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100 Enchanting Medieval Last Names: From Popular to Rare

Updated
Hark back to the Middle Ages and find the coolest medieval last names, from the fantastical to the everyday.

There has always been a fascination with medieval last names. Middle Ages last names can cover all walks of life, from kings and knights to peasants and farmers. You may not know as much as you think about names originating in Old Europe, some of which are still around today.

Our engaging guide to medieval last names has everything needed to become an expert in all things Middle Ages. Using naming traditions based on occupation, geography, or nicknames, you’ll learn a great deal about this fascinating time in history.


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100 Cool Medieval Surnames

Go back in time for unforgettable medieval last names to make you think.

Albrecht

Albrecht is composed of the German “adal,” meaning “noble,” and “berht,” meaning “famous.” It was a personal name used throughout medieval times, also meaning “illustrious.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Noble, bright
  • Pronunciation: AAL-brekt
  • Variations: Albrech, Allbrecht
  • Namesakes: Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German member of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2018. Milan Albrecht, a Slovak footballer with the Czechoslovakia national football team.
  • Popularity: Albrecht is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 63rd in 2014.
Traditional, Noble

Alder

Like many medieval last names, Alder refers to a particular location: “at the alder tree.” It can appear as Alter in Germany, where it’s based on “althērre,” meaning “(respected) older gentleman.”

  • Origin: English, German
  • Meaning: At the alder tree
  • Pronunciation: AAL-dehr
  • Variations: Aldere
  • Namesakes: Kurt Alder, the German co-winner of the 1950 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Jim Alder, a British runner and gold medalist at the 1966 Commonwealth Games.
  • Popularity: Alder is rare worldwide, mainly found in the U.S., and ranked 528th in Switzerland in 2014.
Title, Occupational

Aldrich

Aldrich is made up of the Old English “adel,” meaning “noble,” and “ric,” meaning “ruler.” It derives from the Old English Aelfric, meaning “elf ruler” or denotes a “son of Aldrich.”

  • Origin: English, German
  • Meaning: Noble ruler
  • Pronunciation: AAL-Drihch
  • Variations: Alrich
  • Namesakes: Sarah Aldrich, an American actress appearing on the soap opera Days of Our Lives from 1996 to 1997. Julia Carter Aldrich, an American writer and an editor of National Grange.
  • Popularity: Aldrich is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S, ranking 1,906th in 2014.
Old, Patronymic

Amaury

Amaury is a French interpretation of the Germanic Amalric. It dates back to the Old European Gothic tribe called Amali and also means “ruler.”

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: Prince
  • Pronunciation: Ah-MAOR-iy
  • Variations: Amauri, Amaurys
  • Namesakes: Philippe Amaury, a French media tycoon whose company publishes the Le Parisien newspaper.
  • Popularity: Amaury is very rare worldwide and mostly used in France.
Strong, Royal

Ambrose

Ambrose takes inspiration from the French Ambroise and Greek “ambrosios,” meaning “immortal divine.” In England, it also refers to the “son of Ambrose.”

  • Origin: English, French
  • Meaning: Immortal
  • Pronunciation: AM-brows
  • Variations: Ambrus
  • Namesakes: Simon Ambrose, the 2007 winner of The Apprentice in England. Richard Ambrose, an Australian rules footballer for the Sydney Swans.
  • Popularity: Ambrose is rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S., where it ranked 1,924th in 2014.
Rare, Noble

Archibald

Archibald is one of many patronymic medieval surnames, referring to “the son of Archibald.” It’s made up of the Germanic “erchan,” meaning “precious,” and “bald,” meaning “bold.”

  • Origin: English, Scottish
  • Meaning: Precious-bold
  • Pronunciation: AR-chih-Bawld
  • Variations: Archibauld
  • Namesakes: Joshua Archibald, a Canadian-American ice hockey player for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Donald Archibald, a member of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly from 1871 to 1878.
  • Popularity: Archibald is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 380th in Scotland in 2014.
Patronymic, Noble

Babcock

Babcock is more than old-fashioned since it relates to Babb, an unusual medieval form of Barbara. It’s also associated with the Middle English Badecok, from Bade, meaning “strife” or “battle.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Son of Bab
  • Pronunciation: BABB-khok
  • Variations: Badcock, Babbcock
  • Namesakes: Tim Babcock, the 16th governor of Montana from 1962 to 1969. Barbara Babcock, an American actress known for the series Hill Street Blues.
  • Popularity: Babcock is rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S., ranking 1,568th in 2014.
Unusual, Patronymic

Barlow

For those named Barlow, it originally symbolized residence in the town of Barlow, near Manchester. It’s composed of the Old English “bere,” meaning “barley,” and “hlāw,” meaning “hill.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Barley hill
  • Pronunciation: BAAR-low
  • Variations: Barlowe, Barloe
  • Namesakes: Gary Barlow, an English member of the British pop group Take That. Joe Barlow, an American baseball player for the Texas Rangers.
  • Popularity: Barlow is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 292nd in England in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Bassett

Bassett derives from the Old French “basset,” meaning “dwarf,” from “basse,” meaning “low man.” It may have referred to someone of short stature, humble origins, or from a place in France called Basset.

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: Low, short
  • Pronunciation: BAA-sett
  • Variations: Basset
  • Namesakes: Angela Bassett, an American actress among the 100 most influential people in the world in 2023. John F. Bassett, a Canadian tennis player who won the 1955 Canadian Open Junior Doubles Championship.
  • Popularity: Bassett is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 470th in Wales in 2014.
Nicknames, Traditional

Bayard

Bayard was a nickname given to someone “reckless” and is made up of the Old French “baiard,” meaning “foolhardy.” It’s also linked to “baie,” meaning “reddish brown,” and was used for knights and noblemen with red hair.

  • Origin: English, French
  • Meaning: Reddish-brown
  • Pronunciation: BAEHRD
  • Variations: Bayart
  • Namesakes: Stephen Bayard, the 39th mayor of New York City from 1744 to 1747. Émile Bayard, a French illustrator known for his work on Les Misérables.
  • Popularity: Bayard is rare worldwide, primarily used in France, and ranked 475th in Haiti in 2014.
Nicknames, Unusual
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Beasley

Beasley refers to a person from Beasley or Beazley in England. It’s composed of the Old English “beos,” meaning “bent grass,” and “leah,” meaning “woodland clearing.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Woodland clearing
  • Pronunciation: BEEZ-liy
  • Variations: Beazley, Beaseley, Beasely
  • Namesakes: Tom Beasley, an American football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jack Beasley, a member of the Australian House of Representatives from 1928 to 1946.
  • Popularity: Beasley is rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S., where it ranked 659th in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Beauchamp

Beauchamp points to several places in France and is made up of the Old French “beu,” meaning “fair,” and “champ,” meaning “field.” Beauchamp is one of many medieval family names that arrived in England with the Norman Conquest in 1066.

  • Origin: French, English
  • Meaning: Beautiful field
  • Pronunciation: BOW-Chaamp
  • Variations: Beacham
  • Namesakes: Josh Beauchamp, a Canadian member of the pop group Now United. Line Beauchamp, a Canadian member of the National Assembly from 1998 to 2012.
  • Popularity: Beauchamp is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 370th in Puerto Rico in 2014.
Geographical, Old

Beauregard

Someone named Beauregard in France was known to be “handsome” or “good-looking.” The cool beauty of Beauregard also extended to the town of Limousin in France.

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: Beautiful gaze
  • Pronunciation: BOHW-ri-Gahrd
  • Variations: Beauregarde
  • Namesakes: Keith Beauregard, an American baseball coach for the Detroit Tigers. Paul Beauregard (known as DJ Paul), an American member of the hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia.
  • Popularity: Beauregard is rare worldwide and mostly used in Canada, ranking 475th in 2014.
Nicknames, Geographical

Beckett

Although there are places called Beckett in Berkshire and Devon in England, it has other meanings too. It’s composed of the Old English “bēo,” meaning “bee” and “cot,” meaning “cottage.”

  • Origin: English, Welsh
  • Meaning: Bee shelter
  • Pronunciation: BEH-Kaht
  • Variations: Becket, Beckette
  • Namesakes: Samuel Beckett, an Irish writer and winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature. Rob Beckett, an English co-host of the series I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!
  • Popularity: Beckett is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 497th in Wales in 2014.
Nicknames, Old

Borden

Borden is composed of the Old English “bor,” meaning “hill” and “denu,” meaning “valley.” It’s a geographical name for a place once called Burdon’s Valley for someone who was named Burdon originally.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Burden’s valley
  • Pronunciation: BOAR-dehn
  • Namesakes: Laura Borden, the wife of Sir Robert Laird Borden, the eighth Prime Minister of Canada from 1911 to 1920. Gail Borden Jr., a 19th-century American inventor of sweetened condensed milk.
  • Popularity: Borden is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 244th in the Cayman Islands in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Brawley

Brawley means “dweller on the broad meadow,” which could also be derived from the Irish Ó’Brolaigh. In Scotland, Brawley uses the root “braw,” meaning “handsome,” and “lea,” meaning “meadow.”

  • Origin: Scottish, Irish
  • Meaning: Descendent of Brolach
  • Pronunciation: BRAUW-liy
  • Namesakes: William Brawley, a Scottish footballer for Partick Thistle. Wendy Brawley, a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives since 2017.
  • Popularity: Brawley is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Uncommon, Patronymic

Braxton

Braxton is associated with someone who lived near “Bracca’s boundary mark,” but came to mean “Brock’s settlement.” As a first name, it means “badger” and may be an offshoot of Brackstone in Hampshire.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Brock’s town
  • Pronunciation: BRACK-Staun
  • Variations: Brakston, Brackston
  • Namesakes: Toni Braxton, an American R&B singer inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2011. Joanne Braxton, an American writer known for Black Women Writing Autobiography.
  • Popularity: Braxton is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,818th in Trinidad and Tobago in 2014.
Old, Geographical

Bruno

Bruno originated as the Latin Brunus, meaning “polished with luster.” It’s somewhat closer to the German “brun,” meaning “brown,” but is typically an Italian surname.

  • Origin: Italian, German
  • Meaning: Brown
  • Pronunciation: BRUW-noh
  • Variations: Bruni
  • Namesakes: Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher known for the Copernican model. Tony Bruno, an American sports talk radio host for ESPN Radio.
  • Popularity: Bruno ranked 1,907th worldwide and is primarily used in Italy, where it ranked 11th in 2014.
Common, Traditional

Burnside

Burnside is one of several Middle Ages last names pointing to a location. Here, it’s “of the burnside” in Scotland. Burnside is also associated with the Picts, an ancient Scottish tribe.

  • Origin: Irish, Scottish
  • Meaning: Of the burnside
  • Pronunciation: BERN-saeyd
  • Namesakes: John Burnside, a Scottish writer and winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for Black Cat Bone in 2011. David Burnside, a Northern Irish member of Parliament from 2001 to 2005.
  • Popularity: Burnside is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 715th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Old, Unique

Chapman

Chapman is an Old English occupational name based on “céapmann,” meaning “marketman” or “monger.” “Céapan” means “to buy or sell,” while “ceap” means “barter,” so Chapman means business all the way.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Merchant
  • Pronunciation: CHAP-men
  • Variations: Caepmon, Chepmon
  • Namesakes: Chuck Chapman, a Canadian basketball player and silver medalist at the 1936 Summer Olympics. Nicola Chapman, an English TV presenter for Popstars.
  • Popularity: Chapman ranked 1,803rd worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 75th in England in 2014.
Occupational, Common
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Chastain

Chastain comes from the Old French “castan(h),” meaning “chestnut tree.” It’s either a surname used for someone “living near a chestnut tree” or a nickname for a person with chestnut hair.

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: Chestnut tree
  • Pronunciation: Chaas-TAEYN
  • Variations: Chastin, Chastan
  • Namesakes: Elijah Webb Chastain, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1851 to 1855. Jessica Chastain, an American actress named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012.
  • Popularity: Chastain is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Nicknames, Uncommon

Chilton

With many English locales called Chilton, it also refers to the Old English “cild,” meaning “child” and “tūn,” meaning “settlement.” Its historical origins are as old as the British Iron Age as a town in Suffolk.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Child’s town
  • Pronunciation: CHIHL-ton
  • Namesakes: Alex Chilton, an American singer-songwriter and member of the group the Box Tops. David Chilton, a Canadian writer appearing on the Canadian series Dragons’ Den.
  • Popularity: Chilton is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 1,817th in England in 2014.
Old, Unique

Cook

Cook is taken from the Old English “coc” and Latin “cocus,” both referring to the occupation of a “cook.” It was used for someone who prepared meals in an inn and or prepared and sold meat.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Cook (occupation)
  • Pronunciation: KUUK
  • Variations: Cooke
  • Namesakes: Peter Cook, an English comedian best known for his partnership with Dudley Moore. T. S. Cook, an American screenwriter who wrote The China Syndrome (1979).
  • Popularity: Cook ranked 918th worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 52nd in Australia in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Coulthard

Coulthard is an English and Scottish occupational name for someone in charge of horses. It’s composed of the Old English “colt,” meaning “young horse,” and “hierde,” meaning herdsman.”

  • Origin: English, Scottish
  • Meaning: Keeper of colts
  • Pronunciation: KUHL-thaard
  • Variations: Coulthart
  • Namesakes: David Coulthard, a British racing driver who won the 1995 Grand Prix. Alice Coulthard, an English actress known for the soap opera Emmerdale.
  • Popularity: Coulthard is rare worldwide, primarily used in England, and ranked 1,910th in Australia in 2014.
Uncommon, Occupational

Courteney

Courteney tends to associate with Courtenay and the noble House of Courtenay in medieval France and England. It’s also used for someone “from Courtenay,” in France and may mean “courteous.”

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: From Courteney
  • Pronunciation: Kohr-teh-Niy
  • Variations: Courtenay, Courtney
  • Popularity: Courteney is extremely rare worldwide, with 55 known occurrences in 2014, mostly in England.
Royal, Rare

Cromer

Cromer dates back to the 13th-century and also means “a gap in the cliffs.” It’s an example of medieval “C” last names identifying someone from their village.

  • Origin: English, German
  • Meaning: Crow lake
  • Pronunciation: KROW-mehr
  • Namesakes: Greg Cromer, the mayor of Slidell, Louisiana, since 2018. Tripp Cromer, an American baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Popularity: Cromer is rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Uncommon, Old

Darcy

Darcy can mean “dark-haired one,” yet it’s based on the place name Arcy. Darcy is best remembered for the character of Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

  • Origin: English, French
  • Meaning: From the fortress
  • Pronunciation: DAR-cee
  • Variations: Darci, Darcie, Darcey
  • Namesakes: Les Darcy, an Australian boxer inducted into the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003. Eamonn Darcy, a four-time Irish golfing champion on the PGA European Tour.
  • Popularity: Darcy is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 304th in Ireland in 2014.
Strong, Geographical

Devereaux

Devereaux first appeared in Ireland after the Welsh arrived in the 12th-century. It first appeared as D’Evreux when given to someone “from Évreux,” in Normandy, France.

  • Origin: French, Irish
  • Meaning: From Évreux
  • Pronunciation: DEH-veh-ROW
  • Variations: Deveraux
  • Namesakes: Boyd Devereaux, a Canadian ice hockey player for the Detroit Red Wings. Yvette Devereaux, the first African-American female to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1996.
  • Popularity: Devereaux is rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S.
Geographical, Uncommon

Dietrich

Dietrich is a German variation of Theodoric, made up of “theud,” meaning “people,” and “rīc,” meaning “rich.” It originated as Theodoric the Great, but also means “keeper of the keys” or “lockpick.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Ruler of the people
  • Pronunciation: DEE-trik
  • Variations: Dieterich
  • Namesakes: Marlene Dietrich, a German-American actress known for The Blue Angel (1930). Yevgeny Dietrich, the Minister of Transport of Russia from 2018 to 2020.
  • Popularity: Dietrich is rare worldwide and mainly used in Germany, running 86th in 2014.
Royal, Strong

Dudley

Dudley is based on Dudley in Worcestershire, which was first Duddeleye in the 13th- and 14th centuries. It’s also associated with the given name Dudda and is known for the family motto “just and loyal.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Woodland clearing
  • Pronunciation: DUHD-liy
  • Variations: Dudlie, Dudly
  • Namesakes: Joseph Dudley, a colonial administrator of the Dominion of New England from 1686 to 1689. Devon Hughes (known as D-Von Dudley), an American wrestler for the WWF/E from 1999 to 2005.
  • Popularity: Dudley is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 677th in Wales in 2014.
Geographical, Traditional
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Echeverria

Echeverria has Basque origins, where it began as Etxeberria, meaning “new house.” It’s composed of “etxe,” meaning “house,” “berri,” meaning “new,” plus the suffix “-a.”

  • Origin: Basque
  • Meaning: New house
  • Pronunciation: Eh-cheh-VEH-ree-Ah
  • Variations: Echevarria
  • Namesakes: Rob Echeverria, an American member of the band Helmet. Liza Echeverría, a Mexican actress appearing in the soap opera Luz Clarita (1996).
  • Popularity: Echeverria is rare worldwide, mostly used in Mexico, and ranked 226th in El Salvador in 2014.
Unusual, Geographical

Elias

Elias was first a personal name based on the Greek Elias and the Hebrew Eliyahu, meaning “El is Yahweh.” Some relate it to the 13th-century first name Elis, made famous by holy saints like the 7th-century Bishop of Syracuse.

  • Origin: Hebrew, English
  • Meaning: Jehovah is God
  • Pronunciation: Eh-LAEY-ahs
  • Variations: Elyas
  • Namesakes: Lee Elias, a British-American comics artist known for the Black Cat comic book. Isaak Elias, a Canadian member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan from 1956 to 1960.
  • Popularity: Elias ranked 785th worldwide and is mostly used in Tanzania, where it ranked 19th in 2014.
Old, Popular

Engel

Engel is inspired by the ancient Germanic tribe called the Angles and also derives from the Old English “ængel,” meaning “angel.” Engel became a short form of longer German names like Engelbert and Engelhard.

  • Origin: German, English
  • Meaning: Angel
  • Pronunciation: EHN-gehl
  • Variations: Engell, Engels
  • Namesakes: Karl Engel, a German musician and a member of the Imperial Orchestra at Saint Petersburg. Marian Engel, a Canadian founding member of the Writers’ Union of Canada.
  • Popularity: Engel is rare worldwide and mainly used in Germany, ranking 87th in 2014.
Strong, Unique

Faintree

Faintree is likely the most mysterious of medieval “F” surnames with unknown origins. There is still a town called Faintree in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, but who knows how it got that way.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: FAEYN-tree
  • Popularity: Faintree is extremely rare worldwide, with just one known occurrence in 2014, primarily in South Africa.
Rare, Unusual

Faust

Faust is taken from the Middle German “fūst,” meaning “fist,” and was a nickname for a tough person. It’s also linked to the Latin Faustus, meaning lucky. It only came to Italy after the 16th-century as the Italian Fausto.

  • Origin: German, Latin
  • Meaning: Fortunate one
  • Pronunciation: FAOWST
  • Variations: Fauste, Fausst, Fausste
  • Namesakes: Georg Faust, the principal German cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1985 to 2012. Lucy Faust, an American actress appearing in the series NCIS: New Orleans.
  • Popularity: Faust is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 553rd in Germany in 2014.
Traditional, Nicknames

Ferrari

Ferrari is the Italian equivalent of the British Smith, meaning “worker in metals.” It originated with the Latin “ferro,” meaning “iron,” and was given to blacksmiths and their descendents.

  • Origin: Italian, Latin
  • Meaning: Blacksmith
  • Pronunciation: Feh-RAAR-ee
  • Variations: Ferrari
  • Namesakes: Enzo Ferrari, an Italian founder of the Ferrari automobile company. Paola Ferrari, an Italian host of La Domenica Sportiva on RAI.
  • Popularity: Ferrari ranked 1,771st worldwide and is mainly used in Italy, where it ranked 3rd in 2014.
Occupational, Common

Fischer

Like other occupational medieval family names, Fischer is a name for a “fisherman.” “Fiscere” means “to catch fish” and was also used in Jewish and Dutch communities.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Fisherman
  • Pronunciation: FIHSH-ehr
  • Variations: Fisher, Fissher
  • Namesakes: Hans Fischer, a German chemist and recipient of the 1930 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Viktor Fischer, a Danish footballer for Copenhagen.
  • Popularity: Fischer ranked 883rd worldwide and is mostly used in Germany, ranking 4th in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Fleming

Fleming was used in the 12th century for someone “from Flanders.” It also has French-Norman origins, with the French “flamanc,” representing the regularity of Dutch people arriving and working in England.

  • Origin: Irish, Gaelic
  • Meaning: Man from Flanders
  • Pronunciation: FLEH-mihng
  • Variations: Flemming
  • Namesakes: Ian Fleming, a British writer known for the James Bond novels. Thomas Fleming, a Scottish radio commentator for the BBC.
  • Popularity: Fleming is uncommon worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 83rd in Scotland in 2014.
Geographical, Old

Fontaine

In French, Fontaine refers to someone “living at or near a spouting spring.” It also refers to a person from many French places called Fontaine, known for its beautiful springs.

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: Dweller near a spring
  • Pronunciation: Foun-TAEYN
  • Variations: Fountaine
  • Namesakes: René Fontaine, a Canadian member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1985 to 1990. Michel Fontaine, a French sports shooter who competed at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
  • Popularity: Fontaine is rare worldwide and primarily used in France, where it ranked 49th in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Fuchs

Fuchs derives from the Old German “vuhs,” meaning “fox” and is as old as the 7th century. It was first used in Bavaria as a nickname for someone with red hair or a clever nature.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Fox
  • Pronunciation: FOOKS
  • Variations: Fuchse, Fuechs
  • Namesakes: Emil Fuchs, the American owner of the Boston Braves from 1923 to 1935. Fred Fuchs, a Canadian producer known for the series Faerie Tale Theatre.
  • Popularity: Fuchs is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in Germany, and ranked 13th in 2014.
Nicknames, Common
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Garvin

Garvin is a shorter form of the Gaelic Ó’Gairbhín, meaning “descendant of Gairbhín.” The root “garbh” means “rough or cruel fate” and originated in western Ireland.

  • Origin: Irish, Gaelic
  • Meaning: Rough
  • Pronunciation: GAAR-vihn
  • Variations: Garven, Garvan
  • Namesakes: J. L. Garvin, a British editor of The Observer. Gerry Garvin, an American chef known for Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin.
  • Popularity: Garvin is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,523rd in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Patronymic

Gauthier

Gauthier is based on the French given name Gauldheri, meaning “army ruler.” It was also used for “descendants of Gautier” and occasionally for lumbermen, when based on “gault,” meaning “forest.”

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: Army ruler
  • Pronunciation: GOW-tee-Yay
  • Variations: Gautier
  • Namesakes: Cathy Gauthier, a Canadian curler and winner of the 2005 Scott Tournament of Hearts. Frédérik Gauthier, a Canadian ice hockey player with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • Popularity: Gauthier is rare worldwide and primarily used in Canada, where it ranked 20th in 2014.
Strong, Patronymic

Gervaise

Gervaise is the original version of the French Gervais, yet also has German origins. It’s influenced by the German “gervas,” meaning “serving with one’s spear.”

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: Skilled with a spear
  • Pronunciation: Gher-VEHZ
  • Variations: Gervais
  • Namesakes: Tony Gervaise, a Scottish football coach for Arsenal Ladies. Isaac Gervaise, an English merchant known for The System or Theory of the Trade of the World in 1720.
  • Popularity: Gervaise is very rare worldwide and mostly used in France.
Uncommon, Strong

Gilbert

Gilbert began as the first name Giselbert, composed of the German “gīsil,” meaning “pledge,” and “berht,” meaning “bright famous.” It became known through Richard fitz Gilbert, a Norman lord who traveled with William the Conqueror in 1066.

  • Origin: German, French
  • Meaning: Bright, pledge
  • Pronunciation: GIHL-behrt
  • Variations: Gilbertson
  • Namesakes: Rod Gilbert, a Canadian ice hockey player for the New York Rangers. Melissa Gilbert, an American actress and president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005.
  • Popularity: Gilbert ranked 1,753rd worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 182nd in France in 2014.
Traditional, Patronymic

Godwin

Godwin is based on Godewyn, made up of the Old English “god,” meaning “good” and “wine,” meaning “friend.” Early famous Godwins include Godwin, Earl of Wessex who was defeated at the Battle of Hastings.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Good friend
  • Pronunciation: GOD-wyn
  • Variations: Goodwin, Godwyn, Goddwin
  • Namesakes: Frank Godwin, an English film producer known for Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957). Tommy Godwin, an Irish footballer for Leicester City.
  • Popularity: Godwin is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 245th in England in 2014.
Old, Noble

Hidalgo

Hidalgo can be traced back to the 12th century as “fidalgus,” or “hijo de algo,” meaning “son of something.” It was given to noblemen and some knights to distinguish them from the peasants and farmers.

  • Origin: Spanish
  • Meaning: Nobleman
  • Pronunciation: Hih-DAAL-gow
  • Variations: Hidalgoe, Hidalgow
  • Namesakes: Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris since 2014. Juan S.P. Hidalgo, a Filipino writer and the editor of Bannawag.
  • Popularity: Hidalgo ranked 1,220th worldwide, is mostly used in Mexico, and ranked 65th in Costa Rica in 2014.
Uncommon, Noble

Hildebrand

Hildebrand is an offshoot of the German Hiltibrant and Old Norse Hildibrandr. It’s made up of the German “hild,” meaning “battle,” and “brand,” meaning “sword.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Battle sword
  • Pronunciation: HIHL-deh-Brand
  • Namesakes: J.R. Hildebrand, an American race car driver and winner of the 2009 Indy Lights championship. Dan Hildebrand, a British actor appearing on the series Game of Thrones.
  • Popularity: Hildebrand is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 631st in Germany in 2014.
Strong, Old

Holloway

Like other Middle Ages last names, Holloway is tied to a place name. It means “lived by the sunken road” and is composed of the Old English “holh,” meaning “hollow,” and “weg,” meaning “way.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Of the hollow way
  • Pronunciation: HAHL-ah-Waey
  • Variations: Hollway, Holoway
  • Namesakes: Liddy Holloway, a New Zealand actress appearing in the soap opera Prisoner. Nancy Holloway, an American jazz singer who performed at the Moulin Rouge in 1959.
  • Popularity: Holloway is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 356th in Wales in 2014.
Traditional, Geographical

Howell

Howell is based on the Welsh first name Hywel, meaning “eminent.” It’s also associated with Higuel, meaning “well seen,” and was given to “the son of Hoel.”

  • Origin: English, Welsh
  • Meaning: Prominent
  • Pronunciation: HOW-ehl
  • Variations: Howells, Howel
  • Namesakes: Buddy Howell, an American football player with the Miami Dolphins. Leonard Howell, a Jamaican preacher of the Rastafari movement known as The First Rasta.
  • Popularity: Howell is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 118th in Wales in 2014.
Strong, Traditional

Hurst

Hurst was an English surname for someone living near “a wooded hill.” It derives from the Old English “hyrst,” meaning “wood” or “thicket.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: At the wood
  • Pronunciation: HIHRST
  • Variations: Hirst
  • Namesakes: Lee Hurst, an English comedian appearing on the show They Think It’s All Over from 1995 to 1997. Ryan Hurst, an American actor known for Remember the Titans (2000).
  • Popularity: Hurst is rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S., ranking 701st in 2021.
Geographical, Unique
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Jacobi

Jacobi originated in Silesia, Germany, where people related to the Jacobi clan were called “Jacob’s brothers.” It’s also used for “descendants of Jacob,” meaning “the supplanter” in Hebrew.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Son of Jacob
  • Pronunciation: Jah-KOW-bee
  • Variations: Jacoby
  • Namesakes: Derek Jacobi, an English actor given a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. Fabian Jacobi, a German member of the Bundestag since 2017.
  • Popularity: Jacobi is rare worldwide and primarily used in Germany, where it ranked 807th in 2014.
Patronymic, Old

Jaeger

Jaegher is a traditional occupational surname originating with the Middle German “jeger(e),” meaning “hunter.” Hunting was considered a worthwhile activity for badass medieval knights in the feudal era.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Hunter
  • Pronunciation: YAEY-gehr
  • Variations: Jäger, Jager, Jæger
  • Namesakes: Maximilian Jaeger, a Swiss Minister in Budapest from 1925 to 1944. Jeff Todd Jaeger, an American football player with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders.
  • Popularity: Jaeger is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 793rd in 2014.
Strong, Occupational

Jasper

Jasper comes from the French Gaspard, from “gaspar,” meaning “bringer of treasure.” It dates back to one of the three biblical Magi and became a 12th-century French surname for a “treasurer.”

  • Origin: French, Persian
  • Meaning: Treasurer
  • Pronunciation: JAAS-pehr
  • Variations: Jaspar, Jaspers
  • Namesakes: Chris Jasper, an American singer and member of the Isley Brothers. Paul G. Jasper, an American justice of the Indiana Supreme Court from 1949 to 1953.
  • Popularity: Jasper is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 775th in Liberia in 2014.
Patronymic, Occupational

Kaiser

Kaiser is the German title for a “king” or “ruler.” It’s an alternative form of the Roman Caesar and wasn’t just for medieval kings. Kaiser was also used for someone who played the king in plays.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Emperor
  • Pronunciation: KAEY-sehr
  • Variations: Kayser, Keiser
  • Namesakes: Robert Blair Kaiser, an American correspondent for Time Magazine. Joseph Kaiser, a Canadian opera singer appearing in The Magic Flute.
  • Popularity: Kaiser is uncommon worldwide and primarily used in Germany, where it ranked 41st in 2014.
Royal, Title

King

King may be the medieval surname with the most royal and obvious aesthetic. It derives from the Old English “cyning,” meaning “tribal leader.” King was a surname for anyone acting like they were the king, even if they were a peasant.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: King (title)
  • Namesakes: B.B. King, an American blues guitarist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Carole King, an American singer-songwriter who wrote 118 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Popularity: King ranked 592nd worldwide, is mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 18th in Australia in 2014.
Title, Popular

Kipling

Kipling was used for someone “of Kiplin,” a place located in Yorkshire, England. It also means “Cyppel’s people” and has few namesakes other than Rudyard Kipling, a 19th-century novelist known for The Jungle Book.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Of Kiplin
  • Pronunciation: KIHP-ling
  • Variations: Kippling, Kypling
  • Popularity: Kipling is very rare worldwide and mainly used in England.
Geographical, Uncommon

Knight

Knight is probably the most well-known title among medieval last names. It refers to a “man-at-arms” or “a military follower.” It’s based on the Old English “criht,” meaning “youth.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Serving lad
  • Pronunciation: NIYHT
  • Variations: Knighte
  • Namesakes: Jabez C. Knight, the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island from 1859 to 1864. Phil Knight, an American billionaire who co-founded Nike, Inc.
  • Popularity: Knight ranked 1,828th worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 88th in England in 2014.
Occupational, Common

Lancaster

Though based on the city of Lancashire, England, it’s come to represent a “walled city” and spawned the invented Lannister. You may associate it with a mage, or magician because of the Lannister family in the fantasy series Game of Thrones.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: River fort
  • Pronunciation: LAENK-ahs-Ster
  • Variations: Lancashire, Lancester
  • Namesakes: Tyler Lancaster, an American football player for the Denver Broncos. Alan Lancaster, an English bassist for the rock band Status Quo.
  • Popularity: Lancaster is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 588th in England in 2014.
Geographical, Traditional

Lange

Lang was first a nickname for anyone “tall” or “long.” It became part of names like Langdale, Langham, and Langley. Lange is also associated with the Gaelic “O’Longain,” meaning “descendent of “Longain.”

  • Origin: English, Gaelic
  • Meaning: Long
  • Pronunciation: LANG-uh
  • Variations: Lang
  • Namesakes: Robert John “Mutt” Lange, a South African record producer known for recording with Def Leppard. Jessica Lange, an American actress and winner of the Triple Crown of Acting
  • Popularity: Lange is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in Germany, ranking 23rd in 2014.
Nicknames, Common

Lister

Lister was an occupational surname for a “dyer of fabrics,” from the Old English “lystare.” In Norse, it’s also associated with a “salmon spear,” a much different occupation.

  • Origin: English, Norse
  • Meaning: Dyer
  • Pronunciation: LIHS-ter
  • Variations: Lyster, Litster
  • Namesakes: Steve Lister, an English footballer for the Doncaster Rovers. S. E. Lister, an English writer nominated for the 2015 Edinburgh First Book Award.
  • Popularity: Lister is rare worldwide and primarily used in England, where it ranked 647th in 2014.
Unique, Occupational
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Lovell

Lovell began as the French Louvel, a nickname for a small man. It existed as both Luvel and Lovel, and also refers to “the son of Lovel,” for descendents of Love.

  • Origin: English, French
  • Meaning: Little wolf
  • Pronunciation: Low-VEHL
  • Variations: Lovel
  • Namesakes: John C. Lovell, an American sailor and silver medalist at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Wendy Lovell, the Australian Minister for Housing from 2010 to 2014.
  • Popularity: Lovell is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 699th in Australia in 2014.
Patronymic, Unique

Lyndon

Lyndon was first used for a resident at “the hill of Linden trees.” It means “linden” (lime) tree hill” in Old English and refers to a place located in the East Midlands.

  • Origin: English, Irish
  • Meaning: Linden tree hill
  • Pronunciation: LIHN-dohn
  • Variations: Linden, Lindon
  • Namesakes: Neil Lyndon, an English journalist for The Sunday Times. Donlyn Lyndon, an American architect who co-designed Sea Ranch, California.
  • Popularity: Lyndon is very rare worldwide and mainly used in England.
Traditional, Uncommon

Mannix

Mannix traces back to the Gaelic “manach,” meaning “monk.” It was used for the descendents of a monk in Ireland, as an example of medieval surnames based on occupation.

  • Origin: Irish, Gaelic
  • Meaning: Monk
  • Pronunciation: MAAN-icks
  • Variations: Manix
  • Namesakes: Fred Mannix Jr., a Canadian polo player and the highest-ranked Canadian polo player on the world polo tour. Daniel P. Mannix, an American writer known for Those About to Die.
  • Popularity: Mannix is very rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 138th in Antigua and Barbuda in 2014.
Unusual, Occupational

Mortimer

Mortimer was often used for those hailing from Mortemer in Seine-Maritime, France. It also refers to the Old French “mort(e),” meaning “dead,” and “mer,” meaning “sea,” alluding to a place with swampy ground.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: From Mortemer
  • Pronunciation: MOHR-tih-Mer
  • Variations: Mortimore, Mortimor
  • Namesakes: Emily Mortimer, a British actress known for the series Doll & Em (2014 to 2015). Stephen Mortimer, an Australian rugby league footballer for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
  • Popularity: Mortimer is rare worldwide, mostly used in England, and ranked 729th in Wales in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Nilsen

Nilson is often confused with Neilson, meaning “son of the champion.” This Nilsen is Scandinavian and was intended for a “son of Niels.” It’s the most common surname in Denmark today.

  • Origin: Norse
  • Meaning: Son of Niels
  • Pronunciation: NIHL-sehn
  • Variations: Nielsen
  • Namesakes: Elin Nilsen, a Norwegian cross-country skier and silver medalist at the 1998 Winter Olympics. Oliver John Nilsen, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1951 to 1952.
  • Popularity: Nilsen is rare worldwide and mainly used in Norway, ranking 6th in 2014.
Patronymic, Traditional

Otto

Like Audo and Udo, Otto was first a personal name used for names beginning with “aud-,” meaning “prosperity.” It dates back to the 7th-century and Odo, the “son of Uro,” whose descendants were called Otto.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Wealth
  • Pronunciation: AO-Tow
  • Variations: Oddo
  • Namesakes: Shawn Lawrence Otto, an American filmmaker known for The House of Sand and Fog (2003). John Otto, an American drummer for Limp Bizkit.
  • Popularity: Otto is rare worldwide and primarily used in Germany, where it ranked 78th in 2014.
Noble, Common

Pearson

Pearson became a surname for those descended from “Pierre” or “Piers,” older French forms of Peter. This name became Pearse in Old English, transforming it from Pierson to Pearson.

  • Origin: English, French
  • Meaning: Son of Piers
  • Pronunciation: PEER-suhn
  • Variations: Pierson
  • Namesakes: Michele Pearson, an Australian swimmer and bronze medalist at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Linley E. Pearson, the 27th Attorney General of Indiana from 1981 to 1993.
  • Popularity: Pearson is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 99th in England in 2014.
Patronymic, Popular

Pellegrino

Pellegrino is Italian for “pilgrim,” which was a nickname for someone who went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was also used for pilgrims to other holy sites like Santiago de Compostela.

  • Origin: Italian, Latin
  • Meaning: Pilgrim
  • Pronunciation: Peh-leh-GREEN-oh
  • Variations: Pellegrìn, Pellerino
  • Namesakes: Andrea Pellegrino, an Italian tennis player and doubles champion at the 2023 Chile Open. Frank Pellegrino, an American actor appearing in Goodfellas (1990).
  • Popularity: Pellegrino is rare worldwide and mainly used in Italy, ranking 69th in 2014.
Patronymic, Nicknames

Pomeroy

Pomeroy derives from the French “pommeraie,” meaning “apple orchard.” It became the name for many medieval villages in France known for their apples. Some surnames sprung from Pomeroy, like “De la Pommeraye,” for those who called the apple orchard home.

  • Origin: French
  • Meaning: Apple orchard
  • Pronunciation: PAA-meh-Roy
  • Variations: de Pomeroy, Pommery
  • Namesakes: Allan Pomeroy, the 43rd mayor of Seattle, Washington from 1952, to 1956. Mark M. Pomeroy, an American journalist known for anti-Lincoln sentiment during the American Civil War.
  • Popularity: Pomeroy is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Uncommon, Unique

Quevedo

Quevedo is a lesser-known Spanish surname meant for someone from the town of Quevada in northern Spain. Many link it to the Spanish term “pero que ojos,” a compliment for someone with beautiful eyes.

  • Origin: Spanish
  • Meaning: One from Queveda
  • Pronunciation: Keh-VEH-Doh
  • Variations: Quevido
  • Namesakes: Oswaldo Quevedo, a Venezuelan swimmer who competed at the 2000 South American Championships. Carla Quevedo, an Argentine actress known for The Secret in Their Eyes (2009).
  • Popularity: Quevedo is rare worldwide, primarily used in Mexico, and ranked 265th in Argentina in 2014.
Geographical, Common
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Roland

Roland originated as Rollant, based on the German “hrod,” meaning “renown,” and “land,” meaning “territory.” A famous medieval Rolland was one of Charlemagne’s warriors.

  • Origin: English, German
  • Meaning: Fame of the land
  • Pronunciation: ROW-land
  • Variations: Rolland, Rowland
  • Namesakes: John Roland, an American reporter for NBC News. Floyd Roland, the 11th premier of the Canadian Northwest Territories from 2007 to 2011.
  • Popularity: Roland is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 87th in Chad in 2014.
Common, Traditional

Rossi

Rossi is a classic Italian surname given to someone with “red hair” or a “ruddy complexion.” It’s associated with the Italian “rosso,” meaning “red,” and was the most common surname in northern Italy in 2019.

  • Origin: Italian, Latin
  • Meaning: Red
  • Pronunciation: RAW-siy
  • Variations: De Rossi, DeRossi
  • Namesakes: Francesca Rossi, an Italian basketball player who competed at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Valeria Rossi, an Italian singer known for the 2001 song “Tre parole.”
  • Popularity: Rossi ranked 1,016th worldwide and is primarily used in Italy, where it ranked number one in Italy in 2014.
Popular, Traditional

Santos

Santos is a plural of Santo and originated with the Latin “sanctus,” meaning “sacred place.” It sometimes appeared as Dos Santos in Portugal for babies born on All Saints’ Day.

  • Origin: Spanish
  • Meaning: Saints
  • Pronunciation: SAEN-Tows
  • Variations: Dos Santos, De Santos
  • Namesakes: Charo Santos, a Filipino CEO of ABS-CBN Corporation from 2012 to 2016. José Eduardo dos Santos, the president of Angola from 1979 to 2017.
  • Popularity: Santos ranked 131st worldwide, is mostly used in Brazil, and ranked number one in Portugal in 2014.
Popular, Old

Schlosser

Schlosser has a unique occupational association for those who “work at a castle.” It originated in Bavaria, where many medieval family names first became known.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Castle worker
  • Pronunciation: SHLAW-suhr
  • Variations: Schloss
  • Namesakes: Eric Schlosser, an American journalist known for Fast Food Nation (2001). Imre Schlosser, a Hungarian footballer and the highest goalscorer in Hungarian history.
  • Popularity: Schlosser is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 601st in Austria in 2014.
Occupational, Unique

Shepherd

Shepherd is made up of the Old English “sceap,” meaning “sheep,” and “hierde,” meaning “herdsman.” It appears as Schaefer in Germany, yet it has multiple spelling variations today.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Sheepherder
  • Pronunciation: SHEHP-ehrd
  • Variations: Shepherd, Shephard, Sheppard
  • Namesakes: Chandler Shepherd, an American baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles. Mark Shepherd, the American CEO of Texas Instruments.
  • Popularity: Shepherd is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 129th in Barbados in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Sommer

Sommer is based on the Old German “sumar,” meaning “summer.” It’s also used for “the son of Summer” and is best known in Bavaria, where the Somers family was founded.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Summer
  • Pronunciation: SOHM-ehr
  • Variations: Sommers
  • Namesakes: Tim Sommer, an American bass player for the band Hugo Largo. Renate Sommer, a German member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2019.
  • Popularity: Sommer is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 75th in 2014.
Unique, Old

Squire

Squire derives from “esquire” and the Old French “escuier,” meaning “shield bearer.” A squire was also called a “scutifer” in medieval English, an “attendant upon a knight.”

  • Origin: English. French
  • Meaning: Shieldbearer
  • Pronunciation: SKWAEY-uhr
  • Variations: Squair, Squires
  • Namesakes: Nikki Squire, an Irish cricketer for the Irish national team. Rachel Squire, an English member of Parliament from 1992 to 2005.
  • Popularity: Squire is rare worldwide and mainly used in Sierra Leone, where it ranked 153rd in 2014.
Title, Strong

Stark

Stark is based on the Old English “strearc,” meaning “severe,” “strong,” and “unyielding.” It’s best represented by Tony Stark, a.k.a. Ironman.

  • Origin: English, Scottish
  • Meaning: Firm
  • Variations: Starks, Starke
  • Namesakes: Johannes Stark, a German physicist awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1919. Melissa Stark, an American sideline reporter for NBC Sunday Night Football.
  • Popularity: Stark is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 218th in Germany in 2014.
Strong, Nicknames

Stoddard

Stoddard is a variation of Stothard, given to “a keeper of cattle or horses.” It’s composed of the Middle English “stot,” meaning “steer,” and “herd(e),” meaning “herdsman.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Herdsmen
  • Pronunciation: Stoddart, Stoddard
  • Variations: STAA-dahrd
  • Namesakes: Thomas Benton Stoddard, the first mayor of La Crosse, Wisconsin from 1856 to 1857. Corinne Stoddard, an American speed skater who competed at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
  • Popularity: Stoddard is rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S.
Occupational, Uncommon

Strome

Strome comes from the Swedish Ström, meaning “current.” It’s a geographical name for someone living near “a river or a stream,” especially in Germany.

  • Origin: Scandinavian, German
  • Meaning: Current
  • Pronunciation: STROHM
  • Variations: Stormer
  • Namesakes: Ryan Strome, a Canadian ice hockey player for the Anaheim Ducks. Howard Storm, an American director known for the sitcom Laverne & Shirley.
  • Popularity: Strome is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Unique, Rare
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Templeton

Templeton refers to someone from Templeton in Devon, England. It dates back to the 7th-century Dark Ages and Old English “templ,” meaning “temple,” and “tun,” meaning “village.”

  • Origin: English, Scottish
  • Meaning: From Templeton
  • Pronunciation: TEM-pehl-Tohn
  • Variations: Templetone, Tempellton
  • Namesakes: Suzie Templeton, a British animator known for Peter and the Wolf. Ian Templeton, a New Zealand reporter for the New Zealand Parliament.
  • Popularity: Templeton is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 921st in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Old

Thayer

Thayer is taken from the Old English “þeġer,” meaning “a person who lays thatch.” It originated in Somerset, associated with “tawyer,” typically given to “one who dressed skins.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Tanner
  • Pronunciation: THAEY-er
  • Variations: Tayer
  • Namesakes: W. W. Thayer, the sixth Governor of Oregon from 1878 to 1882. Ernest Thayer, an American writer who wrote “Casey at the Bat.”
  • Popularity: Thayer is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S., ranking 1,995th in 2014.
Patronymic, Occupational

Thorne

Thorne may allude to a place referred to as “the thorn” or simply to any place with a “clump of thorns.” It relates to Thorne, in Somerset, England, where there may have been a lot of thorny bushes around.

  • Origin: English, Norse
  • Meaning: Thorn bush
  • Pronunciation: THAORN
  • Variations: Thorn
  • Namesakes: Ryan Thorne, a Canadian head basketball coach for the McGill Redbirds. Frank Thorne, an American comic book artist known for the Marvel character Red Sonja.
  • Popularity: Thorne is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 228th in Barbados in 2014.
Geographical, Common

Tinoco

Tinoco derives from the Spanish-Castilian “tino,” meaning “marksmanship.” It was also a nickname for anyone “reasonable” or with “intellect.”

  • Origin: Spanish
  • Meaning: Sensible
  • Pronunciation: Tih-NOUW-Kow
  • Variations: Tiñoco
  • Namesakes: Gerson Tinoco, a Guatemalan footballer for Xelajú MC. Rodolfo Aguirre Tinoco, a Mexican artist with exhibitions at the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana.
  • Popularity: Tinoco is rare worldwide, primarily used in Mexico, and ranked 135th in Nicaragua in 2014.
Noble, Unique

Tobias

Tobias is better known as a boy’s name originating from the Hebrew Tovya,” meaning “God is good.” In the Bible, Tobias is a hero who defeats a demon with help from the archangel Raphael.

  • Origin: English, Hebrew
  • Meaning: God is good
  • Pronunciation: Toh-BEE-ahs
  • Namesakes: Isabella Tobias, an Israeli ice dancer and bronze medalist at the 2011 Skate America. Jesse Tobias, an American guitarist for Morrissey since 2004.
  • Popularity: Tobias is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 62nd in Namibia in 2014.
Old, Traditional

Townsend

Townsend represents a place located at a “town’s end” or the edges of a village. Townsend’s been used for places in Yorkshire and Norfolk, among others.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: At the town’s end
  • Pronunciation: TOUN-Zuhnd
  • Variations: Townshend, Townend
  • Namesakes: Stuart Townsend, an Irish actor appearing in Queen of the Damned (2002). John Rowe Townsend, an English children’s writer who won the 1971 Edgar Award.
  • Popularity: Townsend is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 266th in Jamaica in 2014.
Geographical, Common

Tudor

Tudor was first a Welsh given name relating to the Celtic Toutorīx, meaning “people” and “king.” It’s thought to be a form of the Latin Theodorus and sometimes appears as Tewdwr.

  • Origin: English, Welsh
  • Meaning: People’s king
  • Pronunciation: TUW-dohr
  • Namesakes: Adrian Tudor, a Romanian basketball player for BCM U Pitesti. Antony Tudor, an English ballet choreographer who founded the London Ballet.
  • Popularity: Tudor is rare worldwide and mainly used in Romania, where it ranked 23rd in 2014.
Royal, Old

Turner

Turner was the name of a person who “worked with a lathe,” or tool to form wood. It’s based on the Old French “tornier,” meaning “lathe,” yet was also given to someone “in charge of a tournament.”

  • Origin: English, French
  • Meaning: One who works with a lathe
  • Pronunciation: TUHR-nuhr
  • Variations: Turrner
  • Namesakes: Kathleen Turner, an American actress known for Prizzi’s Honor (1985). Sukhi Turner, the Indian-New Zealand mayor of Dunedin, New Zealand, from 1995 to 2004.
  • Popularity: Turner ranked 788th worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 25th in England in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Villanueva

Villanueva means “one who came from Villanueva” – the name of multiple places in Spain. It’s made up of the Spanish “villa,” meaning “settlement,” and “nueva,” meaning “new.”

  • Origin: Spanish
  • Meaning: New estate
  • Pronunciation: VIHL-ah-nuw-EHV-Ah
  • Variations: Villinueva
  • Namesakes: Eduar Villanueva, a Venezuelan runner who competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Rafael Villanueva, a Dominican principal conductor of the Dominican National Symphonic Orchestra from 1994 to 1995.
  • Popularity: Villanueva ranked 725th worldwide and is primarily used in the Philippines, ranking 10th in 2014.
Geographical, Popular

Volpe

Volpe is the Italian word for “fox” and became a nickname for a “sly or cunning” person. It also means “dweller at the sign of the fox” as a surname.

  • Origin: Italian, Latin
  • Meaning: Fox-like
  • Pronunciation: VOHL-peh
  • Variations: Volpi
  • Namesakes: Petra Volpe, a Swiss director known for The Divine Order (2017). Joe Volpe, a member of the House of Commons of Canada from 1988 to 2011.
  • Popularity: Volpe is rare worldwide and mainly used in Italy, where it ranked 153rd in 2014.
Nicknames, Geographical
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Kids having great time sitting on the beach200+ Tantalizing Last Names Starting With T (From Exotic to Popular)

Wainwright

Wainwright is one of many Middle Ages last names based on an occupation. It derives from the Old English “waegnwyrhta,” meaning “wagon builder,” a very important job in medieval times.

  • Origin: English, Welsh
  • Meaning: Wagon maker
  • Pronunciation: WEYN-Raeyt
  • Variations: Wainright, Wainwrigt
  • Namesakes: Sally Wainwright, an English TV writer known for the series At Home with the Braithwaites (2000 to 2003). Aaron Wainwright, a Welsh rugby union player for Dragons.
  • Popularity: Wainwright is rare worldwide, primarily used in England, and ranked 629th in Wales in 2014.
Occupational, Traditional

Walden

Walden likely referred to a person from Walden in Essex. It’s composed of the Old English “weald,” meaning “forest” and “dene,” meaning “valley.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Forest valley
  • Pronunciation: WAAL-Dehn
  • Variations: Waldern, Waldon
  • Namesakes: Ricky Walden, an English snooker and winner of the 2014 International Championship. Louise Walden, an English ice dancer and gold medalist at the 2010 Ice Challenge.
  • Popularity: Walden is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S., ranking 1,306th in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Walker

In the Middle Ages, a “walker” was also known as a “fuller,” an occupation in England and Germany. It denoted a person who thickened fabric by hitting it with their hands or feet to make it soft.

  • Origin: English, German
  • Meaning: Fuller
  • Pronunciation: WAOK-ehr
  • Variations: Wallker, Walkere
  • Namesakes: Murphy Walker, a Scottish rugby union player for the Scotland national team. Scott Walker, an American-British singer-songwriter with four UK top 10 solo albums.
  • Popularity: Walker ranked 543rd worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 14th in England and Australia in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Wallace

Though famous in Scotland, Wallace is linked with the Old French “waleis,” meaning “Welshman.” It also means “foreigner,” “Celt,” and “Roman,” as a funny nickname for any “stranger.”

  • Origin: Scottish, Celtic
  • Meaning: Welshman
  • Pronunciation: WAA-Lahs
  • Variations: Wallais, Wallice
  • Namesakes: David Foster Wallace, an American writer known for Infinite Jest (1996). Nicolle Wallace, an American anchor for Deadline: White House on MSNBC.
  • Popularity: Wallace ranked 1,427th worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 50th in Scotland in 2014.
Old, Common

Wesley

Wesley is made up of the Old English “west,” meaning “western,” and “lēah,” meaning “woodland clearing.” It was first found in Cambridgeshire but might have appeared as Westle in the half-pagan 11th-century.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Western meadow
  • Pronunciation: WEHS-liy
  • Variations: Westly, Westley
  • Namesakes: Fred Wesley, an American trombonist performing with Parliament-Funkadelic. Rutina Wesley, an American actress known for the series True Blood.
  • Popularity: Wesley is rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S., where it ranked 1,551st in 2014.
Unique, Geographical

Weston

It’s no surprise Weston is an English place name from the Old English “west,” meaning “western,” and “tūn,” meaning “farmstead settlement.” Richard Weston was a 17th-century agriculturist who made crop rotation a farming tradition.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: From the western town
  • Pronunciation: WES-Tahn
  • Variations: Westone
  • Namesakes: Hilary Weston, the Irish–Canadian Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1997 to 2002. Michael Weston, an American actor appearing on the series House.
  • Popularity: Weston is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 325th in England in 2014.
Unique, Common

Wheeler

Wheeler is one of the trusted medieval occupations, which denoted a “maker of wheels.” It’s made up of the Old English “hweogol,” the 8th-century word for “wheel.”

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Wheelwright
  • Pronunciation: WEE-luhr
  • Variations: Wheler
  • Namesakes: Lucile Wheeler, a Canadian alpine ski racer and double world champion in 1958. Tim Wheeler, a Northern Irish musician with the rock band Ash.
  • Popularity: Wheeler is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 201st in Wales in 2014.
Occupational, Old

Wilde

Though considered English and Irish, Wilde originated in German Bavaria. It means “wild” and “out of control,” whether talking about someone’s personality or the palace they lived in.

  • Origin: German, English
  • Meaning: Uncultivated
  • Pronunciation: WAEYLD
  • Variations: Wild
  • Namesakes: Oscar Wilde, an Irish poet known for The Picture of Dorian Gray. Kim Wilde, an English pop singer known for Kids in America (1981).
  • Popularity: Wilde is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 723rd in Germany in 2014.
Unique, Nicknames

Willoughby

Willoughby is composed of the Old English “wilig,” meaning “willow,” and Old Norse “bȳ,” meaning “farmstead.” The first Willoughby was Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, an English village in 13th-century Nottinghamshire.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: Willow village
  • Pronunciation: WIHL-ow-Biy
  • Variations: Willughby
  • Namesakes: Holly Willoughby, an English co-host of This Morning since 2009. Kim Willoughby, an American volleyball player and silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
  • Popularity: Willoughby is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,258th in Australia in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Wood

Wood comes from the Old English “wode,” meaning “wood.” It also means “at the wood” and was used for someone living in a forest. Wood is popular in England and ranked among the top 100 U.S. surnames.

  • Origin: English
  • Meaning: At the wood
  • Pronunciation: WUHD
  • Variations: Woode
  • Namesakes: Ed Wood, an American filmmaker known for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). Elijah Wood, an American actor known for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001 to 2003).
  • Popularity: Wood ranked 894th worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 22nd in England in 2014.
Geographical, Popular
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Medieval Family Names FAQs

How Did Last Names Work in Medieval Europe?

In medieval society, children took their fathers’ last names since most family names were patronymic. Many others focused on an occupation, trade, location, or nickname based on personal attributes.

Did Medieval Kings Have Surnames?

British royals did not have a surname before 1917. Beyond their personal name, members of the royal family used names denoting their royal house or dynasty. 1917 marked the beginning of the House of Windsor in England, which is still the British Royal Family’s surname today.

How Common Is the Last Name Knight?

In 2014, Knight ranked 1,828th worldwide, was primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 90th in England in 2019. It started as an official title for a “man-at-arms.” Some people with the last name Knight are descendents of knights from the Middle Ages.

Is Lannister a Real Last Name?

Though there are some people named Lannister today, it’s really an offshoot of the British surname Lancaster. It dates back to 1086 and the town of Lancaster in northwest England. Members of the invented Lannister family are best known as characters in the Game of Thrones series.

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About the Author

Maryana Vestic

Maryana Vestic is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and food photographer with a background in entertainment Business Affairs. She studied film at NYU, Irish Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and has an MFA in Creative Writing Nonfiction from The New School. She loves cooking, baking, hiking, and horror films, as well as running a local baking business in Brooklyn with her boyfriend.
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