130 British Last Names or Surnames

Surnames distinguish a person from another. It also gives a sense of belonging to a certain family. Hence last names can vary based on a particular community or cultural rules. The United Kingdom last names are popular worldwide. While Welsh and Scottish last names originate from the Celtic languages like Cymric and Scots Gaelic, UK English last names usually originate from places, ancestors, occupations, or anglicisations of first names in other languages. Colonisation and immigration too had an impact on the surnames of people globally that have been influenced by common British last names.

In England, surnames are referred to as last names that were originally introduced by the Normans in 1066. Initially. old English surnames changed from one generation to the other. Later by 1400, surnames became hereditary. This alphabetically arranged list of rare British surnames can be a useful tool in genealogy. Each of these rare British surnames has a unique history with reference to their origin across regions of the United Kingdom. There are, in fact, more than 45,000 British family names that have a distinct meanings and fascinating stories attached to them. We have compiled a list of the top common British last names. Each English last name comes with a meaning to know its history and origin.

130 British Last Names or Family Names With Meanings

This comprehensive guide of the best English last names or British aristocracy family names with their meanings can assist you in selecting the perfect surname for your family or gift your little newborn baby. Read on to find 130 British Last names or Surnames. 

1. Adam

Adam means ‘man’ or ‘son of Adam’ in Hebrew’. Originating from the pre-medieval period, Adam is referred to as ‘the earth’ from where God created man.

2. Adams/Adamson

Adams or Adamson is a popular British name of Hebrew origin. It means ‘son of Adam’.

3. Ainsworth

Ainsworth is a habitational name from a place Ainsworth situated near Machester. It means ‘enclosure’.

4. Allen

This Greek word first appeared in the 14th century in Scotland and means ‘man’ or ‘manly’. It also refers to as ‘son of Andrew’.

5. Armstrong

Originated from the Scottish borders Armstrong, means meaning ‘something with strong arms’. In Irish, it means ‘Son of a strong man’.

6. Atkinson

Derived from the Middle English Atkin corresponds to the Scottish name Aitchison and means ‘son of Atkin’.

7. Bailey

This occupational surname refers to an official ‘Ballis’ or ‘Balif’. Bailey in Lancashire refers to as ‘Berry wood’.

8. Baker

This occupational surname refers to the trade of the bakery. Derived from Middle English bakere, or bacan ‘to bake’.

9. Ball

Ball is a short form of Baldwin or ‘Balle’ which means ‘a Slope’ or a ‘Hill’ in Old Norse. It may also refer to someone who has a rotund or stocky stature.

10. Bell

Bell originates from the Old French era, and it means ‘Beautiful’ or ‘fair’. It may also have originated as an occupational name for a bell ringer or bell maker.

11. Berrycloth

Berrycloth is an eccentric British last name which means ‘grove’ or ‘ravine’.

12. Birdwhistle

Birdwhistle is a pleasant last name belonging to a family name who live near the town of Padiham in Dewsbury or Lancashire in the historic county of Yorkshire.

13. Brown

Derived from 7th century Old English word ‘brun’ or the Old Norse name Bruni, this surname describes a person with brown complexion or clothing.

14. Browning

Browning refers to ‘a small semi-automatic handgun found in Europe’.

15. Burton

This English habitational surname is derived from Old English burh or ‘fort’ and tun’ enclosure’. It means ‘fort settlement.’

16. Camden

The surname Camden originated from a person named Charles Pratt who sold lots from his manor.

17. Campbell

Campbell is a popular English surname refering to ‘someone with a crooked mouth’. One of the popular bearer of this surname includes Naomi Campbell.

18. Carter

This occupational surname has an English, Irish and Scottish origin.  It refers to ‘Someone who transports goods by a cart or wagon’.

19. Clarke

Derived from the Latin word ‘Clericus’, or Irish Gaelic sept Ó Cléirigh, this Anglo-Irish surname refers to a ‘Clerk’.

20. Cole

Considered one among the Medieval English surnames, Cole means ‘swarthy’, ‘coal-black’ or ‘charcoal’. The Cole family originated from Cornwall in South West England.

21. Collins

This surname originates from Britain and Ireland and refers to ‘son of Colin’. Its Irish variation ‘cuilein’ means ‘darling’.

22. Corbyn

Corbyn is an eccentric last name refering to someone with ‘raven hair’.

23. Dankworth

This last name has Old English roots. It is derived from a word which means ‘Tancred’s farmstead’.

24. Davidson

This surname means ‘beloved’ in Hebrew. Originating from Scottish, northern England and Jewish regions, it also means ‘son of David’.

25. Davies

Originating from ‘Dafydd’ (son), this Welsh patronymic surname means ‘beloved’. It also comes from the Hebrew male name meaning ‘beloved’.

26. Dawson

This baptismal surname originates from Anglo-Saxon era and means ‘the son of David’.

27. Dixon

This patronymic surname first originated in Scotland. It means ‘Son of Dick’. A variant of Dickson, it is a traditional Scottish surname.

28. Davidson/Davies

Davidson or Davies are Hebrew first names. The meaning of the names is ‘son of David’.

29. Eastaughffe

Having English roots, Eastaughffe means ‘eastern town’ or ‘homestead’.

30. Edwards

Edwards originated from Olde English pre 7th Century era. It comes from the Old English ‘Eadward’ and refers to ‘Prosperity guard’.

31. Elliot

Derived from Elis or Elijah, Elliot was quite commonly used in medieval times. It means ‘Jehovah is my God’.

32. Evans

Originating from Welsh regions, this patronymic surname means ‘Son of Evan’. Evan derives from the Welsh name ‘Ifan’ meaning ‘gracious gift of Jehovah’.

33. Everly

Everly is a surname of English origin, meaning ‘wild boar and woodland clearing’.

34. Fernsby

Fernsby is a rare Victorian last name of Old English origin. It means ‘fern farmstead’.

35. Fisher

This occupational surname refers to fishermen or people who lived by a fishing weir. In Ireland, it is the anglicised form of Gaelic Ó Bradáin which means ‘salmon’.

36. Fletcher

Derived from Scottish, English and Irish origin, this occupational surname refers to ‘Arrowsmith’ or ‘Seller of Arrows’.

37. Ford

This habitational surname is a variation of the Irish surname O Fuartháin or ‘descendant of O Fuarthán’. It refers to people who lived near a ford.

38. Foster

Foster refers to ‘nourish’ or ‘rear’. The ancient surname means ‘forest guardian’ or ‘a person who looks after a forest’.

39. Fox

Derived from Old English pre 7th century England, Fox was first used in Ireland and England. It is taken from the animal fox.

40. Garfield

Garfield is one of the fancy Victorian surnames of English origin. It is thought to be habitational with no actual meaning.

41. Gastrell

Gastrell is a fancy British last name of Old English origin. The infamous Rev. Francis Gastrell is one of the popular surname bearers.

42. Gibson

This surname of English and Scottish origin is derived from Gilbert and refers to the ‘Son of Gilbert’ or ‘Son of Gib’.

43. Graham

Originating from Old English, Graham refers to a ‘Grey home’.

44. Grant

Originating from English and Scottish regions, Grant means ‘tall’ or ‘large’.

45. Gray

Originating from Scotland, Gray is a habitational surname meaning ‘people having grey hair’.

46. Green

Originating from Scotland, Green dates back to the 7th century. Derived from ‘Grene’, it refers to the colour Green.

47. Griffiths

This patronymic name originated in Wales and means ‘strong chief’ and ‘Son of the chief’.

48. Hall

Derived from the Scottish, German, English, Irish, and Scandinavian regions, this surname refers to a spacious part of the residence.

49. Hamilton

Hamilton is a habitational surname that refers to the village of Hamilton in Leicestershire, England.

50. Harris

Originating from English, Irish, and Scottish regions, Harris refers to ‘the son of Harry’ or ‘Home ruler’.

51. Harrison

Harrison is an elegant last name of English origin, meaning ‘son of Harry’.

52. Harvey

Harvey is derived from the Celtic words that refer to ‘ardent’, ‘battle’, ’ worthy’, or ‘strong’.

53. Hill

This surname of English origin is derived from the Greek or Latin name Hillary and means ‘someone who lives on a hill’.

54. Hughes

Hughes is basically a German first name. In English, it means ‘son of Hugh or Hugo’.

55. Jackson

Derived from English and Scottish origins, this patronymic name means ‘Son of Jack’.

56. James

This British surname is a Latin form of Hebrew name Jacob. It refers to a ‘Supplanter’ or ‘One who follows’.

57. Jenkins

Derived from John, Jenkins originated from Cornwall, England, this surname refers to ‘God has graced me with a son’.

58. Johnson

This patronymic surname of English and Scottish origins refers to ‘Son of John’. Derived from the Latin term Johannes or Yohanan, it means ‘Jehovah has favoured’.

59. Johnston

Johnston is a habitational last name of Scottish origin. It implies ‘John’s town’.

60. Jones

This surname of Welsh origin refers to ‘Son of John’ and is popular in Wales and South Central England.

61. Kelly

This Irish last name means ‘Bright Headed’ or ‘Troublesome’ and is derived from Ceallach.

62. Kennedy

This surname is derived from the anglicised form of the term ‘Ceanneidigh’ referring to the ‘Descendant of Ceanneidigh’. Kennedy means ‘Someone with an ugly head’.

63. King

This surname refers to tribal leaders or someone who served in a Royal household. In old English, King is among the fashionable royal surnames England and is popular in England, Scotland and Ireland.

64. Knight

Derived from the Old English word ‘Cniht’, Knight refers to ‘Servant’ or a ‘Common soldier’.

65. Lawrence

Lawrence is a habitational last name that refers to ‘Someone from Laurentium’ a town near Italy.

66. Lee

Derived from Old English period, Lee is a variant of Lea, Leah, or Leigh. It refers to a ‘forest’ or a ‘meadow’.

67. Lewis

Lewis originated from England and Wales, and it means ‘Winner’ or ‘Victor’.

68. Lloyd

Belonging to both Old Welsh and Medieval English origins, Lloyd is a derivative from the term Llwyd which means ‘Grey’.

69. Loughty

Loughty is a habitational surname of Old English origin. The name is taken from the name of a village in Tayside.

70. Marshall

This surname of ancient Norman origin is derived from ‘Mareschal’. It also has certain Germanic elements such as ‘Marah’ which means ‘Horse’ or ‘Who tended to Horses’.

71. Martin

Originating from France, Ireland, Germany and Scotland, Martin is a derivative of Mars or Martis who is a Roman god of war or fertility.

72. Mason

Originating from Irish, French, Italian and English regions, Mason is a derivative of ‘Maso’, which means ‘someone who does stone masonry work’.

73. McDonald

This popular surname is a derivative of Donald which means ‘World ruler’. It is a Scottish patronymic name referring to ‘Son of Donald’.

74. Morgan

Morgan is an eccentric last name of celtic origin. It is derived from the word Morcant which means ‘sea circle’.

75. Morris

Morris is a popular surname in the British Isles. It is derived from the term Maurice which means ‘dark’.

76. Murphy

Derived from the Irish personal name ‘Murchadh’, Murphy means ‘Sea Warrior’.

77. Natt

This locational surname comes from the old English word ‘The cattle farm’ or ‘neat’ which means ‘cattle’.

78. Nelson

This patronymic surname is a form of the Irish name Neal or from the Gaelic Niall and means ‘champion’. It could also be the matronymic surname that means ‘son of Eleanor’.

79. Nightingale

This English surname meaning ‘someone with a sweet voice’ has an Anglo-Saxon origin. It is a derivative of Olde English pre 7th Century word ‘nihtegal’.

80. Nixon

This surname of Irish, Scots or English origin means ‘Son of Nicholas’.

81. Nutter

This English occupational surname means ‘a keeper of oxen’ or ‘a scribe’ or ‘a clerk.’

82. O’Dell

Originating from the 17th century, it refers to the village Odell in Bedfordshire, England. It also comes from Old English words “wad,” “hyll,” “and woad” which is a plant producing blue dye from its leaves.

83. Osborne

Osborne is a baptismal name that means ‘Divine bear’. Popular in Ireland, it refers to ‘the son of Osbern’.

84. Owen

Owen originates from a Welsh first name called Owain and means ‘Noble’ or ‘Well-born’.

85. Oxley

This Old English habitational name originates from Oxley in Staffordshire and West Yorkshire. It means ‘woodland’.

86. Page

Common in English, Scottish and French regions, this surname means ‘attendant’.

87. Painter

Dating back to mid 13th century, this occupational surname is derived from the Old French word ‘peinto(u)r’ meaning ‘painter’.

88. Palmer

Palmer is an occupational surname of old English, Norman, German, French and Scottish origin. It means ‘Palm bearer’.

89. Pastor

This occupational surname is relevant to the profession of a religious pastor and a shepherd pastor.

90. Payne

Payne has Old English and Latin roots. It is derived from the term Paganus which means rustic.

91. Peterson

This Scandinavian patronymic surname means “son of Peter’. Peter is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘stone’ or ‘rock’.

92. Quill

This anglicised version of the Irish surnames Ó Cuill, Coll, Coill and O’Coill means ‘forest’, or  ‘shrub’.

93. Quimby

Quimby is a surname derived from a toponym such as Quenby. Its original Norse meaning is ‘from the woman’s estate’.

94. Quintrell

This English surname originally derives from Cornwall. Cornish refers to the Celtic meaning ‘horn’, ‘headland’.

95. Ramsey

This English toponymic surname of Anglo-Saxon origin is derived from Ramsey in Essex or Ramsey in Huntingdonshire.

96. Ratliff

Ratliff is a habitational surname belonging to any place in Britain called Ratcliffe, Radcliffe, or Redcliff. The name is a variant of ‘red cliff’.

97. Relish

Relish is an Old French word which means ‘taste’.

98. Richards

This surname of Germanic origin means ‘powerful’, ‘brave’. Brought by the Normans in 1066, Richard derives from ‘ruler’, and ‘hard’ or ‘strong in rule’.

99. Roberts

This surname of Germanic roots means ‘bright’ or ‘fame’.

100. Robinson

This patronymic first surname originating from England means ‘son of Robin’.

101. Russell

Russell has Old French roots and is derived from the diminutive of Rous. It refers to ‘someone with complexion or hair of reddish brown’.

102. Saunders

Saunders originated from The British Isles, but is derived from the Greek word Alexandros, which means ‘Defender of men’.

103. Scott

Originating from the Medieval English era, Scott is derived from the 7th-century word ‘Scotti’. It refers to the inhabitants of Scotland.

104. Simpson

This patronymic Anglo-Scottish surname is derived from the words ‘Symson’, ‘Simme’ or Simon’ and means ‘Son of Simon’.

105. Smith

This occupational surname is an Old English term meaning ‘one who works in metal’. It can be an old English form of ‘smith’ or ‘to strike’.

106. Spencer

Spencer refers to ‘house steward’ or ‘butler’.

107. Stewart

Derived from the pre-7th century Old English word ‘Stigeweard’, it means ‘Warden’ or ‘Wall guardian’.

108. Taylor

Originating from the French and Latin origin, this occupational surname refers to a ‘tailor’ or ‘to cut’.

109. Thomas

This common last name means ‘Twin’ and has a Biblical reference due to Saint Thomas.

110. Thompson

Originating from the Scottish and English regions, this surname refers to ‘son of Thom’.

111. Thomson

Thomson has Welsh and Scottish roots and refers to ‘son of Thomas’.

112. Turner

This last name of Scottish and English origin refers to ‘Maker of objects from wood or metal’.

113. Villin

Villin is a rare Victorian last name of Old English origin. It refers to ‘a servant or a commoner in a household’.

114. Walker

Walker is an occupational name that originated from English and German regions of Europe. It refers to ‘someone who beats or presses cloth’.

115. Walsh

This common Irish last name originates from the British and Welsh community of soldiers. It refers to ‘Foreigner’ or ‘Welshman’.

116. Ward

Ward is an Old English word that entered England after the Norman conquest of 1066 and means ‘Guardian’ or ‘Watchman’.

117. Watson

Watson is an ancesteral name meaning ‘son of Walter’. It has roots in regions of England and Scotland.

118. Webb

Belonging to the Old English pre 7th Century era, Webb means ‘To Weave’.

119. West

Originating from English and German regions, West is a topographical surname that refers to ‘Someone who lived by the west of the settlement’.

120. White

This topographical surname of Irish origin belongs to the Isle of Wight, near Hampshire in England.

121. Yalden

Yalden could have been derived from a geographical locality of Yalding, which is a parish in Kent.

122. Yarbury

Derived from Yarborough, a county in Lincolnshire, this surname comes from the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain.

123. Yardley

This Old English habitational surname is derived from various places like Essex, West Midlands and means ‘of the Yard’.

124. Yarrow

Yarrow is a surname that is derived from the locality of Yarrow, which is a parish in Selkirkshire.

125. Yates

This topographic name refers to ‘someone who lived near the gates of a walled town’, or an occupational name for ‘a gatekeeper.’

126. Young

Belonging to the pre 7th-century Anglo-Saxon era, this last name is derived from the word ‘Geong’ which means ‘The young one’.

127. Zachary

Zachary is a family surname that came into England with the Norman conquest of 1066. It means ‘remembered by God’.

128. Zelly

Originating from Anglo-Saxon tribes, Zelly is an Old English word that means ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’.

129. Zinc

This unusual surname has a Germanic origin. It is a variant of Zinke that means ‘a tip’ or ‘point’ or Sink which is a topographical name.

130. Zouch

Zouch is a topographical surname that comes from a hamlet in Nottinghamshire in England.

The most popular to obscure UK last names can reveal their linguistic origins. When a child was christened with two or more baptismal names, often the last name would be adopted as a surname. Surnames also threw light on the lives of the ancestors. Most common Old English names have Vikings, Nordic, Scandanavians, German and French roots. Search for your family tree, and you will be amazed to find yourself part of an illustrious family that may add a touch of glory to your personal identity.

Previous article «
Next article »
Priyadarshika is a passionate writer, who doesn’t hesitate from treading uncharted territories. She thoroughly enjoys the process of transforming thoughts into words and creating interesting reads. She likes sharing ideas and perspectives, and always ensures she is patient and persistent. She puts efforts to excel every day, whether it is at work or in her personal life. She is a blogger and a poet, and always demonstrates her skills creatively to add value to our content.