Last names became common in England around 1066, after the Normans introduced the concept to the country's people. British surnames often reflect the occupations of a person's ancestors, places family once resided, and the Anglicization of first names. These 80+ British last names range from popular, classic titles to rare and interesting names with even more intriguing meanings behind them.
Popular British Last Names
The following last names are frequently heard in parts of the United Kingdom. While England has tons of last names, some 45,000 different monikers in record, these are the ones you may encounter most frequently.
- Adams - Means "a man"
- Allen - Means "rock"
- Anderson - Means son of Andrew
- Armstrong - Means "someone strong with arms"
- Bailey - Means "bailiff"
- Butler - Means "wine steward"
- Clark - Means "scribe" or "secretary"
- Cooper - Means "a maker" or "someone who repairs"
- Jones - Son of John
- Miller - Referred to someone who worked in a granary
- Smith - A person who worked as a blacksmith
- Taylor - Means "someone who worked as a tailor"
- Thomas - Means "twin"
- Walker - Means "a person who beats cloth"
- Wayne - Means "wagon maker"
- White - Means "someone with a fair complexion"
- Wright - Means "woodworker"
Rare and Unique British Monikers
Some British last names are rare because you simply don't hear them any longer. Some are so rare that they are on the brink of extinction! Families commonly change spellings and pronunciations, creating names that were once typical to become less used. Other last names are rare because of their meanings. For many people diving into their family heritage and name roots, it can be shocking to learn your last name stemmed from a unique and sometimes funny initial meaning.
- Aiken - Means "little Adam" or "oaken"
- Berrycloth - Means "someone living near a ravine or steep slope"
- Cash - Means "maker of chests"
- Corbyn - Means "raven"
- Dankworth - Means "farmstead belonging to Tancred"
- Fernsby - Means "fern" or "farmstead"
- Gotobed - Derived from "Gotobedde" which meant "one who has a bed," something rare back in the 1200s
- Greedy - Means "insatiable appetite"
- Hamilton - Means "crooked hill"
- Parker - Means "the park keeper"
- Relish - Means "taste" or "flavor"
- Sallow - Means "someone living near willow trees"
- Spinster - Means "to spin thread" or refers to a woman with no family to call her own
- Villin - Referred to a "commoner"
British Surnames That Reflect Places and Nature
Many last names heard around the world pay homage to the natural spaces of a land. Surnames can refer to where a family lived, or meanings that point to actual natural elements found on earth.
- Ashley - Means "ash tree clearing"
- Beckham - Means "located near a small stream"
- Berkley - Means "birch tree clearing"
- Cox - Means "rooster"
- Eaton - Means "someone who lives near an island or river"
- Enfield - Means "someone who lives near a lamb field"
- Everly - Means "wild boar" or "clearing in the woods"
- Ford - Means "one who lives near a ford"
- Foster - Means "forest guardian"
- Green - Means "dweller in a green village"
- Hill - Means "someone who lived on a hill"
- Holmes - Means "island"
- Lee - Refers to "forest" or "meadow"
- Natt - Means "cattle farm"
- Osborne - Means "divine bear"
- Ratcliff - Means "red cliff"
- Todd - Means "fox"
British Last Names Derived From Occupations
In Britain and many other countries, last names came from the jobs that people performed. If you want to know what your ancestors did hundreds or thousands of years ago, your last name might offer some clues.
- Baker - Name of a "baker"
- Carter - Means "someone who transports goods via wagon"
- Chapman - Means "merchant"
- Cook - Means "someone who cooks" or "seller of food"
- Culpepper - Referred to an herbalist or a spicer
- Fisher - Means "fisherman"
- Fletcher - Means "arrowsmith"
- Marshall - Means "he who tends horses"
- Mason - Means "a person who does masonry work"
- Webb - Means "weaver"
Common British Surnames That Stem From First Names
Many British last names have come about because of first names. This country has tons of surnames that stemmed from being the "son of" someone.
- Ball - Means son of Baldwin
- Branson - Means son of Brand
- Atkinson - Means son of Atkins
- Collins - Means son of Collin
- Dawson - Means son of David
- Evans - Means son of Evan
- Gibson - Means son of Gib or son of Gilbert
- Harris - Means son of Harry
- Jackson - Means son of Jack
- Nickson - Means son of Nicolas
- Simpson - Means son of Simme
British Last Names That Signify Power and Strength
These last names pay homage to power and strength, and all are names that bearers can be proud to call their own.
- Albert- Means "noble"
- Barron - Means "noble fighter" or "warrior"
- Carnell - Means "castle defender"
- Chadwick - Means "from the town of warriors"
- Elliot - Means "brave and bold"
- Grant - Means "big" or "grand"
- Howard - Means "warden" or guard"
- Hughes - Means "inspiration" and "fire"
- Knight - Means "common soldier"
- Lewis - Means "victor" or "winner"
- Martin - Means "war-like"
- Prime - Means "excellent" or "fine"
- Richards - Means "powerful" and "brave"
- Stevens - Means "crown"
- Warner - Means "coveted warrior"
Learning About Last Names
Learning about the origin and meaning of your last name is a fun and interesting experience. Last names can give you information about the region of the world your people came from, the jobs they performed, or the places they once lived. Learning about your last name is a great starting point if you are looking to enhance your understanding of your heritage.