Lee (English surname)

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Not to be confused with Lee (Korean surname) or Lee (Chinese surname).
Coat of Arms of the "Lee of Shropshire" Family

Lee is a common surname in English-speaking countries. Lee is one of the most common British surnames. Lee is also the 24th-most-common in the United States during the year 2000 census, although this conflates a number of unrelated surnames with the same spelling (see below).[1]

Origins[edit]

There are several distinct origins of the Lee surname. The most common is derived from Old English lēah, meaning a meadow or forest clearing.[2][3]

This developed variously into the surnames Lee, Lea, and Leigh. The Lees of Shropshire (originally Norman de Lee) were notable as the forebears of the colonial American Lee family which produced Richard Henry Lee, Robert E. Lee, and Zachary Taylor.

Unrelated surnames with the same spelling[edit]

Ireland[edit]

The name in Ireland has several diverse origins, resulting in widely dispersed clusters of the name in South Western, Western (Galway) and North Eastern Counties.[4] One recognized root was the anglicization of the gaelic surname "Ó Laoidaigh" which resulted in a number of variants, such as Lee, Lea, and Leigh.[5]
Other Lees have English roots and still others may have derived from the Norman "Du Lea". The 20th and 21st centuries saw the arrival of Chinese Lees as well.
The 1901 Irish census[6] list 4912 entries primarily in the counties of Galway, Dublin, Cork, Antrim, Limerick and Down.

East Asian[edit]

Lee is also the anglicized spelling of a number of East Asian surnames used by Chinese Americans or Korean Americans translating numerous surnames also romanized as Li,[1] particularly the one deriving from the Chinese word for "plum" (, pinyin ; S.Kor. , Lee; N.Kor. , Rhee; Vietnamese , quốc ngữ , or ) which is among the most common surnames in the world. In America, Lee is the most common surname for Chinese and Korean Americans and the second-most-common surname for Asian and Pacific Islanders, behind the Vietnamese Nguyen.[1] Similarly, Lee is the third-most-common surname among Chinese Singaporeans.

Notable people[edit]

Places[edit]

A number of places in the US have been named for the various famous people named Lee:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c United States Census Bureau. "Genealogy Data: Frequently Occurring Surnames from Census 2000". 27 Sept 2011. Accessed 29 Mar 2012.
  2. ^ Edward Neafsey The Surnames of Ireland: Origins and Numbers of Selected Irish .2002 .. - Page 132 "In the English language, Lee, Lea, Leigh and Ley are names derived from nominative or dative cases of the Anglo-Saxon 'leah'. Originally it meant a wood, glade or clearing ...
  3. ^ Michael C. O'Laughlin -The Families of County Limerick, Ireland: Over One Thousand ...1997 - Page 93 "Lee is a common name in England, and some of the name are originally from there, Lee is also an old Irish family name, stemming from families of O'Lee and MacLee, This helps to account for the widespread location of the name in Ireland."
  4. ^ Michael C. O'Laughlin The Book of Irish Families: Great & Small - 2002 reprinted from Michael C. O'Laughlin Families of County Galway, Ireland -- 1998 - Page 125 "Lea, Maclee, Macalea, Melee, O'lee, Families of the surname of "Lee" in Ireland may stem from any one of several origins. Lee is an old Irish family name, stemming from families of O'Lee and MacLee. Lee is also a name of English origins ..."
  5. ^ "Irish Genealogical Foundation: Book of Irish Families". 1997. Accessed 4 June 2013.
  6. ^ "1901 Census of Ireland: Surname Lee in All Counties". 27 Sept 1901. Accessed 29 May 2013.