Duke (surname)

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For other uses, see Duke (disambiguation).
Family name
Meaning "leader"; possibly derived from "follower of Maedoc"
Region of origin England, Ireland
Related names Dukes
Footnotes: Frequency Comparisons:[1]

Duke is a surname meaning 'the leader'[2] or 'son of Marmaduke'.[1] It is the 856th most common surname in the United States.[1]


The first is that the surname Duke and its variant, Dukes, are both derived from the various Middle English words duc, duk, and douc, which all came from the Old French word "duc." This ultimately stemmed from the Latin dux, meaning "leader," and is a derivative of ducere, "to lead." The surname was evidently acquired by someone who was looked upon as a leader, not denoting one of noble birth since many captains or military leaders were titled landholders who would have taken their last names from their estates. The surname Dukes translates literally as "Duke's son."[3]

Alternatively, it has been suggested by scholars that the surname is simply a shortened form of Marmaduke, which is from the Irish Maelmaedoc, meaning 'servant of Maedoc.' St Maedoc was a Christian missionary in 7th Century Wales and Ireland. As a Plantation surname, it can be found primarily in east Ulster and has been Gaelicised as Diúc.[4]

References date back to the late Twelfth century, with Herbert le Duc, a member of the Knights Templar, using the Gallicized version of the name. From 1190–1191, Roger le Duc was Sheriff of London, and three generations of his family succeeded him in this office. The Pipe rolls for Berkshire refer to Adam Duke in the year 1198, and in 1214 one Henry Dukes is recorded in the Curia Regis rolls for Warwickshire.[2]


Family name
Meaning derived from Son or Descendant of Duke, meaning Leader
Region of origin England
Related names Duke, Dukeson
Footnotes: Frequency Comparisons:[5]

Dukes is a patronymic form of the surname Duke that originated in medieval England, of Anglo-Norman origin.[6] The meaning is derived from son or descendant of Duke, which was originally recorded le Duc, a term used to mean "leader" before it became associated with a specific rank of the nobility.[6] It is an uncommon name; the 2000 United States Census showed it to be the 1,577th most popular surname,[7] while the United Kingdom Census of that same year showed it to be the 1,749th most popular.[1]

Earliest usage[edit]

The earliest recorded uses of the surname include:

Ralph or Radulphus Dux in 1199, Buckinghamshire,[6]
Arnold de Dukes in 1200, Cambridgeshire,[8]
Henry or Henricus Dukes in 1214, Warwickshire.[9]

Family motto[edit]

The Duke family uses the motto Gradatim vincimus which translates as "We conquer by degrees." The Dukes family motto is Constanter, meaning "With constancy." [10][better source needed]


Records indicate nameholders came to England during and in the decades following the Norman Conquest, but its usage became more common in the reign of Richard I and especially in the time of King John. In Queen Elizabeth’s long reign the surname often appeared among the rolls of her ennobled subjects who were prominently mentioned in the annals of her time.

Duke families were also found very early in Ireland. According to O’Hart’s Irish Pedigrees, Vol. II, some were residing in County Westmeath in the Fifteenth century. The will of one William Duke, of Kyllenagh, Kildare, recorded 1551, is found in the records at Dublin. After this early date the family name appears with more or less variation in form, and with increasing frequency upon the pages of the Irish Public Records. Hanna, in his Scotch-Irish Families of Ulster, estimates that there were in 1890 within the province of Ulster 268 persons bearing the name Duke.

Thus the Dukes were one of the ancient families of England and of Ireland. They are among the earliest recorded by Burke in his pedigrees of the nobility and of the landed gentry. The first mention made of them by this authority was the aforementioned Roger le Duc, sheriff of London. The names of Duke and Dukes have been well-established in the Americas, with one of the earliest arrivals to New England being one Captain Edward Duke in 1634. Humphrey Dukes sailed to Barbados with his wife and servants in 1630.

Some noteworthy people of the Duke name[edit]

Fictional characters

Some noteworthy people of the Dukes name[edit]

Artists and performers
Other people

See also[edit]