World’s most common surnames

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’.

map of worlds most common surnames

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.

most common surnames in oceania

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.

most common surnames in asia

Smith holds sway in Canada and the US of A, and in Mexico and some Central American countries, Hernandez is the most popular.

most common surnames in north america 

South America’s Spanish influence is evidenced in the most common last names there – Gonzalez and Rodriguez.

most common south american surnames

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.

most common surnames in europe

Are you surprised at the common surnames?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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