Read (surname)

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Family name
Meaning literally, the colour red - descriptive of ruddy complexion or red hair
Region of origin England

Read is a surname of English origins.


The name is most likely to derive from rēad, the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) term for the colour red.[1] As a name it is believed to have originally been descriptive of person's complexion or hair being ruddy or red.[2] Old English had spelling variants depending on dialect, rēad was the form in West Saxon, rēid was the spelling characteristic of Northumbrian English. This variation is probably fossilised in the modern name variants, Read and Reid.[3] There is a settlement in Lancashire called Read, the name deriving from an Old English term meaning roe[deer]-headland, this may also account for some Read surnames.

Historical use[edit]

As a personal name a grammatical form of Read, Reada, was used at the earliest stages of English history. The English town of Reading on the River Thames derives its name from a very early English tribal or community group called the Readingas. The Readingas appear to have been named after a chieftain called Reada, "The Red One," with the addition of the element -ingas meaning "the people of." [4][5] The first written use of the name is that of a Leofwine se Reade (Leofwine the Red), in the time of King Canute, dating to 1016-1020. However, this usage would have been as a descriptive by-name as inherited family surnames had not yet become established. A variant spelling is found in the person of Godwin le Rede, recorded in Norfolk in 1273, and a Thomas Read is recorded in 1327; their use of the name would have been as a heritable surname.[6][7] A Read family was prominent in early American history, George Read of Delaware was signatory to the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution.


This name is included in the names of the following articles:

Politics and government[edit]

Military and naval[edit]


Academics and literature[edit]

Business and industry[edit]

Science and technology[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eric Partridge (1966). Origins: An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-05077-4. 
  2. ^ Bardsley, Charles Wareing (1901). English and Welsh Surnames. London: Henry Frowde. pp. pages 639 and 641. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
  3. ^ Reid is the more common form in Scotland and North East England, both areas deriving their language from Northumbrian English.
  4. ^ Cameron,K., (1961) English Place-names, Batsford, p. 64.
  5. ^ Transactions of the Historical Society of Berks. County, By Historical Society of Berks. County, Published by The Society, 1910: v.2 (1905-10) p. 164
  6. ^ Bardsley, C.W.E. (1901) A dictionary of English and Welsh surnames: with special American instances. London.
  7. ^ Reany, P.H. and Wilson, R.M. (1991) A Dictionary of English Surnames, Routledge. ISBN 0-415-05737-X