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The Most Popular British Surnames


Have you ever wondered if yours is one of the most popular British Surnames? Here are some of the most commonly found surnames. The research was carried out by the University of the West of England. We have included some little snippets about each name, taken from our popular ‘Coat of Arms and Surname History’ prints.


1. Smith


Originating from Middle English (1150 – 1470), ‘Smith’ is an occupational surname common in both English and Scottish cultures, denoting individuals who worked with metal, particularly as blacksmiths. At least 85 people bearing the name Smith arrived as convicts in Australia in the 1700s! Learn more about transportation to the penal colonies here.


2. Jones


‘Jones’ is an English and Welsh surname, stemming from the Middle English personal name “Jon.” It gained widespread usage in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a lion on the earliest-known coat of arms for this name, which was often used in heraldry to symbolise a valiant warrior. Read more about ‘Heraldry Symbols and What They Mean’ here.

3. Williams


Derived from the personal name ‘William’, ‘Williams’ is a variant surname with roots in Middle English. It was adapted from the German name “Willihelm,” meaning ‘desire and protection’. The motto on the earliest coat of arms is ‘By Following the Truth’.


4. Taylor


‘Taylor’ is an occupational surname with its origins in Middle English, denoting individuals who worked as tailors. The name was even found on board the Titanic.


5. Davies



Welsh surnames and their history

Davies was originally a Welsh Patronymic surname.




Originally a Welsh patronymic surname, ‘Davies’ indicates descent from a father named ‘Dafydd’, gradually evolving from ‘Dafydd’s (son)’ over time. As with so many names, the name Davies is frequently found in registers of migrants to the New World.



6. Brown


Derived from English and Scottish origins, ‘Brown’ is a nickname surname typically associated with individuals with brown hair or a brown complexion. ‘Let Majesty Flourish’ is the motto associated with this popular name’s earliest coat of arms.

7. Wilson


‘Wilson’ is an English patronymic surname, indicating ‘son of Will’. ‘Will’ itself is a shortened form of the name William.

8. Evans


A surname variant of ‘Evan’,” ‘Evans’ is of Welsh origin and serves as a Welsh form of the English name John.

9. Thomas


Derived from both English and Welsh origins, “Thomas” is a surname with biblical significance, popularised by Saint Thomas, one of Christ’s disciples in the New Testament.

10. Johnson

‘Johnson’ is an English patronymic surname, signifying ‘son of John’. The name ‘John’ itself is derived from the Hebrew name ‘Johanan’ meaning ‘Jehovah has favoured’.
Do you know the roots of your own surname? Is it something you’d like to learn more about? We might be able to help! You can search our various blog articles for all sorts of interesting tips and topics. Plus, we can even print sand send to you the detailed history of your own surname with its earliest coat of arms. Plus, it’s a great gift idea too, for occasions such as birthdays and Christmas. Other print styles are available to view here.
Click to order a coat of arms and surname history scroll

Click to order a coat of arms and surname history scroll.


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