Here’s what your surname really means

Researchers have looked into the origin of more than 45,000 surnames in Britain – with some surprising results.

Out of the 45,600 they examined, thousands of the names they looked at reflected the pattern of regular immigration into the country from the 16th century until now.


For example, while around 40,000 names were native to Britain and Ireland, all of the rest were of French Huguenot, Dutch, Jewish, Indian, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Chinese or African descent.

The team from the University of the West of England in Bristol studied the linguistic origins, history and geographical distribution of the most frequent family names found in Britain and Ireland today.

Led by professors Patrick Hanks and Richard Coates, they searched through records from published and unpublished sources dated from the 11th to the 19th centuries.


These included previously untapped medieval and modern resources such as tax records, church registers and census returns.


‘There is widespread interest in family names and their history,’ Prof Coates said. ‘Our research uses the most up-to-date evidence and techniques in order to create a more detailed and accurate resource than those currently available.

‘We have paid particular attention, wherever possible, to linking family names to locations.’

The findings have been published in the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, which is available from today.


Here’s what your surname really means

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