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100 Unique Native American Last Names: With Meanings

Updated
Unearth the colorful history behind Native American last names to discover an ancient tradition made official just over a century ago.

Native American tribes didn’t officially use surnames until the start of the 20th-century. These names came from various sources and cultures, making understanding Native American surnames difficult.

Our detail-oriented name list below has virtually every kind of name present in Native American culture. There’s much to understand, from adopted European surnames to last names based on mythology or topography. You’ll find accurate pronunciations, name variations, and the stories behind each one.


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100 Popular Native American Last Names

Get ready to dive into Native American last names and learn something new and exciting.

Acothley

Acothley is a Navajo tribe word meaning “cowboy” from “kałii.” It also means “joyful” in English.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Cowboy
  • Pronunciation: Ah-COHTH-lee
  • Popularity: Acothley is extremely rare worldwide, with 51 known occurrences in 2014 in the U.S.
Occupational, Rare

Adakai

Adakai’s meanings have multiple origins in Indian American culture. It’s made up of “adikaʼí,” meaning “gambler” and “card player,” and is also associated with “adishka,” meaning “to play cards.” Adakai can also mean “gambling hands.”

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Gambler
  • Pronunciation: Ah-DAA-kaey
  • Variations: Adakaï
  • Popularity: Adakai is very rare worldwide and mostly used in Togo.
Nicknames, Funny

Akecheta

Akecheta means “fighter” for the Sioux tribe. It also refers to a Native Lakota “warrior.”

  • Origin: Native American, Sioux
  • Meaning: Fighter
  • Pronunciation: Ah-KEY-cheh-Taa
  • Popularity: Akecheta is extremely rare worldwide, with just three known occurrences in 2014 in the U.S.
Strong, Unique

Alberty

Alberty is an alternative spelling of the Italian Alberti, a surname first seen in the U.S. in the 1920s. It means “bright” or “noble” person when based on the Old Latin Albertus.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Famous in everything
  • Pronunciation: AAL-berh-Tiy
  • Variations: Albert, Alberti
  • Namesakes: Robert Arnold Alberty, an American chemist known for his work with biochemical thermodynamics. Vivián Alberty, a Puerto Rican diver who competed at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
  • Popularity: Alberty is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Funny, Unusual

Alexander

Alexander began as an English surname meaning “son of Alexander” and is a well-known boy’s name. It’s also linked to the Scottish-Gaelic MacAlasdair, meaning “son of Alasdair.”

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Defender of man
  • Pronunciation: Ah-lehk-SAHN-Dehr
  • Variations: Alesander
  • Namesakes: Jay Alexander, an American magician and Learn the Art of Magic host. Lucy Alexander, an English TV presenter and host of the Homes Under the Hammer series.
  • Popularity: Alexander ranked 1,190th worldwide and is primarily used in the U.S., where it ranked 101st in 2014.
Strong, Traditional

Angpetu

Besides being a girl’s name, Angpetu has no available popularity statistics. Its origin is Sioux and means “daytime” or “radiant.”

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Day
  • Pronunciation: AENG-peh-Tuw
Rare, Ancient

Apache

Apache is the name for roughly 10 Native American tribes and derives from the Zuni “apachu,” meaning “enemy.” It’s associated with Awa’tehe, the Ute name for Apaches who arrived in the southwest U.S. between 1000 and 1400 CE.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Enemy
  • Pronunciation: Ah-PAT-chee
  • Namesakes: Mariella Torres (known as Mari Apache), a Mexican wrestler and two-time AAA World Mixed Tag Team Champion.
  • Popularity: Apache is very rare worldwide and mostly used in Colombia, where it’s slightly uncommon.
Unusual, Traditional

Arrow

As an English surname, Arrow was used for someone from Arrowe in Cheshire, England. It’s also a Celtic word for “stream,” while, among Native American last names, arrows symbolize protection.

  • Origin: Native American, Celtic
  • Meaning: Stream
  • Pronunciation: AEYR-ow
  • Variations: Arowe, Arrows
  • Namesakes: Gilbert John Arrow, an English Deputy Keeper of the Natural History Museum in London from 1896 to 1938. Kenneth Arrow, an American economist, and co-winner of the 1972 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
  • Popularity: Arrow is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Unique, Uncommon

Austenaco

Austenaco is the all-important Cherokee word for “chief,” an indigenous American title for a leader. Its popularity is unknown but is likely inspired by Ostenaco, an 18th-century Cherokee leader known for his diplomacy with British colonists.

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Chief
  • Pronunciation: Auhs-teh-NAA-Kow
Strong, Rare

Awaikta

Awaikta is so rare it has no numbers on popularity worldwide. It’s a Cherokee name meaning “eye of the deer,” which may relate to the occupation or nickname for a hunter.

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Eye of the deer
  • Pronunciation: Ah-WAEYK-Taa
  • Namesakes: Marilou Awiakta, an American writer, awarded the 1989 Distinguished Tennessee Writer Award.
Unusual, Earthy
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Begay

Begay comes from the Navajo “biye,” meaning “his son.” It’s also a French surname given to someone with a stutter and first appeared in Normandy. Begay is considered the third most popular of Native American surnames.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: His son
  • Pronunciation: Beh-GAY
  • Variations: Beghe
  • Namesakes: Keats Begay, a Navajo-American painter with work displayed at the National Gallery of Art. Notah Begay III, a Native American golfer and commentator with NBC Sports.
  • Popularity: Begay is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Unique, Traditional

Benally

Benally is based on the Navajo “binálí,” meaning “his grandchild.” It’s an example of Native American family names that were officially required around 1900.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: His grandchild
  • Pronunciation: Beh-NAA-liy
  • Variations: Benely
  • Namesakes: Jeneda Benally, a Native American bass player and member of the punk rock group Blackfire. Wenona Benally, a Navajo American member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 2017 to 2019.
  • Popularity: Benally is very rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S.
Uncommon, Traditional

Bernard

Bernard relates to the German Bernhard or Beornheard, meaning “strong or brave as a bear.” It’s made up of “beran,” meaning “bear,” and “hardu,” meaning “hardy,” and links to the Old English Beornhard, meaning “brave warrior.”

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Hardy bear
  • Pronunciation: Buhr-NAARD
  • Variations: Barnard
  • Namesakes: Laurent Bernard, a French basketball player for the French men’s national basketball team. Jeffrey Bernard, an English journalist known for the Low Life column in The Spectator magazine.
  • Popularity: Bernard ranked 1,319th worldwide, is mainly used in France, and ranked 844th in the U.S. in 2014.
Common, Strong

Bitsui

Bitsui is based on the Navajo “bitsóí,” meaning “his grandchild.” It shares a similar meaning with the surname Benally.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: His grandchild
  • Pronunciation: Biht-SUWEE
  • Variations: Bitsuie
  • Namesakes: Jeremiah Bitsui, an American actor known for the AMC series Breaking Bad. Sherwin Bitsui, a Navajo-American writer whose book Flood Song, won the PEN Open Book Award.
  • Popularity: Bitsui is extremely rare worldwide, with 218 known occurrences in 2014, primarily in the U.S.
Rare, Ancient

Blackfoot

The Blackfoot Indians acquired their name because of the black color of their moccasins, darkened by ashes. Ash from prairie fires caused their dark soles, and they are based in what is present-day Montana.

  • Origin: Native American, Blackfoot
  • Meaning: Member of the Blackfoot tribe
  • Pronunciation: BLAHK-fuht
  • Variations: Blackfeet
  • Namesakes: J. D. Blackfoot, an American rock musician known for the album The Song of Crazy Horse (2001). John Colbert (J. Blackfoot), an American soul singer and member of The Soul Children group.
  • Popularity: Blackfoot is extremely rare worldwide, with 33 known occurrences in 2014, mainly in the U.S.
Traditional, Strong

Blackhorse

Blackhorse is also an English surname associated with Blackall in Devon, England. As a Native American name, it’s mostly found in the Dakotas, where black horses symbolize freedom and honor. They’re also seen as a symbol for thunderstorms or the “passing of an era.”

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Black horse
  • Pronunciation: BLACK-Howrs
  • Variations: Blackhall
  • Namesakes: Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo-American activist who contributed to the Washington Redskins football team name case.
  • Popularity: Blackhorse is extremely rare worldwide, with 146 known occurrences in 2014, mostly in the U.S.
Cool, Strong

Blackrock

In England, Blackrock is a place name, but for Native Americans, it’s associated with those living near “black rocks.” Blackrock also refers to eight locations in the U.S.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Living near black rock
  • Pronunciation: BLACK-rawk
  • Popularity: Blackrock is extremely rare worldwide, with 47 known occurrences in 2014, mainly in Ireland.
Geographical, Earthy

Bluebird

Bluebirds hold many associations within Native American culture, from the bluebird among the Sioux to the wind for the Cherokee. Navajo and Pueblo tribes associate bluebirds with the sun, while the Hopi believe bluebirds to be guardians from the west.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Bluebird (species)
  • Pronunciation: BLUW-berd
  • Popularity: Bluebird is extremely rare worldwide, with just 14 known occurrences in 2014, primarily in South Africa.
Earthy, Rare

Branham

Branham is an English surname for someone “from Brantham” (Branta’s homestead) in Suffolk. It’s also associated with the Gaelic O’Braondin, from “braon,” meaning “sorrow.”

  • Origin: Native American, Gaelic
  • Meaning: Sorrow
  • Pronunciation: BRAAN-ahm
  • Variations: Branen
  • Namesakes: Lucy Gwynne Branham, an American suffragist associated with the National Women’s Party. Malaki Branham, an American basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs.
  • Popularity: Branham is rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S., where it’s slightly uncommon.
Traditional, Unique

Bravebird

Bravebird refers to any “birds of prey” in Native American cultures. It’s also a nickname for “brave warriors” in the tribe.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Birds of prey
  • Pronunciation: BRAYV-behrd
  • Namesakes: Mary Bravebird, a Lakota American writer known for the 1990 book Lakota Woman, winner of the 1991 American Book Award.
  • Popularity: Bravebird is extremely rare worldwide, with just three known occurrences in 2014, in the U.S.
Cool, Strong
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Brown

Brown means “the son of Brun” in Old English or is given to someone with brown hair or a brown complexion. It ranks 4th among American surnames and is commonly used by African Americans and Native Americans.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Brown (color)
  • Pronunciation: BROUWN
  • Variations: Broun
  • Namesakes: Pat Brown, the 32nd governor of California from 1959 to 1967. Hilary Brown, a Canadian journalist for CBC News.
  • Popularity: Brown ranked 206th worldwide and is mainly used in the U.S., ranking 4th in 2014.
Popular, Nicknames

Bylilly

Bylilly means “magic” in Navajo and is composed of “bá,” meaning “for him” and “álílee,” meaning “magic power.” It specifically refers to “he who has magical powers” from “álíí,” meaning “magic.”

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Magical power
  • Pronunciation: BAEY-lih-Lee
  • Popularity: Bylilly is extremely rare worldwide, with just ten known occurrences in 2014 in the U.S.
Rare, Cool

Canowicakte

Canowicakte likely relates to the Cherokee Kanati, a short version of Kanohalidohi, meaning “hunter.” Its Sioux meaning is “kills in the woods” and “good hunter of the forests.” Canowicakte is made up of the Lakota “chunwanca,” meaning “forest,” “waoka,” meaning “hunter,” and “kte,” meaning “to kill.”

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Forest hunter
  • Pronunciation: KAN-ow-Wee-CAAK-teh
Occupational, Rare

Catawnee

Catawnee is one of the rarest Native American last names and has no popularity statistics. Its meaning is unclear but likely refers to the Native American Cherokee tribe.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Cherokee clan
  • Pronunciation: Cah-TAAW-nee
Ancient, Traditional

Cetanwakuwa

Cetanwakuwa is quite mysterious, with limited popularity stats, but it’s also a traditional boy’s name meaning “attacking hawk.” It consists of the Lakota “čhetáŋ,” meaning “hawk,” and “wakhúwa,” meaning “to hunt or chase.” The Sioux are comprised of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota tribes, each with their dialect.

  • Origin: Native American, Sioux
  • Meaning: Attacking hawk
  • Pronunciation: Seh-tan-WAA-kuw-Ah
Earthy, Strong

Chatto

Chatto is a very obscure English surname referring to “the lands of Chatto” in Hounam, Roxburghshire. It’s used in the Philippines, meaning “brave warrior” among Tagalog tribes.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Brave warrior
  • Pronunciation: CHAA-toh
  • Variations: Chato
  • Namesakes: Chatto, a Chiricahua-Apache subchief known for raids on settlers in Arizona in the 1870s. Keith Chatto, an Australian comic book artist, and the first Australian illustrator to draw a full-length episode of The Phantom comic.
  • Popularity: Chatto is very rare worldwide and primarily used in the Philippines.
Nicknames, Uncommon

Chewey

Chewey means “compassion” in Cherokee and is typically found in North America. It’s possibly linked to an Old French name or is a unique form of the English Chevy.

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Compassion
  • Pronunciation: CHEW-ee
  • Variations: Chewe
  • Popularity: Chewey is extremely rare worldwide, with 129 known occurrences in 2014, mostly in the U.S.
Unique, Rare

Chino

Chino is better known in Mexico, where it means “curly” and became the Spanish word for a “Chinese person.” It’s found in New Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia, referring to someone of mixed European-Native heritage or a “servant” in Quechuan.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Servant
  • Pronunciation: CHEE-nouw
  • Namesakes: Wendell Chino, the American leader of the Mescalero Apache nation and chair of the National Congress of American Indians. Vera Chino, a Native American potter with exhibitions at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology at Harvard University.
  • Popularity: Chino is rare worldwide, mainly used in Japan, and ranked 298th in Bolivia in 2014.
Nicknames, Unusual

Chubbuck

Chubbuck is an English variation of Chubbock, made up of Chubb and the Old English suffix “-oc,” meaning “lazy fellow.”

  • Origin: Native American, German
  • Meaning: Fur
  • Pronunciation: CHUHB-uhk
  • Variations: Chubbick
  • Namesakes: Ivana Chubbuck, an American acting coach known for the book The Power of the Actor. Emily Chubbuck, an American poet, published in the New York Mirror.
  • Popularity: Chubbuck is very rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Unique, Unusual

Claw

Claw represents an Anglo short form of a Navajo given name. It’s based on “tłʼah,” meaning “to be left-handed,” and sometimes appears as Clah.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Left-handed
  • Pronunciation: KLAOH
  • Variations: Clawe
  • Popularity: Claw is very rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Earthy, Nicknames
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Cly

Cly, like Clah, is a version of the Navajo word for someone “left-handed.” It’s taken from “tłʼaaí,” meaning “left-handed person,” but can also mean “mysterious voice.”

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Left-handed
  • Pronunciation: CLAEY
  • Variations: Clay
  • Popularity: Cly is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Nicknames, Unusual

Cornfield

Cornfield is a generalized occupational surname used for Native Americans who worked in a cornfield. It was also sometimes given to those living near a cornfield.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Cornfield worker
  • Pronunciation: KOHRN-Feeld
  • Variations: Cornfoot
  • Namesakes: Charlotte Cornfield, a Canadian singer-songwriter known for the album Could Have Done Anything (2023). Hubert Cornfield, an American director known for Plunder Road (1957).
  • Popularity: Cornfield is very rare worldwide and primarily used in Israel, where it ranked 1,748th in 2014.
Occupational, Uncommon

Cosay

Cosay’s exact meaning is unknown, though it’s recognizable among the Tagalog people of the Philippines. Cosay refers to the Apache tribe living in Arizona’s White Mountain Fort Apache reservation.

  • Origin: Native American, Apache
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: COHW-saey
  • Popularity: Cosay is extremely rare worldwide, with 183 known occurrences in 2014, mostly in the Philippines.
Geographical, Rare

Countryman

Countryman dates back to 13th-century England, where it referred to “the countryman” or a “peasant.” It also means “one who lives in the open country” in German and has the same meaning for Native Americans.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Man who lived in the country
  • Pronunciation: KUHN-tree-Man
  • Variations: Counterman
  • Namesakes: Dayton Countryman, the 26th Attorney General of Iowa from 1955 to 1957. Robert Countryman, an American director known for the series Reba.
  • Popularity: Countryman is rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Nicknames, Geographical

Davis

Davis is a form of the Welsh Davies, meaning “son of Davie” or “descendant from Dyfed.” It’s as old as 13th-century Wales and is one of the few patronymic Native American surnames.

  • Origin: Native American, Welsh
  • Meaning: Son of David
  • Pronunciation: DAEY-vihs
  • Variations: Davies
  • Namesakes: Talmadge Davis, a Cherokee American painter awarded the Cherokee Medal of Honor. Te Aue Davis, a Māori weaver awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal.
  • Popularity: Davis ranked 311th worldwide and is primarily used in the U.S., ranking 6th in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Deere

Deere has two meanings, one being a nickname for someone, “dear” or “precious,” based on the Middle English Dere. It also relates to the Irish Dwyer and means “stag” or “buck.”

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Precious
  • Pronunciation: DIYR
  • Variations: Dere, Deare, Deer
  • Namesakes: John Deere, an American blacksmith who founded Deere & Company. Jason Deere, an American singer/songwriter known for his work with Jessica Simpson.
  • Popularity: Deere is very rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,648th in Wales in 2014.
Traditional, Nicknames

Denton

Denton is composed of the Old English “denu,” meaning “valley,” and “tun,” meaning “settlement.” It refers to someone from English locations named Denton, from Yorkshire, Kent, Lancashire, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Valley settlement
  • Pronunciation: DEHN-tun
  • Variations: Dennton
  • Namesakes: Trevor Denton, an English rugby league footballer for Doncaster. Nick Denton, the English founder of Gawker Media.
  • Popularity: Denton is rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S., ranking 1,119th in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Dosela

Dosela is an Apache name meaning “commoner.” It’s found mostly among the Native American tribes located in the southwestern U.S.

  • Origin: Native American, Apache
  • Meaning: The commoner
  • Pronunciation: DOH-seh-Laa
  • Popularity: Dosela is extremely rare worldwide, with 92 known occurrences in 2014, primarily in the U.S.
Unusual, Rare

Edwards

Edwards is traditionally English, where it means “the son of Edward,” itself meaning “prosperous guardian.” Edwards also ranked 14th among Welsh surnames and 21st among English surnames.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Son of Edward
  • Pronunciation: EHD-Werdz
  • Variations: Edward
  • Namesakes: Anthony Edwards, an American actor known for the series ER. Sara Edwards, a Welsh co-presenter of the BBC Wales show Wales Today.
  • Popularity: Edwards ranked 731st worldwide and is mostly used in the U.S., ranking 49th in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Ehecatl

Ehecatl means “wind serpent” in the Nahuatl language of the indigenous people of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It refers to the Aztec god of wind.

  • Origin: Native American, Nahuatl
  • Meaning: Wind
  • Pronunciation: EY-eh-Caat-ehl
  • Variations: Ehcatl
  • Popularity: Ehecatl is extremely rare worldwide, with just six known occurrences in 2014, mainly in Mexico.
Mythical, Rare
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Enapay

Enapay is better known as a male name in the Sioux tribe, meaning “courageous appearance.” It’s one of many Native American family names focused on a physical trait and has no known popularity statistics.

  • Origin: Native American, Sioux
  • Meaning: Brave
  • Pronunciation: Eh-NAH-pey
  • Variations: Enapae, Enapai, Enapaye
Strong, Nicknames

Ethelbah

Ethelbah’s meaning is unknown, but it’s found among Apache surnames. It’s especially common for those living in or near the White Mountain Fort Apache reservation in Arizona.

  • Origin: Native American, Apache
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: Eh-THEHL-baa
  • Popularity: Ethelbah is extremely rare worldwide, with 115 known occurrences in 2014 in the U.S.
Ancient, Rare

Eubank

Eubank refers to English residents living near “the yew-bank,” a grove of trees. It’s made up of the Old English “iw,” meaning “yew tree” and “bank.”

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Of the yew bank
  • Pronunciation: YEW-bank
  • Variations: Eubanks, Ewbank
  • Namesakes: John Eubank, an American baseball player for the Detroit Tigers. William Eubank, an American director known for The Signal (2014).
  • Popularity: Eubank is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Geographical, Unique

Fala

Fala is a Cherokee surname and girl’s name meaning “crow.” It’s also typical among the Choctaw tribe. Both clans believed in the mysticism of the crow, as a symbol of intelligence and sacred laws.

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Crow
  • Pronunciation: FAA-lah
  • Variations: Falla
  • Namesakes: Max Fala, a Samoan rugby league footballer who represented Samoa at the 2000 World Cup.
  • Popularity: Fala is rare worldwide, mostly used in DR Congo, and ranked 1,247th in Moldova in 2014.
Earthy, Mythical

Filemonsen

Filemonsen is also known as a German and Greenlandic name meaning “son of Filemon.” It dates back to the ancient Greek Philemon and is quite rare today.

  • Origin: Native American, Greek
  • Meaning: Son of Filemon
  • Pronunciation: Fih-LEY-mahn-Sehn
  • Popularity: Filemonsen is extremely rare worldwide, with 165 known occurrences in 2014, mainly in Greenland.
Ancient, Unusual

Gaylord

Gaylord comes from the French “gai,” meaning “merry,” and “lord,” meaning “ruler.” It’s associated with the French “gaillard,” meaning “gay,” “joyous,” and “bold.”

  • Origin: Native American, French
  • Meaning: Joyful
  • Pronunciation: GAEY-lohrd
  • Variations: Gaylor
  • Namesakes: Mitch Gaylord, an American gymnast and gold medalist at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Edward K. Gaylord, the American publisher of The Daily Oklahoman newspaper.
  • Popularity: Gaylord is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Traditional, Uncommon

Goseyun

Goseyn is one of many Apache Native American last names with unknown meanings. It’s also linked to those living in the White Mountain Fort Apache reservation.

  • Origin: Native American, Apache
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: GOUW-sey-Yoon
  • Popularity: Goseyun is extremely rare worldwide, with 144 known occurrences in 2014, in the U.S.
Unusual, Rare

Hatathli

Hathahli represents a more Anglo spelling for a Navajo first name. It may be inspired by “hataałii,” meaning “singer,” while also describing a “medicine man” in Navajo culture.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Medicine man
  • Pronunciation: HAA-taath-Liy
  • Variations: Hatathlie
  • Popularity: Hatathli is extremely rare worldwide, with just 12 known occurrences in 2014 in the U.S.
Occupational, Traditional

Hensley

Hensley means “stallion” or “horse” for more than one Native American tribe. In Old English, Hensley referred to someone from East Worlington. It consists of the Old English Hēahmund and “lēah,” meaning “woodland clearing.”

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Stallion
  • Pronunciation: HEHNZ-lee
  • Variations: Hensly, Hennsley, Henseley
  • Namesakes: Joseph Hensley, the premier of Prince Edward Island in 1869. John Hensley, an American actor known for the series Nip/Tuck.
  • Popularity: Hensley is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S., ranking 664th in 2014.
Geographical, Earthy

Hilliard

Hilliard referred to an English location “at the hill-garth” or “hill yard.” It’s also linked to the Germanic Hildegard, a title meaning “battle stronghold.”

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Protective enclosure
  • Pronunciation: HIHL-iyAARD
  • Variations: Hillard
  • Namesakes: Dalton Hilliard, an American football player for the New Orleans Saints. Michael Hilliard, the Irish Minister for Defence from 1965 to 1969.
  • Popularity: Hilliard is rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S., ranking 1,713th in 2014.
Geographical, Unique
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Holt

Holt is one of many English surnames using topography as its definition. It means “at the holt” to describe a residence located near a “grove” or “wood.”

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Grove of trees
  • Pronunciation: HOHLT
  • Variations: Holte, Hoult
  • Namesakes: Harold Holt, the 17th prime minister of Australia from 1966 to 1967. Olivia Holt, an American actress appearing in the series I Didn’t Do It.
  • Popularity: Holt is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S., ranking 323rd in 2014.
Earthy, Common

Howahkan

Howahkan might sound a bit funny, but it means “of the mysterious voice” for the Sioux. In Lakota, it also means “strong voice” or a “sacred voice,” while its popularity information is just as mysterious.

  • Origin: Native American, Sioux
  • Meaning: Mysterious voice
  • Pronunciation: HHAUW-ah-Kaan
Nicknames, Rare

Huaman

Huaman is less common among Native American surnames since it originates in the ancient Quechua language of South America. It derives from “waman,” meaning “falcon” or “hawk.” Huaman is also a unique form of Guaman or Waman.

  • Origin: Native American, Quechua
  • Meaning: Falcon species
  • Pronunciation: Huw-AH-mann
  • Variations: Huamán
  • Namesakes: Jorge Huamán, a Peruvian footballer for Universidad San Martín.
  • Popularity: Huaman ranked 1,940th worldwide and is mostly used in Peru, where it ranked 7th in 2014.
Common, Ancient

Irving

Irving comes from the Celtic “irfon,” meaning “green water,” but is also a variant of Irvine. It describes someone from the area in Scotland where the River Irvine runs in Dumfriesshire.

  • Origin: Native American, Scottish
  • Meaning: Green water
  • Pronunciation: EHR-vihng
  • Variations: Irvine
  • Namesakes: Amy Irving, an American actress known for Carrie (1976). Kyrie Irving, an American basketball player for the Dallas Mavericks.
  • Popularity: Irving is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 320th in Jamaica in 2014.
Geographical, Traditional

Ishtasapa

Ishtasapa is a long way from native names like Blackfoot and Bravebird. For the Sioux, it means “dark-eyed” in Lakota and is composed of “ista,” meaning “eye,” and “sapa,” meaning “black.” Ishtasapa’s popularity is unknown.

  • Origin: Native American, Sioux
  • Meaning: Dark-eyed
  • Pronunciation: IHSH-tah-Saa-pah
Nicknames, Rare

Johnson

Johnson ranks 2nd among surnames in the U.S. It also ranks 2nd among Native American and African American last names and is an Anglo form of the Swedish Johnsen.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Son of John
  • Pronunciation: JAWN-suhn
  • Variations: Johnston
  • Namesakes: Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the U.S. from 1865 to 1869. Magic Johnson, an American basketball player with the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • Popularity: Johnson ranked 173rd worldwide and is primarily used in the U.S., ranking 2nd in 2023.
Popular, Traditional

Jones

Jones means “the son of John” or “Johan” in Welsh. It’s popular among African Americans and Native Americans and was an occupational name for someone “living or working at John’s house.” Jones is ultimately based on John, meaning “God is gracious.”

  • Origin: Native American, Welsh
  • Meaning: Son of John
  • Pronunciation: JHOWNZ
  • Namesakes: Davy Jones, an English singer with The Monkees. Brereton C. Jones, the 58th governor of Kentucky from 1991 to 1995.
  • Popularity: Jones ranked 208th worldwide and is mostly used in the U.S., where it ranked 5th in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Kipp

Kip comes from the German “kip,” meaning “bundle of hides,” and was given to a fur trader. It’s also a short form of the German first name Gebolf, meaning “gift wolf.”

  • Origin: Native American, German
  • Meaning: Fur trader
  • Pronunciation: KIHP
  • Variations: Kip, Kippe
  • Namesakes: Tom Kipp, an American motorcycle racer who won the AMA 600 SuperSport Championship in 1992. Fred Kipp, an American baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • Popularity: Kipp is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,817th in Germany in 2014.
Occupational, Unique

Kuliktana

Kuliktana is a mysterious Iñupiaq name first known as Qitupana. It’s based on the Inuktitut language of the Inuit peoples from Arctic areas, such as Greenland, Quebec, and Alaskan lands.

  • Origin: Native American, Inuit
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: KEW-lik-Taa-nah
  • Variations: Qitupana
  • Popularity: Kuliktana is extremely rare worldwide, with 40 known occurrences in 2014, primarily in Canada.
Unusual, Rare

Lapahie

Other than meaning “gray,” Lapahie isn’t associated with a particular Native American tribe. It’s certainly hard to find, though, with just over ten occurrences in 2014.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Gray
  • Pronunciation: Laa-PAA-hee
  • Popularity: Lapahie is extremely rare worldwide, with only 13 known occurrences in 2014 in the U.S.
Unique, Rare
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Lewis

Lewis denotes “the son of Louis or Lewis” using the given name Lewis. It’s based on the German Ludovicus, meaning “renowned” and “famous battle.”

  • Origin: Native American, German
  • Meaning: Son of Louis
  • Pronunciation: LOO-ihs
  • Variations: Louis
  • Namesakes: Meriwether Lewis, an American explorer who led the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Sharon Lewis, a Canadian host of the CBC show counterSpin.
  • Popularity: Lewis ranked 546th worldwide and is mostly used in the U.S., ranking 25th in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Lisenbe

Lisenbe means “inspiring” in Cherokee. It’s also an offbeat English variation of Lazenby, meaning “freedman.”

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Inspiring
  • Pronunciation: LIH-sehn-Biy
  • Variations: Lisenbee
  • Popularity: Lisenbe is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Unique, Rare

Locklear

Lockyear originates from the southern Tuscarora tribes and means “hold fast.” As an English surname, Locklear means “locksmith” in Old English, for someone who picked locks for a living.

  • Origin: Native American, Tuscarora
  • Meaning: Hold fast
  • Pronunciation: LAAK-leyr
  • Variations: Lockyer
  • Namesakes: Arlinda Locklear, a Native-American lawyer and one of the first Native American woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Heather Locklear, an American actress appearing on Melrose Place.
  • Popularity: Locklear is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S., where it’s slightly uncommon.
Occupational, Unique

Macawi

Macawi is better known as a Sioux girl’s name, meaning “coyote” or “female coyote.” In keeping with the tradition of personal characteristics in names, it also means “motherly” and “generous.”

  • Origin: Native American, Sioux
  • Meaning: Female coyote
  • Pronunciation: Maa-CAUW-ee
  • Variations: Machawi
  • Popularity: Macawi is extremely rare worldwide, with 27 known occurrences in 2014, mostly in the Philippines.
Earthy, Ancient

Maize

Maize is made up of the Spanish form of the Taíno word for “mahiz.” It’s otherwise known as “corn” and is a nod to the indigenous Corn Mother goddess in the Americas.

  • Origin: Native American, Spanish
  • Meaning: Corn
  • Pronunciation: MAEYZ
  • Variations: Maisie
  • Popularity: Maize is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Mythical, Earthy

Maka

Maka is a Sioux female name and surname meaning “soil,” “earth,” or “ground.” It’s also linked to the African Bemba tribe, where it means “strength.” Maká is also the name of both a Native American people and their language in Paraguay.

  • Origin: Native American, Bemba
  • Meaning: Earth
  • Pronunciation: MAA-kah
  • Variations: Mäká
  • Popularity: Maka is rare worldwide, primarily used in India, and ranked 965th in Madagascar in 2014.
Earthy, Uncommon

Mato

Mato is the Sioux word for “bear,” inspired by Mato Tope, a Nu-eta chief whose name means “four bears.” Mato is also a geographical Portuguese name based on “mata,” meaning “brushwood scrub.”

  • Origin: Native American, Sioux
  • Meaning: Bear
  • Pronunciation: MAA-toh
  • Variations: Matos
  • Namesakes: Ana Mato, the Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality of Spain from 2011 to 2014.
  • Popularity: Mato is rare worldwide and mostly used in Niger, ranking 85th in 2014.
Earthy, Strong

Mescal

Mescal describes the plant responsible for Agave nectar. It’s also associated with the Apache Mescalero tribe of New Mexico.

  • Origin: Native American, Apache
  • Meaning: Agave plant
  • Pronunciation: Mehz-CAHL
  • Variations: Mescall
  • Namesakes: Paul Mescal, an Irish actor known for the series Normal People (2020).
  • Popularity: Mescal is extremely rare worldwide, with 217 known occurrences in 2014, mainly in the U.S.
Unusual, Rare

Moytoy

Moytoy comes from the Tsalagi-Cherokee phrase “a-ma-do-ya.” It means “rainmaker,” whose job was communicating prayers to the gods.

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Rainmaker
  • Pronunciation: MOEY-Toey
  • Namesakes: Moytoy of Tellico, an 18th-century leader of the Cherokee called Emperor of the Cherokee.
  • Popularity: Moytoy is extremely rare worldwide, with just one known occurrence in 2014 in Bangladesh.
Mythical, Ancient

Nakai

For the Navajo, Nakai means “those who wander around” when referring to 16th-century Spanish explorers. It became used to describe “Mexicans” based on “naakaii” and is also a Japanese surname meaning “central well.”

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Mexican
  • Pronunciation: Naa-KAEY
  • Namesakes: R. Carlos Nakai, a Navajo-American flutist with 11 Grammy Award nominations. Takahiro Nakai, a Japanese judoka who competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
  • Popularity: Nakai is rare worldwide and primarily used in Japan, where it ranked 220th in 2014.
Unusual, Nicknames
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Nanouk

Nanouk means “polar bear” for the Inuit peoples of the north. In Inuit mythology, Nanouk (as Nanuq) was the “master of bears. It’s also associated with the documentary film Nanook of the North, the first of its kind.

  • Origin: Native American, Inuit
  • Meaning: Polar bear
  • Pronunciation: Naa-NOOK
  • Variations: Nanook, Nanuk
  • Popularity: Nanouk is extremely rare worldwide, with 42 known occurrences in 2014, mostly in the U.S.
Earthy, Mythical

Nez

Nez is an example of surnames based on Navajo personal names. It comes from “nééz,” meaning both “tall” and “long,” as in “hastiin nééz,” meaning “tall man.”

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Tall man
  • Pronunciation: NEHZ
  • Namesakes: Grace Henderson Nez, a Navajo weaver awarded the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Museum of Indian Arts and Crafts. Jonathan Nez, the 9th president of the Navajo Nation from 2019 to 2023.
Nicknames, Unusual

Nosie

Noise derives from the San Carlos Apache tribe as a short form of a given name. It’s typically been used for tribes found in the White Mountain Fort Apache Reservation.

  • Origin: Native American, Apache
  • Meaning: Personal name
  • Pronunciation: NOH-zee
  • Popularity: Noise is extremely rare worldwide, with 189 known occurrences in 2014, primarily in Papua New Guinea.
Unique, Rare

Obonsawin

Obonsawin derives from the Abenaki people’s Odanak language and means “pathfinder.” It originally appeared as Obomsawin but was changed to seem more French by Jesuit missionaries.

  • Origin: Native American, Odenak
  • Meaning: Pathfinder
  • Pronunciation: Oh-Bahn-SAAW-wihn
  • Variations: Obomsawin
  • Namesakes: Annick Obonsawin, an Abenaki-Canadian actress known for the series Cyberchase.
  • Popularity: Obonsawin is extremely rare worldwide, with 69 known occurrences in 2014, mostly in Canada.
Ancient, Rare

Onelasa

Onelasa is listed among known Cherokee names but has no information on popularity. It means “winter,” but little else is available on this obscure name.

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Winter
  • Pronunciation: Ohn-LAAS-aa
Earthy, Rare

Paddock

Paddock is taken from the Middle English “parrock,” meaning “small enclosure” meant for horses. It also denotes a place “at the parrock,” where these enclosures were found. Paddock is also an English nickname meaning “toad frog.”

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Horse enclosure
  • Pronunciation: PAHD-uhk
  • Variations: Paddock, Paddocke
  • Namesakes: George A. Paddock, a member of the U.S. House of Representative for Illinois from 1941 to 1943. Cam Paddock, a Canadian ice hockey player for the St. Louis Blues.
  • Popularity: Paddock is rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Geographical, Uncommon

Peshlakai

Peshlakai is another example of Native American family names based on a Navajo given name. It comes from “béésh łigaii,” meaning “silver,” and was an occupational name for a silversmith.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Silversmith
  • Pronunciation: PEHSH-laa-Kaey
  • Popularity: Peshlakai is very rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Occupational, Unique

Pompey

Pompey represents an English spelling of Pompei, an Italian surname referring to the location in Italy. It also means “five” and sometimes stands for the Welsh Pumfrey.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: Five
  • Pronunciation: PAHMP-ehy
  • Variations: Pompei
  • Namesakes: Dalton Pompey, a Canadian baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • Popularity: Pompey is very rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 456th in Guyana in 2014.
Unique, Geographical

Sandoval

Sandoval was originally given to those from Sandoval, Spain, and is associated with the Latin “sancto vallis,” meaning “holy valley.” It’s also linked to the Latin “saltus,” meaning “grove,” and “novalis,” meaning “newly cleared land.” Sandoval often occurs as a Navajo surname.

  • Origin: Native American, Spanish
  • Meaning: Holy valley
  • Pronunciation: SAN-doh-Vaahl
  • Variations: de Sandoval, Sandovel
  • Namesakes: Brian Sandoval, the 29th governor of Nevada from 2011 to 2019. Horacio Sandoval, a Mexican comic book artist for Bugs (1994 to 1996).
  • Popularity: Sandoval ranked 629th worldwide, is mainly used in Mexico, and ranked 338th in the U.S. in 2014.
Geographical, Popular

Sequoyah

Sequoyah is also a unisex first name common among the Cherokee. Missionaries are thought to have altered the spelling from Sikwayi or Sogwali. It’s also sometimes associated with the Cherokee “siqua,” meaning “hog.”

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Sparrow
  • Pronunciation: Seh-KWOEY-aa
  • Variations: Sequoia
  • Namesakes: Sequoyah (also known as George Gist), a Native American neographer of the Cherokee Nation.
  • Popularity: Sequoyah is extremely rare worldwide, with 56 known occurrences in 2014, primarily in the U.S.
Earthy, Rare
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Smith

Smith means “blacksmith” and comes from the Old English “smitan,” meaning “to smite or strike.” It became a name for many Native Americans based on their occupation. The Navajo “atsidí,” meaning “blacksmith,” became the surname Smith.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Blacksmith
  • Variations: Smythe
  • Namesakes: Omar Smith, an American football player for the New York Giants. Mary Smith, an American gossip columnist for the New York Post from 1976 to 2009.
  • Popularity: Smith ranked 130th worldwide and is mostly used in the U.S., ranking number one in 2023.
Occupational, Popular

Summerhill

Summerhill combines the Old English “somer,” meaning “summer,” and “hyll,” meaning “hill.” It was used for someone living near a hill meant for cattle to graze upon during summer.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Summer hill
  • Pronunciation: SOHM-ehr-Hihl
  • Namesakes: William Summerhill, a Canadian ice hockey player for the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Popularity: Summerhill is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Geographical, Earthy

Swiftwater

Swiftwater is an example of a toponymic surname for those living near or next to swiftly flowing rivers. The Native American word “chicopee” means “swift water” or “violent water” and likely transformed into the surname Swiftwater.

  • Origin: Native American, Nipmuc
  • Meaning: Living near swift waters
  • Pronunciation: SWIHFT-waa-Tehr
  • Popularity: Swiftwater is extremely rare worldwide, with just one known occurrence in 2014, in the U.S.
Geographical, Rare

Tabaaha

Tabaaha comes from the Navajo “tabąąh,” meaning “shore” or “beach.” It also refers to a clan of people “living on the water’s edge” and is too rare to have any popularity statistics.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Shore, beach
  • Pronunciation: Tah-BAA-haa
  • Variations: Tabaha
Geographical, Earthy

Tesarkee

Tesarkee’s meaning is unknown, yet it seems to often occur among Cherokee names in history. While its popularity is uncharted, it might have inspired Teskare, a zombie-fairy character in Pokemon.

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: Teh-SAAR-kiy
Unusual, Rare

Tessay

Tesay is possibly meant for those “living near the reserve” in reference to the Fort Apache reservation. It’s also a rare Egyptian name meaning “mother of the sun” in keeping with the natural world.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: One who lives near the reserve
  • Pronunciation: TEH-Saey
  • Popularity: Tessay is extremely rare worldwide, with 99 known occurrences in 2014, in the U.S.
Geographical, Rare

Thunderhawk

Thunderhawk is a Sioux name meaning “expert,” “serious,” and “perfect.” It came about from an English translation of a Sioux name composed of “četaŋ,” meaning “hawk,” and “wakiŋyaŋ,” meaning thunder.”

  • Origin: Native American, Sioux
  • Meaning: Expert
  • Pronunciation: THUEN-dehr-Hauek
  • Namesakes: Cetan Wakiyan (known as Chief Thunderhawk), a Native American leader of the Hunkpapa people at the Grand River Agency in the 1870s.
  • Popularity: Thunderhawk is extremely rare worldwide, with 104 known occurrences in the U.S.
Earthy, Strong

Toadlena

Toadlena means “water that flows up and out” from the Navajo “tóháálį́.” It’s made up of “tó,” meaning “water,” and “háálį́,” meaning “it flows up and out.”

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Water flowing up and out
  • Pronunciation: Toed-LEE-naa
  • Popularity: Toadlena is extremely rare worldwide with 81 known occurrences in 2014, in the U.S.
Earthy, Unusual

Tsinajinnie

Tsinajinnie represents an English spelling of the Navajo Tsi’naajinii clan, otherwise known as the “black streak wood people.” It also means “caretaker,” “courage,” and “investigator.”

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Black-streak clan
  • Pronunciation: SIHN-a-Jihn-ee
  • Variations: Tsihnahjinnie, Tsinajinne
  • Popularity: Tsinajinnie is extremely rare worldwide, with 63 known occurrences in 2014, in the U.S.
Ancient, Traditional

Tsiyi

Tsiyi is better known as a Cherokee boy’s name meaning “canoe.” In Native American culture, the canoe’s importance was compounded by it symbolizing sovereignty and resilience. Tsiyi doesn’t have any popularity statistics as a surname.

  • Origin: Native American, Cherokee
  • Meaning: Canoe
  • Pronunciation: SIHY-yee
Unique, Rare
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Uentillie

Uentillie consists of the Navajo “ayóí,” meaning “very” and “áníldííl,” meaning “large.” It was a title most likely given to a chief or tribe leader.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Very large
  • Pronunciation: Yen-TIHL-ee
  • Popularity: Uentillie is extremely rare worldwide, with 61 known occurrences in 2014 in the U.S.
Unique, Nicknames

Uskilith

Uskilith is a Navajo surname originally appearing as Guyuskilith. It’s based on “ashkiilgaii,” meaning “white boy,” as an offbeat nickname taken as a surname.

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: White boy
  • Pronunciation: UHS-kih-Lith
  • Popularity: Uskilith is extremely rare worldwide, with just four known occurrences in 2014, in the U.S.
Unusual, Nicknames

Vance

Vance comes from the Native American “vanasse,” meaning “little chief.” It’s more recognizable as an English surname using the root “fenn,” meaning “marshland.” Norman settlers from Scotland may have also influenced Vance, named after the “de Vaux” clan.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Little chief
  • Pronunciation: VAENS
  • Variations: Vanse
  • Namesakes: Cyrus Vance, the U.S. Secretary of State from 1977 to 1980. Danitra Vance, an American cast member on the Saturday Night Live TV series in 1985.
  • Popularity: Vance is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S., ranking 697th in 2014.
Common, Geographical

Warcloud

Warcloud is one of several Native American last names that combine two words (“war” and “cloud”). It was supposedly a title given to strong tribal leaders or war chieftains.

  • Origin: Native American
  • Meaning: War cloud
  • Pronunciation: WAER-Klowd
  • Popularity: Warcloud is extremely rare worldwide, with just eight known occurrences in 2014, in the U.S.
Strong, Traditional

Watike

Watike has an unknown meaning for Native Americans, but also means “midday heat” in Arabic. Though it’s super rare, this may explain why Watike appears in Cameroon and Uganda.

  • Origin: Native American, Arabic
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: Waa-TEEK
  • Popularity: Watike is extremely rare worldwide, with just three known occurrences in Cameroon, Uganda, and the U.S., in 2014.
Unusual, Rare

Welch

Welch was originally an English surname given to those of Welsh origins, which is why its meaning is similar to Walsh. It also means “foreigner” based on the Old English “welisċ,” meaning “foreign” to describe Celtic people.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Welsh
  • Pronunciation: WEHLCH
  • Variations: Welsh
  • Namesakes: Gillian Welch, an American singer-songwriter known for the album Time (The Revelator) (2001). Amy Welch, an English journalist for the ITV news program Granada Reports.
  • Popularity: Welch is rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S., ranking 257th in 2014.
Unique, Common

Williams

Williams is based on the Germanic Wilhelm, meaning “will” and “helmet.” It happens to be quite common among both African Americans and Native Americans.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Son of William
  • Pronunciation: WILL-Yumz
  • Variations: William
  • Namesakes: Ruby Williams, an American folk artist awarded the 2005 Florida Folk Heritage Award. Robbie Williams, an English singer and member of the pop group Take That from 1990 to 1995.
  • Popularity: Williams ranked 183rd worldwide and is mainly used in the U.S., where it ranked 3rd in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Wilson

Wilson is a classic English patronymic surname meaning “the son of William.” It’s made up of the Old English “will,” meaning “desire,” and “helm,” meaning “helmet.” Wilson uses the root name Will, a typical medieval form of William.

  • Origin: Native American, English
  • Meaning: Son of William
  • Pronunciation: WIHL-suhn
  • Variations: Willson
  • Namesakes: John Wilson, a Native American-Caddo medicine man who founded the Native American Church movement. Sandy Fife Wilson, a Native American-Muscogee (Creek) fashion designer awarded the 1995 Grand Heritage Award.
  • Popularity: Wilson ranked 313th worldwide and is primarily used in the U.S., ranking 9th in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Yazzie

Yazzie comes from the Navajo “yazhi,” meaning “little.” It also means “young” and is used to describe a “little man” and “short man.”

  • Origin: Native American, Navajo
  • Meaning: Little
  • Pronunciation: YAH-zee
  • Namesakes: Brian Yazzie, a Native American-Navajo chef de cuisine at Sean Sherman’s the Sioux Chef. Aaron Yazzie, a Native American Navajo mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Popularity: Yazzie is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Nicknames, Unique

Yuka

Yuka is a surname and an Alaskan Inuit girl’s name meaning “bright star.” It’s also a Japanese girl’s name meaning “reason,” “fragrance,” and “flower.” Yuka is common in Turkey, where it means “narrow.”

  • Origin: Native American, Inuit
  • Meaning: Bright star
  • Pronunciation: YOO-kaa
  • Popularity: Yuka is very rare worldwide and mainly used in Turkey.
Unusual, Uncommon
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Native American Surnames FAQs

Did Native Americans Have Last Names?

Native Americans traditionally used a tribal name that did not include a surname. Around 1900, they officially began to use Native American last names. These names were often already translations of their native names into languages like English, French, or Spanish.

Today, Native Americans use a mixture of adopted European surnames and traditional last names once used by their tribes.

How Do Native Americans Get Their Last Names?

Depending on the specific tribe Native Americans come from, their surnames differ significantly. Native American last names often reflect lifelong milestones and deeds they have accomplished. Other times, their surnames describe where they’re from, their tribal beliefs, or are nicknames about personal characteristics.

What Is the Most Common Native American Last Name?

As of 2021, Smith is the most popular among Native American surnames in the U.S., with nearly 22,000 American Indians using the name. Smith is also the most common surname in the U.S., ranked 130th worldwide in 2014. Johnson also ranked 2nd in the U.S. and is very popular among Native Americans.

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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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