Cox (surname)

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Family name
Llyn y Fan Fawr.jpg
The hills found in Carmarthenshire, Wales, where Cox may have been a topographic name for a man "from the red hills".
Pronunciation /ˈkɒks/ KOKS
Meaning Possibly derived from cock or coch, and means "from the hills", or from cocc, which means "the little", or derived from coch, meaning "the Red."
Region of origin England or Wales
Language(s) of origin Old English or Welsh

The surname Cox is of English or Welsh origin, and may have originated independently in several places in Great Britain, with the variations arriving at a standard spelling only later. There are also two native Irish surnames which were anglicised into Cox.[1][2][3]

An early record of the surname dates from 1556 with the marriage of Alicea Cox at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster, London.[4] Cox is the 69th-most common surname in the United Kingdom.[5]


One possibility of the origin is that it is a version of the Old English cocc which means "the little", and was sometimes put after the name of a leader or chieftain as a term of endearment. Surnames such as Wilcox, Willcocks and Willcox are examples of this practice: all are composed of the name William and the archaic word cocc, coming together to mean "little William". The suggestion is that only the element -cox may have endured as a surname for some families.

Another opinion is that the name is derived from the Old English cock, which means a "heap" or "mound", and was a topographic name for a man living near any heap, hill or other bundle. Names like Haycock or Haycox come from such practice, meaning from "the hay mounds" or "the hay fields". Again, the element -cox may have only been carried on in some families.

The third possibility is that it comes from the Welsh coch, meaning "red". In this opinion, the word could have either been applied to a man with red hair, calling him in essence "the Red", or else served as a topographic name for someone living near the ruddy-hued hills found in Wales, implying that the man is "from the red hills". In Cornwall, the surnames Cock and Couch (pronounced 'cooch') also derive from Cornish cogh "red, scarlet".

As a Cornish surname, Cock can also derive from 'cok', "fishing boat", the Cornish surname "Cocking" being the diminutive form 'cokyn', "small fishing boat". In these cases, the surname is likely to derive from occupation.

The English word "cock", meaning "rooster", is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word cocc, and a fourth possibility is that the surname came about as a nickname.

The surname Cox is also native to Belgian and Dutch Limburg. This name, like the related Cockx, is a degenerate form of Cocceius, a latinization of Kok (English: cook).[6][7]

Noticeably similar surnames include Cock, Cocks, Coxe, Coxen and Coxon. There is no evidence beyond similar spellings and phonetics that these surnames are related. Given that the origins of the Cox surname are uncertain, it is possible that these names developed as spelling variations, or that each of these names has an origin in a separate word and language.

Notable people[edit]


  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.

See also[edit]