Politics and Elections

Top 200 most common last names in the USA: A full list and a racial distribution

Author: Vibor Cipan Published on: June 9, 2023, and filed under Science and health
  • Most common surnames in the US are Smith, Johnson, and Williams
  • Nguyen is the most popular Asian-American last name
  • Williams is the most popular surname for Black Americans, Smith for White American
  • Garcia tops the list of the most common Hispanic last names in the US
Top 200 most common surnames, last names in the USA. (Photo by: Frank McKenna, Unsplash)

Join us as we embark on an exploration of the top 200 surnames in the United States and the fascinating racial makeup they reveal. This analysis not only uncovers the prominent surnames, but also sparks engaging discussions about diversity, heritage, and social dynamics.


You may have had a moment when you heard a last name and pondered, “I wonder where that’s from?” Surnames, family names, or simply ‘last names,’ offer a fascinating glimpse into historical connections, cultural heritage, and migration patterns. In this post we are exploring the most common surnames in the US.

The United States, a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, is rich in a mosaic of surnames that reflect the country’s vibrant immigration history. This post will explore the origins and meanings of the most common surnames among four major demographic groups: White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic Americans.

Origins of the surnames

Surnames, also referred to as family names or last names, provide a unique window into our past, history, culture, and lineage. Originating in different forms, surnames offer a rich understanding of the structure, tradition, and linguistics of societies that have come before us. They are remnants of the story of human civilization, passed down through generations.

Surname origins primarily fall into four categories:

  • patronymics,
  • locative,
  • occupational, and
  • nickname-based surnames.

Patronymics – A legacy of ancestors

Patronymic surnames are passed from one generation to the next and immortalized as a significant part of our identity. Derived from the given name of a person’s father or another ancestor, English-speaking societies provide abundant examples, such as “Johnson”, which signifies John’s son, and “Robertson”, meaning Robert’s son. However, this convention is not limited solely to English cultures.

Locative surnames – Bound to the land

Locative surnames serve as geographical signposts, tethering individuals to certain locations or geographical features. These surnames could reference towns, regions, or specific topographical elements. This form of surname was especially common when people were closely linked with their land or place of origin.

Names like “Brooklyn” or “Hill” in English, “Toledo” in Spanish, or “Da Vinci” (which means ‘of Vinci’) in Italian, indicate a family’s historical connection to a specific place. As people moved and migrated, these names remained as lasting links to their ancestral homes.

Occupational surnames – Reflecting livelihoods

Occupational surnames originate from the occupations, professions, or roles held by our ancestors. These names serve as a testament to societal structure, revealing the trades and crafts that were important during different periods of history.

Prevalent examples in English include “Smith” (referring to a blacksmith), “Baker”, “Fisher”, and “Carpenter”. Similarly, in German, a common surname is “Müller”, meaning ‘miller’. These names provide a glimpse into the professional landscape of past societies.

Nickname-based surnames – Echoes of personality

Lastly, nickname-based surnames bring a personal charm to our nomenclature. Evolved from nicknames, these surnames often reflect personal characteristics, habits, or even types of clothing one’s ancestors wore. They serve as enduring, albeit indirect, reminders of the individual quirks that make up a family’s history.

Names like “Armstrong” might indicate a particularly strong ancestor, “White” could be linked to someone with light hair or complexion, while “Goodfellow” might hint at a well-liked ancestor known for their good nature.

The true melting pot: White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic surnames

America mirrors a diverse and multicultural fabric woven from the threads of its immigrant history. This diversity and multicultural influence are readily apparent when examining the vast array of American surnames, a fascinating testament to the waves of immigration that have molded the nation’s demographic, cultural, and social landscape.

Surnames can sometimes give clues about a person’s ethnic background. However, it’s important to note that they cannot provide a definitive indication of someone’s race or ethnicity. Historically, surnames have often been linked to specific regions or countries, but numerous factors can complicate the relationship between a surname and racial or ethnic identity.

For example, the legacy of colonialism and slavery has resulted in people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds carrying traditionally European surnames. Similarly, immigration and intermarriage can lead to individuals of one racial or ethnic group carrying a surname more commonly found among another group. In the United States, where generations of immigration, intermarriage, and cultural assimilation have shaped the population, surnames often reflect a complex mosaic of cultural influences and personal histories.

Furthermore, people from the same racial or ethnic group can have diverse surnames due to regional differences, language variations, and historical shifts in naming practices. For instance, Asian-American surnames can originate from numerous countries and languages, each with its own unique naming customs.

European influence – The Old World’s imprint

The strong influence of European heritage is evident in many surnames common among white Americans. Predominantly, names such as “Smith”, “Johnson”, and “Williams” highlight the English origin, reflecting the early British colonization of North America. These names carry within them stories of the pioneers who first made the journey across the Atlantic, laying the foundations of the modern United States.

However, the European influence doesn’t end with the British Isles. The echoes of German, Irish, Italian, Croatian, and other European ancestries resonate widely in the American surname tapestry. Names like “Schneider”, “O’Brien”, and “Rossi” are not uncommon, signifying significant waves of immigration throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. These surnames symbolize the hopes and dreams of countless immigrants who sought new beginnings in the land of opportunity.

Top White surnames in the US

The five most common surnames among White Americans include:

Smith 2,442,977 1,732,071
Johnson 1,932,812 1,139,779
Miller 1,161,437 976,885
Brown 1,437,026 832,757
Jones 1,425,470 786,717

These names, primarily of English origin, were often designated based on occupation, patronymics (derived from a father’s name), or even physical characteristics.

For example, “Smith,” traces back to the Old English term for a metal worker, or in a broader sense, an artisan. Names like “Johnson” (John’s son) or “Williams” (William’s son) are classic examples of patronymic names. “Brown” could have denoted someone with brown hair or clothing, while “Jones” is a patronymic name derived from “John.”

Interestingly, despite the ethnic diversity of the U.S., the prevalence of these English surnames points to the enduring impact of early English settlers. Additionally, the dominance of occupational and patronymic names reflects how medieval English societies identified individuals.

African-American surnames: Echoes of a troubled past

African-American, or Black, surnames embody a complex and often painful history, primarily influenced by the traumatic legacy of slavery and its aftermath. During the era of slavery, enslaved Africans were frequently given or adopted the surnames of their enslavers, a painful reminder of a brutal period in history.

Following emancipation, this pattern evolved. Some chose to retain these names, a decision that might have been influenced by a range of factors including familiarity or a desire to maintain a sense of community. Others embraced the freedom to adopt new surnames.

For example, “Washington”, a prominent surname among African-Americans, is thought to have been widely adopted during this period. “Johnson”, another frequently found African-American surname, originated as a patronymic name, highlighting the ongoing influence of these traditional naming practices.

It is noteworthy that many African Americans chose entirely new surnames after emancipation. “Washington” may have been selected by freed slaves to demonstrate their American identity.

Top Black surnames in the US

The five most common surnames among Black Americans include:

Williams 1,625,252 774,920
Johnson 1,932,812 669,333
Smith 2,442,977 564,572
Jones 1,425,470 548,521
Brown 1,437,026 511,581

Asian-American surnames – A preservation of heritage

Asian-American surnames reflect the preservation of ancestral ties and heritage, often maintaining family names from the immigrants’ countries of origin. This pattern not only maps the chronology of different waves of immigration but also spotlights the cultural identities that individuals and families strived to maintain in their new homeland.

Common Korean surnames such as “Kim”, “Lee”, and “Park” are found alongside prevalent Chinese-American surnames like “Chen”, “Li”, and “Zhang”. Yet, one of the most common Asian-American surnames doesn’t come from either Korea or China, but from Vietnam.

“Nguyen”, a name carried by a substantial fraction of the Vietnamese population, is a prime example of a single surname’s substantial prevalence. This name is often linked to a dynasty that ruled Vietnam from the 16th to the 19th century, showcasing how history and politics can heavily influence naming patterns.

The varied spellings of these Asian-American names often mirror different romanization systems, further adding to the diversity of the American surname landscape. These surnames serve as poignant reminders of the rich and varied Asian cultures that have contributed to the American narrative.

Top Asian and Pacific Islander surnames in the US

The five most common surnames among Asian Americans include:

Nguyen 437,645 422,109
Lee 693,023 292,594
Kim 262,352 247,844
Patel 229,973 217,968
Tran 188,498 180,958

Hispanic surnames – A testament to Spanish and Latin American heritage

The sound of Hispanic surnames like “Garcia”, “Rodriguez”, and “Martinez” resonate with the rhythms of Spanish and Latin American heritage. These names, therefore, reflect a range of patronymic, locative, and occupational origins, speak to the vibrant Hispanic influence on American society.

Interestingly, many Hispanic individuals maintain the custom of using both their mother’s and father’s surnames in accordance with Spanish naming traditions. This practice signifies a deep respect for both maternal and paternal lineages, and it contributes to the rich diversity of Hispanic surnames in the United States.

Top Hispanic surnames in the US

The five most common surnames among Hispanic Americans include:

Garcia 1,166,120 1,073,180
Rodriguez 1,094,924 1,026,710
Hernandez 1,043,281 989,969
Martinez 1,060,159 984,994
Lopez 874,523 812,607

The list of the top 200 US surnames

The following list shows the top 200 last names in the US based on the data from the Decennial Census survey, from the United States Census Bureau, and organized by the fine people at namecensus.com.

1 Smith 2,442,977
2 Johnson 1,932,812
3 Williams 1,625,252
4 Brown 1,437,026
5 Jones 1,425,470
6 Garcia 1,166,120
7 Miller 1,161,437
8 Davis 1,116,357
9 Rodriguez 1,094,924
10 Martinez 1,060,159
11 Hernandez 1,043,281
12 Lopez 874,523
13 Gonzalez 841,025
14 Wilson 801,882
15 Anderson 784,404
16 Thomas 756,142
17 Taylor 751,209
18 Moore 724,374
19 Jackson 708,099
20 Martin 702,625
21 Lee 693,023
22 Perez 681,645
23 Thompson 664,644
24 White 660,491
25 Harris 624,252
26 Sanchez 612,752
27 Clark 562,679
28 Ramirez 557,423
29 Lewis 531,781
30 Robinson 529,821
31 Walker 523,129
32 Young 484,447
33 Allen 482,607
34 King 465,422
35 Wright 458,980
36 Scott 439,530
37 Torres 437,813
38 Nguyen 437,645
39 Hill 434,827
40 Flores 433,969
41 Green 430,182
42 Adams 427,865
43 Nelson 424,958
44 Baker 419,586
45 Hall 407,076
46 Rivera 391,114
47 Campbell 386,157
48 Mitchell 384,486
49 Carter 376,966
50 Roberts 376,774
51 Gomez 365,655
52 Phillips 360,802
53 Evans 355,593
54 Turner 348,627
55 Diaz 347,636
56 Parker 336,221
57 Cruz 334,201
58 Edwards 332,423
59 Collins 329,770
60 Reyes 327,904
61 Stewart 324,957
62 Morris 318,884
63 Morales 311,777
64 Murphy 308,417
65 Cook 302,589
66 Rogers 302,261
67 Gutierrez 293,218
68 Ortiz 286,899
69 Morgan 286,280
70 Cooper 280,791
71 Peterson 278,297
72 Bailey 277,845
73 Reed 277,030
74 Kelly 267,394
75 Howard 264,826
76 Ramos 263,464
77 Kim 262,352
78 Cox 261,231
79 Ward 260,464
80 Richardson 259,798
81 Watson 252,579
82 Brooks 251,663
83 Chavez 250,898
84 Wood 250,715
85 James 249,379
86 Bennett 247,599
87 Gray 246,116
88 Mendoza 242,771
89 Ruiz 238,234
90 Hughes 236,271
91 Price 235,251
92 Alvarez 233,983
93 Castillo 230,420
94 Sanders 230,374
95 Patel 229,973
96 Myers 229,895
97 Long 229,374
98 Ross 229,368
99 Foster 227,764
100 Jimenez 227,118
101 Powell 224,874
102 Jenkins 222,653
103 Perry 221,741
104 Russell 221,558
105 Sullivan 220,990
106 Bell 220,599
107 Coleman 219,070
108 Butler 218,847
109 Henderson 218,393
110 Barnes 218,241
111 Gonzales 214,758
112 Fisher 214,703
113 Vasquez 212,781
114 Simmons 210,182
115 Romero 208,614
116 Jordan 208,403
117 Patterson 205,423
118 Alexander 204,621
119 Hamilton 201,746
120 Graham 201,159
121 Reynolds 200,247
122 Griffin 198,406
123 Wallace 197,276
124 Moreno 196,925
125 West 195,818
126 Cole 195,289
127 Hayes 194,246
128 Bryant 192,773
129 Herrera 192,711
130 Gibson 190,667
131 Ellis 188,968
132 Tran 188,498
133 Medina 188,497
134 Aguilar 186,512
135 Stevens 185,674
136 Murray 184,910
137 Ford 184,832
138 Castro 184,134
139 Marshall 183,922
140 Owens 182,719
141 Harrison 181,091
142 Fernandez 180,842
143 McDonald 180,497
144 Woods 177,425
145 Washington 177,386
146 Kennedy 176,865
147 Wells 176,230
148 Vargas 173,835
149 Henry 170,964
150 Chen 169,580
151 Freeman 169,149
152 Webb 168,878
153 Tucker 167,446
154 Guzman 167,044
155 Burns 165,925
156 Crawford 164,457
157 Olson 164,035
158 Simpson 163,181
159 Porter 163,054
160 Hunter 162,440
161 Gordon 161,833
162 Mendez 161,717
163 Silva 161,633
164 Shaw 160,400
165 Snyder 160,262
166 Mason 160,213
167 Dixon 159,480
168 Munoz 158,483
169 Hunt 158,421
170 Hicks 158,320
171 Holmes 156,780
172 Palmer 156,601
173 Wagner 155,795
174 Black 154,738
175 Robertson 153,666
176 Boyd 153,469
177 Rose 153,397
178 Stone 153,329
179 Salazar 152,703
180 Fox 152,334
181 Warren 152,147
182 Mills 151,942
183 Meyer 150,895
184 Rice 149,500
185 Schmidt 147,034
186 Garza 147,005
187 Daniels 146,570
188 Ferguson 146,426
189 Nichols 145,584
190 Stephens 144,646
191 Soto 144,451
192 Weaver 143,837
193 Ryan 143,452
194 Gardner 142,894
195 Payne 142,601
196 Grant 142,277
197 Dunn 141,427
198 Kelley 140,693
199 Spencer 139,951
200 Hawkins 139,751

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Vibor Cipan

With over 15 years of professional work in technology, Vibor Cipan is a recognized leader in this field. His contributions at Microsoft, where he earned the prestigious MVP title, set the stage for his roles as CEO and Co-Founder of UX Passion, and later on, Point Jupiter, a data-informed agency. There, he led teams that shaped services for over 400 million users globally. His work spans UX design and software development, driving significant contributions in both fields.

Currently immersed in the generative AI sector, Cipan is taking part in projects revolutionizing software development and user engagement. His expertise extends into data viz, analytics and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), where he actively develops proofs of concept and explores AI's role in shaping societal dynamics and national security.

An accomplished author and speaker, Vibor continues to share his insights at international venues, advocating for innovation and a richer understanding of technology's impact on society.

You can follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter/X as @viborc.

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