Winder (surname)

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Family name
Winder Family coat of arms.jpg
Pronunciation /ˈwɪndər, ˈw-/
Meaning varied
Region of origin England
Language(s) of origin Middle English
Related names Wynder, Windere, Winderes, Winders, Windhere, atte Wynde

Winder is a surname originating from England seen primarily in the United Kingdom and the English-speaking nations, but also in some places in mainland Europe, particularly Austria.


There are less than 11,000 Winders in the world, with about half of them - 5,259 - residing in the United States. The United Kingdom has the next highest population of those with this surname (2,547), followed by Canada (1,059), Austria (613), the Netherlands (356), New Zealand (277), Germany (237), Australia (215), Ireland (69), Poland (49) and Sweden (48).

On a per capita basis, the surname Winder is most common in Austria where there are 72.82 Winders for every million people. The appearance of the Winder surname in other nations, as expressed in frequency per million (FPM) is: New Zealand (63), the United Kingdom (60), Canada (31), Australia (22), the Netherlands (21), the United States (20), Ireland (15), Sweden (5), Germany (2) and Poland (1).

In rank, Winder is the 2,415th most common surname in the U.K., the 6,023rd most common surname in the U.S., and the 7,054th most common surname in Australia.

In total numbers, the number of Winders in the United States is growing. The 1880 Census showed that there were 1,527 surnamed Winder, and by 2010 that had grown to 5,259. However, as a percentage of the population in the U.S., those surnamed Winder are growing less common. In 1880 for every million Americans there were 31 named Winder, and by 2010 there were only 20 Winders per million in the country.[1][2] [3][4]


Winders in 1891 England.jpg

Although it is usually spelt the same, it appears that the surname Winder comes from two distinct sources. The two different pronunciations - wɪndər (with a short "i" as in "win") vs waɪndər (with a long "i" as in "why") - support this idea.

As the adjacent map illustrates, by 1891 in England there was a clear concentration of Winders in northern England (695 families in Lancashire and 385 in Yorkshire). There was also a distinct concentration in southern England (230 families in London, 123 in Kent, and 122 in Sussex).[5]

The Winders of northern England and the Winders of southern England have never been connected genealogically, and recent DNA analysis proves that despite sharing the same last name, these families are not related. Rather, it appears that the surname Winder evolved independently in two parts of England.[6][7]

Northern England origins[edit]

The Winder (wɪndər) name in northern England appears to be derived from place names. There are three places in north Lancashire called Winder, as well as places in Yorkshire, Westmorland, and Cumberland. The parish of Cartmel in Lancashire had a place called Winder as early as the 1200s, and there is evidence of families with the surname De Winder and De Winderghe there at that time. (Translated "of Winder".)[8]

The name of Winder also came to England from Viking origins. Vikings moved from Ireland and the Isle of Man to settle Cumberland in the 900s, and one of their chieftains was named Vinandr. Windermere, the largest natural lake in England and now a famous tourist attraction in modern Cumbria, derives its name from “Vinandr's lake” (Old Norse personal name 'Vinandr' + Old English ‘mere’).[9][10]

The Winder (waɪndər) version with a long "i" as in "why" appears occupational. In Lancashire county, well known for sheep farms and wool processing, a person who winds wool, thread, or yarn was called a winder. Just as a smith became known as Smith, so a winder became known as Winder.[11][12]

In the Hundred Rolls of Lancashire of 1275, a Richard le Winder and Thomas le Winder are listed, the first known examples of someone bearing the surname. (Translated as Richard the Winder and Thomas the Winder.)[9][13][14]

The branches of the northern Winders to first immigrate to America were the families of John Winder of Maryland (immigrated in 1665), John Winder of New York (immigrated in 1674), and Thomas Winder of New Jersey (immigrated in 1703).[15] Most of their American descendants pronounce the name "Winder" with a long "i". In fact, in Pennsylvania, one branch of the family recently changed the spelling of their name to "Wynder" to force the pronunciation of the long "i".[9]

Southern England origins[edit]

John Rex Winder, the patriarch of the Winder family in Utah, is from the southern England Winders.

In southern England, a version of the name first appears in Hastings, Sussex in the Hundred Rolls for Sussex taken in 1274. The sheriff, Matthew of Hastings, successfully appealed for the release of a group of six innocent men from jail, including William de la Wynde and his son John. William’s French name literally means “William of the Wynde”, meaning their family likely lived at the wind, or bend in the road or river.[16]

When the next great survey of England was taken, in the Sussex Subsidy of 1296, there are not many last names with both the French “de” and “le”, but instead there is the growing use of the Middle English contraction “atte” (meaning “at the”). That census records a Richard atte Wynde and a Robert atte Wynde, possible relatives or descendants of William de la Wynde or John de la Wynde mentioned in 1274 in a location just nine miles down the road.[17]

Over the next century or two in Sussex, we see the “atte” at the start of these last names replaced with an “er” at the end. The name atte Stone becomes Stoner, atte Bridge becomes Bridger, atte Greene becomes Greener, atte Walle becomes Waller, and atte Wynde becomes Wynder.[18]

By the 1500s in the parish records in the counties of Sussex and Kent the name is spelled interchangeably "Wynder" or "Winder", and by the 1700s "Winder" is the more frequent spelling.[19]

The branch of this family to first come to America was that of the Mormon convert John Rex Winder, born in Biddenden, Kent who immigrated from England to Utah in 1853. This branch of the family pronounces the name "Winder" with the short "i", as in "win".[15][20]

African-American origins[edit]

African Americans, most of whom are descendants of slaves, often used, or were given, the name of their owners.[21] In some Southern states, between one-quarter to one-third of slaves after the American Civil War adopted the surnames of their last owners.[22]

This explains why a number of African American families bear the English-originating surname Winder today. Examples include former Denver Broncos tailback Sammy Winder,[23] and Brigham Young University basketball player Anson Winder.[24]

The slaveholding Winders of antebellum America were descended from the northern England Winders, and pronounced their surname with a long "i", as in "why".[7]

Coat of Arms[edit]

Winder Family coat of arms.jpg

While a coat of arms does not belong to a surname, they are hereditary and belong not only to the individual to whom they were originally granted by the College of Arms in London, but to all of their male descendants. Therefore, after centuries, many sharing a surname also share a coat of arms.[25]

Sometime in the late Middle ages,Sir Williams Winder of Dufton (cumberland England) was granted a coat of arms by the College of Arms.

The arms are described as "chequy, Or and vert, a fess gules," meaning a gold and green checkerboard pattern, with a red band across the middle.

The crest is described as "Out of a ducal coronet Or, a bull's head ermine holding in the mouth a cherry branch slipped and fructed all proper."

The family motto is "Nulla pallescere culpa", translated "To turn pale at no crime."[26][27][28][29]

Notable people sharing the surname "Winder"[edit]

Levin Winder (1757-1819), was the 14th governor of the state of Maryland.


  1. ^ "The WINDER surname in America | American Surnames". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  2. ^ "The World Family Name Profiler". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  3. ^ "Verteilung des Namens "Winder" in Deutschland". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  4. ^ "Geograficzny podział nazwisk "Winder" w Polsce". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Richard McKinley. 1981. English surnames series: IV The surnames of Lancashire. Leopard's Head Press, London.
  9. ^ a b c
  10. ^ "Gray's Book of Roads". George Carrington Gray. 1824.
  11. ^ Mark A. Lower, 1860. Patronymica Britannica: A dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom. John Russel Smith, London.
  12. ^ Basil Cottle, 1984. The Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Penguin Books N.Y. p. 426
  13. ^ Charles W. Bardsley, 1884. English surnames: Their sources and significations.
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ A copy of The Hundred Roll for Sussex is found at the LDS Church Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Richard McKinley. 1988. The Surnames of Sussex. London: Leopard's Head Press.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Michael K. Winder. 1999. John R. Winder: Member of the First Presidency, Pioneer, Temple Builder, Dairyman. Horizon Publishers
  21. ^ Franklin Carter Smith, Emily Anne Croom, A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors (2009), pp. 109-110.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^