There’s an old saying ‘more Chins than a Chinese phone book’, but is it the most common surname in China? How many Smiths or Millers do you know? What’s in a name? What are the etymologies of surnames?
“The origins and usage of our surnames reveal extraordinary insights into the history and culture of different societies,” says NetCredit, which has released a comprehensive list of the world’s most common surnames, mapped on an infographic ‘atlas’.
The origins of surnames typically derive from occupations, personal descriptions, place names (of birth or residence), from family lineage or ancestry and names signifying patronage.
There must have been a lot of metal workers in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, USA and Canada, as the most common second name in all of these nations is Smith. The most popular names across Oceania are Kumar (of Indian origin) in Fiji and Mori (of Japanese origin) in Micronesia.
In Asia, it’s Tan (from ‘Chen’), derived from an important state in China’s Zhou dynasty and the most common last name in Malaysia and Singapore. Nyugen (one in every four names), Kim (one in every five) and Wang (one in every 13) are the most popular names in Vietnam, North and South Korea and China respectively.
Smith holds sway in Canada and the US of A, and in Mexico and some Central American countries, Hernandez is the most popular.
South America’s Spanish influence is evidenced in the most common last names there – Gonzalez and Rodriguez.
European surnames are most likely derived from an ancestor’s occupation, such as Muller (‘miller’) in Germany and Switzerland. The most popular name in the UK is Smith, and Martin, Garcia and Rossi are the most common names in France, Spain and Italy respectively.
Are you surprised at the common surnames?
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