Surnames or last names are the strongest historical tie that connects us to our ancestors. Though there might be plenty of mystery surrounding popular last names, they differentiate people based on their birth, ancestors’ occupation, physical attributes, and tribe or community to which they belong. Baby name trends may be transient, but surnames stay relevant across generations. They are a part of a person’s forename that establishes a sense of belonging to a particular family. Surnames can vary in their meaning in different cultures and nations around the globe. This fascinating institution exists as a social address used as a mark of identification during employment or marriage.
Australia, the smallest continent on Earth, has the world’s 9th largest immigrant population. The unique history of this island country has shaped the diversity of its people, their cultural practices, lifestyle, and family last names. The indigenous population, British colonial past, and extensive exodus of people from various countries contribute to its demographic make-up. As most colonists belonged to the United Kingdom, they inherited English last names. In fact, many of them were convicts who were transported to Australia from England, Wales, and Scotland. From the 18th century onwards, the wave of Westernization following World War II led to the marginalization of Aboriginal Australians in their own country. The Britishers either assigned surnames to them or simply referred to them by first names only in records.
This resulted in the loss of cultural representation in the government documentation. However, contemporary Australia is a vibrant melting pot of cultures that helped develop a national identity, especially with many people arriving from China in the 1800s and India and Vietnam in 1850-1860 during the Gold Rush. Australian male surnames are traditionally patrilineal, whereby children are given their father’s last name. However, it is not imperative to abide by this custom. As per the various State name registration guidelines, children born to unmarried parents can take their mother’s surname for registration. Some parents may choose a hyphenated surname that contains the family name of both the father and mother. Although women adopt their husband’s family name at marriage as per tradition, this practice is steadily declining.
Thus, cool Australian last names reflect the broad linguistic and geographic diversity of Australian families. Moreover, as Australian English differs from other varieties of English in terms of grammar, accent, vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling, popular last names in Australia can differ in their modern forms. Although Australian second names are rarely used in daily life, many have a ‘middle name’ written between their first name and their family name. Here is comprehensive information on Australian family names that would help you understand your roots and origins.
100 Popular Australian Surnames or Family Names With Their Meanings
Getting to know more about your surname allows you to peek into the history associated with that surname. In this way, researching your last name lets you know ancient information on your family roots. This surname list below contains some of the most common surnames in Australia with their respective meanings.
Originally a Celtic surname, Allen means “little rock” and “harmony” in Scottish, Gaelic, and Irish. It also means ‘handsome’ in Celtic. Alan or Allan are its variants.
This patronymic surname has roots in England, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Anderson refers to the “son of Andrew” or ‘someone manly.’ It was also the name of the first disciple of Jesus.
Originating from England and Scotland, this surname means “son of Adam.” Derived from Hebrew “adamah,” meaning “earth” or “the ground,” it refers to the first human created by God.
Derived from the Latin name Benedictus, Bennet is a name of English origin, and it means “blessed.”
This traditional surname with roots in Old English means “agent of the law” or “debt collector.”
Derived from the French “bel,” Bell means fair, beautiful, or handsome. It refers to ‘a bell ringer’, ‘bell producer’ or ‘somebody who lived by a genuine chime.’
Originally spelled as Blæcmann, this Old English surname means “a man of dark color.”
Derived from the French word Brun, this word is similar to the color and refers to a “brown-skinned” or “brown-haired” person. It can also be found from Middle English to Old English.
This Scottish and Gaelic surname is derived from “Cam,” meaning “crooked” or “bent,” and “Sròn” or “Abhainn,” meaning “nose” or “river.”
The surname is of English and Irish origin and comes from the Latin clericus meaning ‘clergyman’ or ‘clerk.’
This occupational name comes from the Gaelic word “Cairt,” meaning cart, and Latin carettarius referring to ‘a cart driver’.
This Anglo-Saxon occupational surname means ‘a trader or merchant.’
It means ‘Cask’ in Latin and ‘Barrel Maker’ in Old English and refers to the profession of the Fife in Scotland.
Derived from the Scots Gaelic Caimbeul, this Scottish and Irish surname means “crooked or wry mouth.”
This English name means “son of Richard.”
This surname of Welsh origin means “son of David.” It also means ‘beloved’ in Hebrew.
This Irish name means “descendant of Dubhghall,” which in turn means “black stranger.”
This Irish name refers to the occupation of “the dyer.”
Derived from the old names Ellis, Elijah, Elias, this surname of Scottish origin means ‘The Lord Is My God.’ It means ‘high’ in Hebrew.
Edwards is a patronymic English name meaning ‘son of Edward.’
This Welsh surname means ‘son of Evan.’
This surname of Welsh and English origin, derived from “Elus’ means ‘kindly’ or ‘benevolent.’ It comes from the Hebrew personal name “Elijah,” or Greek “Elias,” meaning “my God is Yahweh.”
This English surname is a derivation from the Middle English “fox.” It was anglicized to Fox from the German word is Fuchs. Fox is mainly a translation of the Old Gaelic “Mac a’tSionnaigh” (son of the Fox) in Ireland.
This Scottish surname comes from the Norman name de Friselle or French word fraise meaning ‘strawberry.’
Fisher is an occupational surname derived from the Old English fiscare, meaning “fisherman.” One also gave it to ‘someone who lived close to a fish weir on a river.’
Anglicized form of the Scot-Gaelic “Macfhearghus,” Ferguson is a patronymic surname meaning “son of Fergus.” It is derived from the Gaelic fear meaning “man” and Gus meaning “vigor.”
This surname of Anglo-Saxon origin means “free-born man.”
Ford is a locational surname from the Old English ford – meaning a shallow place in the river for crossing. It refers to ‘someone who lived by a ford’ or ‘who came from a place named Ford in England”.
Originating from Forster, or Forester, this English and Germanic surname referred to a person who guarded or administered the hunting territories belonging to the monarch or bishop.
An Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac a Ghoill, this Scottish and English topographical name comes from the Old Norse word “Gil,” which means ravine. It means ‘youthful’ in Latin and ‘joy’ in Hebrew.
This English surname means ‘Son of Gilbert.’ The Norman name was originally Gislebert or Gillebert, composing the Germanic elements Gisil, meaning “hostage” or “noble youth.”
This habitational surname refers to a person from a locale named Gordon in Berwickshire named from the Welsh – gor (spacious) and din (fort). It can be an Anglicized version of the Gaelic MagMhuirneachain, a patronymic/baptismal surname meaning ‘beloved.’
This surname has been common in Scotland, Ireland, and England, an Anglicization of McGrath or McGraw. It is a cognate of grey referring to’ someone with grey hair color.’
This English and Scottish surname is a habitational name referring to ‘someone who came from Grantham in Lincolnshire, England.’
This surname comes from the Old English “grene,” signifying “someone who dwelled near the village green, or other grassy ground.”
This Chinese surname refers to an ancient territory called Huang. It means ‘yellow.’
Derived from the Old English word hunta, Hunter is common in England and Scotland and means ‘one who hunts’.
Hayes is an English or Scottish place name derived from the old English haes or the old French word heis, meaning “brushwood,” referring to a man who lived near an enclosure.
Derived from Gaelic O’hAirt, meaning ‘hero’ and Old English heorot, Hart means a “stag.”
Henderson is derived from Hendry, a Scottish derivative of Henry, meaning ‘home ruler.’ This patronymic surname means ‘son of Henry’.
Derived from Harry, which comes from the Germanic Heimirich, meaning ‘home ruler, Harrison is an English patronymic name, meaning ‘son of Harry.’
Derived from the Norman French names Huard or Heward, Gaelic names Ó hOghartaigh and Ó hIomhai or Old English Hereward, Howard means “army guard.” Its Old Norse name Haward means “high warden.”
This topographical surname comes from the northern Middle English holm, meaning “island,” often bestowed upon someone who lived on an island or a piece of low-lying meadowlands surrounded by water.
Hamilton comes from the Old English hamel, meaning “crooked” and dun “hill.” This Scottish or Northern Irish surname was borne by the most distinguished families of the nobility.
This English occupational surname is used to ‘describe someone who lived on a hill.’
This surname of Irish, Scottish, and English descent, originates from Eoforwine, a combination of ‘wild boar’ and ‘friend.’ Its German variant Erwin means ‘army friend.’
Derives from the medieval name Jenkin, a diminutive of John, meaning “God has graced me with a son,” Jenkins literally means ‘little John” or ‘son of John.”
This popular surname of English origin means ‘son of Jack.’
This second most common Australian surname originates in England and Wales, and means ‘Jehovah has favored.’
Johnson is an English patronymic surname that means ‘son of John.’ Derived from the Latin name Johannes or Hebrew Yohanan, John means a ‘gift of God’ or ‘Jehovah has favored.’ It is also an Anglicized version of the Gaelic surname MacSeain or MacShane.
This Old English name means “John’s town.”
Kelly is an Anglicisation of the Irish surname O Ceallaigh, meaning ‘descendant of Ceallach.’
Derived from the Proto-Germanic kuningaz and Old English word cyning, King means ‘tribal leader.’ The Scottish surname “King” is a sept of the Clan Gregor / MacGregor.
Derived from the Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Ceannéidigh, meaning “descendant of Ceannéidigh.” Ceannéidigh means “head, chief or leader.” It is also an anglicized form of an Old Gaelic name Cinneidigh or Cinneide, meaning “helmet head.
Derived from the Middle English word knyghte, or Old English ‘cniht,’ Knight means youth or servants in a royal or knightly household.’
The surname Lea originates from Middle English and refers to a person who lives in or near a laye, or a ‘clearing in the woods.’ A royal surname during the Tang dynasty, Lee means ‘plum tree.’
An Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Loingsigh ‘descendant of Loingseach’, Lunch means ‘mariner’ in Irish. Derived from the Norman-French de Lench meaning ‘Hill,’ it is an English topographic name for someone living near a hillside.
Common in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, it is derived from the Old English word blaw, meaning “a small hill,” referring to a person living near it. The German derivation means “lion,” describing a brave or regal person.
Derived from Irish, Scottish and Welsh origin, Lewis comes from the Germanic given names Lowis, Lodovicus and means ‘renowned, famous battle’.
Derived from Mars, the Roman god of war and fertility, this patronymic surname comes from the Latin name Martinus. It refers to the ‘warlike’ qualities of a person.
This Irish surname is an Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Murchadha, ‘descendant of Murchadh’, meaning ‘descendent of sea warrior.
This Italian, French or English surname is derived from Maso, which is the short form of “Tommaso” or “Thomas,” derived from the Aramaictoma (“twin”). It refers to someone who did stonemasonry work’.
Derived from the Hebrew name, Matityahu, Matthews means ‘gift of Yahweh’ or ‘gift of God’, patronymic surname meaning ‘son of Matthew.’
Derived from the Gaelic Mac Dhamhnuill meaning ‘world ruler, this surname of Scottish origin means ‘son of Donald.’
This English and Scottish occupational surname was mostly borne by mill workers, mill owners, or someone who lived near a mill. The name derives from the Middle English mille, milne, coming from Old English mylen and Latin molere, meaning “to grind.”
Derived from the Middle English and old French name Michell, Mitchell means ‘Who is like God.’
Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word moireabh, Murray signifies the bearer’s roots in the early kingdom of Moray, a “seaboard settlement.”
Originating in China, this Vietnamese name has traveled worldwide before becoming Australia’s seventh most popular surname. It means ‘a musical instrument that is plucked.’
Derived from the Old English word ‘neowe,’ meaning new, and tun, or new-town, Newton means ‘enclosure’ or ‘settlement.’
Derived from the Greek Nickolaos, Nicholson means “conquering people.” Spelling variants are Nicolson in Scotland and Nickerson in Norfolk. In English and Scottish origin, it means ‘son of Nicol”.
A form of the Irish name Neal, from the Gaelic Niall, meaning “champion,” this Irish surname means “son of Nell.”
This Irish name means ‘descendant of Brian.’ It could also be based on the element bre, meaning ‘hill’ or “referring to exalted one.”
Derived from the Old English word “paien,” or Latin word “paganus,” meaning “rustic or countryman,” Payne means “son of Pagan.” It originates in France as variations of Payen, Payens.
Despite its Old English origin, Parker comes from a French word meaning ‘keeper of the park.’ Parker was also a nickname given to gamekeepers in medieval England.
Derived from an English, Irish, and Welsh name, Pearce means ‘stone’ in Greek. The name was derived from the baptismal name for the ‘son of Peter.’
This patronymic surname of English, Dutch, North German, and Jewish origins means ‘son of Phillip.’ The given name Phillip comes from the Greek name Philippos which means “friend of horses,” composed of the elements philos, meaning “friend” and hippos, or “horse.”
This English occupational surname comes from Middle English “persone” or “parsoun,” referring to ‘a parson’s servant, parish priest, parson’s son or a person who worked in the parson’s house.’ The word persone in Old French comes from Latin persona, which means ‘person,’ ‘character,’ which also refers to a parish priest or can be a nickname for a devout man.
Derived from the Old French word “povre,” which comes from the Latin word “pauper,” meaning “poor,” this surname is common in Ireland and England, referring to the virtue of giving up worldly wealth.
This patronymic surname of Welsh ancestry comes from the word Rhys meaning ‘son of Rhys.’ It spread to England, Ireland, and Scotland in the early times before reaching Australia.
Reynold means “son of Reynold” in French. It comes from a Germanic name, “Reginald,” composed of “raginÄ…” and “waldÄ…,” meaning “Powerful Ruler.”
Derived from the old Gaelic word righ, meaning king, this surname of Irish Gaelic origin means ‘little king,’ The word rían means ‘water’ or ‘ocean’ in Old Irish. The name gained maximum popularity in 2020 in Australia.
An Anglicization of such Jewish surnames as Rabinowitz and Rubinstein, Robinson means ‘son of Robin.’ It comes from the Polish word ‘rabin,’ which means rabbi.
This Welsh surname comes from the Germanic elements “hrod,” meaning renown, and “beraht,” meaning ‘bright.” It also means “son of Robert.”
This family name of Scottish descent comes from the Gaelic word that means “promontory” or “headland.” It can also be of German origin; das Ross, which means “the steed” or “the horse.” It could also have come from Middle English Rous means “red-haired.”
This occupational surname comes from Latin ‘dispensa’ and dispensator. Derived from the French “despensier,” the Anglo-French “espenser,” and the Middle English “spens,” Spencer means ‘steward’ or ‘butler.’
This surname reached the shores of England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Derived from the Greek “Stephanos,” it means ‘Crown,’ ‘wreath,’ ‘garland,’ or ‘the son of Stephen or Steven.’
This ethnic or topographical name refers to a native from Scotland or a person who spoke Gaelic. It comes from Old English scotti, a name that the Romans originally gave to raiders from Ireland. One in 500 people have Scott as their last name in Australia.
This surname of English and Scottish origin comes from the baptismal name Simon, which was originally derived from the Hebrew word Shimeon, meaning obedience. It may also mean ‘son of Simon.’ Only 1 in 800 people in Australia bear this last name.
Derived from smitan, meaning “to smite,” this English occupational surname refers to a man who works with metal, like a blacksmith.
This prestigious surname of Indian origin is associated with the priestly sect or caste of pundits. The Sanskrit stem á¹£árman can mean ‘joyfulness,’ ‘comfort,’ or ‘happiness.’ Its English variant spelling is Sarma.
This Norman occupational name used in the British Isles is derived from Old French tailleur and the Latin taliare meaning ‘to cut,’ which is derived from the Catalan version ‘Tauler’ meaning cutting board, or the Galician ‘Tello’ meaning tile. Its biblical translation means ‘clothed with salvation’ and ‘eternal beauty.’ Taylor is one of the most common surnames found in English-speaking countries, including Australia.
This occupational surname refers to a maker of small objects out of wood, metal, or bone by turning on a lathe. Derived from the Middle High German turn, meaning “tower’, Turner refers to ‘guard in a tower.’
This surname of English and Welsh origin comes from the medieval first name Thomass. A diminutive of Thompson, its given name comes from the Aramaic word ‘twin.’
Considered as the 147th most common last name in Australia, Tran derives from Vietnamese and Chinese origin and translates to ‘old,’ or ‘ancient.’
This surname of Chinese origin means ‘prince.’
Derived from the Old English word Webbe, meaning ‘woven cloth’ or ‘weaver.’ It is the 85th most common last name in Australia.
Popular in Ireland, England, and Scotland, this surname refers to ‘person with a light complexion or hair.’ It has regional derivations in ‘Isle of Wight in Hampshire,’ and Anglo-Saxon word wiht, meaning ‘valiant.’
This Chinese last name means “Many.” It belonged to the ancient state of Xu.
The surname Young is a derivative of the Middle English word yunge or yonge, meaning ‘young.’ It is an Anglicized version of Dutch- Jong, German- Jung, and French- Lejueune.
This ancient Chinese surname means “stretch open a bow.”
Throughout the centuries, surnames have continued to “develop” in every country, often leading to astonishing variants after intercultural influences. Regardless of the ethnic background, an Australian can have a first or given name, a middle name, and a surname. The government of Australia has set out rules for registering baby names to protect children against careless and harmful names that might cause embarrassment for them in the future. So, depending upon the ease of pronunciation and spelling, you can choose unique Australian last names that sound good with the first name and middle name to form a coherent unit.