Cox (surname)

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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
Language(s)Old English or Welsh
MeaningPossibly 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 originEngland or Wales

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.

Another possibility is that the name is of Norman origin. In the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, Alric Le Coq was one of Duke William's companions.[6] Alric was said to have been a "a strutting {as a rooster struts} Norman soldier ... who was nicknamed 'le coq' and his children 'little cockes.'"[7] Le Coq could easily have been Anglicized to Cox as seen in the previous possibility.

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).[8][9]

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.

The origins of the surname in North America are speculated across several written accounts, with most sources pointing toward three distinct families arriving from England in the 17th and 18th Centuries: in 1690, brothers Thomas, William, and Walter Cocke originally of Surry; in 1705, the family of Dr. Wilham Cocke of Williamsburg; and at an unknown time before 1658, Nicholas Cocke of Middlesex.[10]

Notable people with the surname "Cox" include[edit]























  • Zack Cox (born 1989), American baseball player

Fictional characters[edit]

  • Julianna Cox, fictional character from Homicide: Life on the Street
  • Perry Cox, fictional character on the TV series Scrubs
  • Reg Cox, fictional character in East Enders soap opera

See also[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.


  1. ^ "". Archived from the original on 19 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Cox Name Meaning & Cox Family History at". Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  3. ^ "". Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Surname Database: Cox Last Name Origin". The Internet Surname Database. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Cox Meaning and Distribution". Retrieved 25 January 2014
  6. ^ Sewell, Robert. "Battle Abbey Rolls". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  7. ^ "the select surname list". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  8. ^ Cox at the Meertens Institute database of surnames in the Netherlands
  9. ^ " – Geografische spreiding van familienamen in België". Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  10. ^ "The Cox family in America : A history and genealogy of the older branches of the family from the appearance of its first representative in this country in 1610". 1912.