, so don’t let anyone else make you feel differently about your selection, whether it’s cutting edge or old school.