Smith (surname)

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Blacksmith at work02.jpg
A close-up of a blacksmith at work. Smith became a popular last name for those with this occupation
Word/nameGermanic, Old English
Meaningderived from smitan, meaning "to smite"
Region of originEngland, Scotland, and Ireland
Other names
Variant form(s)numerous

Smith is an occupational surname[3] originating in England, Scotland, and Ireland. It is the most prevalent surname in the United Kingdom,[1][4] the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand,[5] and the fifth most common surname in the Republic of Ireland. The surname Smith is particularly prevalent among those of English, Scottish, and Irish descent,[6] but is also a common surname among African-Americans, which can be attributed either to African slaves having been given the surname of their masters, or to being an occupational name, as some southern African-Americans took this surname to reflect their or their father's trade.[7] 2,442,977 Americans shared the surname Smith at the time of the 2010 census,[8] and more than 500,000 people shared it in the United Kingdom as of 2006.[9] At the turn of the 20th century, the surname was sufficiently prevalent in England to have prompted the statement: "Common to every village in England, north, south, east, and west";[10] and sufficiently common on the (European) continent (in various forms) to be "common in most countries of Europe".[11]

Etymology and history[edit]

The name refers to a smith, originally deriving from smið or smiþ, the Old English term meaning one who works in metal related to the word smitan, the Old English form of smite, which also meant strike (as in early 17th century Biblical English: the verb "to smite" = to hit). The Old English word smiþ comes from the Proto-Germanic word smiþaz. Smithy comes from the Old English word smiðē from the Proto-Germanic smiðjon. The use of Smith as an occupational surname dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, when inherited surnames were still unknown: Ecceard Smith of County Durham, North East England, was recorded in 975.[12]

Although the name is derived from a common occupation, many later Smiths had no connection to that occupation, but adopted or were given the surname precisely because of its commonness. For example:

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island; some chose more "American" surnames, like "Smith", on arrival

A popular misconception holds that at the beginning of the 20th century, when many new immigrants were entering the U.S., civil servants at Ellis Island responsible for cataloging the entry of such persons sometimes arbitrarily assigned new surnames if the immigrants' original surname was particularly lengthy, or difficult for the processor to spell or pronounce.[citation needed] While such claims may be exaggerated,[13] many immigrants did choose to begin their American lives with more "American" names, particularly with Anglicised versions of their birth names; the German Schmidt was often Anglicized to Smith not only during the world wars, but also commonly in times of peace, and the equivalent Polish Kowalski was Anglicized to Smith as well.

Geographical distribution[edit]

As of 2014, 64.3% of all known bearers of the surname Smith were residents of the United States (frequency 1:121), 13.7% of England (1:88), 4.2% of Canada (1:191), 4.0% of Australia (1:130), 3.9% of South Africa (1:295), 1.4% of Scotland (1:84) and 1.0% of Jamaica (1:62).

In Scotland, the frequency of the surname was higher than average (1:84) in the following council areas:

In England, the frequency of the surname was higher than average (1:88) in the following counties:

In the United States, the frequency of the surname was higher than average (1:121) in the following states:[14]


Variations of the surname Smith also remain very common. These include different spellings of the English name, and versions in other languages.

English variations[edit]

There is some disagreement about the origins of the numerous variations of the name Smith. The addition of an e at the end of the name is sometimes considered an affectation, but may have arisen either as an attempt to spell smithy or as the Middle English adjectival form of smith,[15] which would have been used in surnames based on location rather than occupation (in other words, for someone living near or at the smithy).[16]

Likewise, the replacement of the i with a y in Smyth or Smythe is also often considered an affectation but may have originally occurred because of the difficulty of reading blackletter text, where Smith might look like Snuth or Simth.[15] However, Charles Bardsley wrote in 1901, "The y in Smyth is the almost invariable spelling in early rolls, so that it cannot exactly be styled a modern affectation."[10]

Some variants (such as Smijth) were adopted by individuals for personal reasons, while others may have arisen independently or as offshoots from the Smith root. Names such as Smither and Smithers may in some cases be variants of Smith but in others independent surnames based on a meaning of light and active attributed to smyther.[16] Additional derivatives include Smithman, Smithson and Smithfield (see below).[16] Athersmith may derive from at the Smith.[17]

Other variations focus on specialisms within the profession; for example Blacksmith, from those who worked predominantly with iron, Whitesmith, from those who worked with tin (and the more obvious Tinsmith), Brownsmith and Redsmith, from those who worked with copper (Coppersmith and Greensmith; copper is green when oxidised), Silversmith and Goldsmith – and those based on the goods produced, such as Hammersmith, Bladesmith, Naismith (nail-smith), Arrowsmith which in turn was shortened to Arsmith,[18] or Shoesmith (referring to horseshoes).[16] Sixsmith is a variant spelling of a sickle- or scythe-smith.[19] Wildsmith in turn is a corruption of wheelsmith[20]

The patronymic practice of attaching son to the end of a name to indicate that the bearer is the child of the original holder has also led to the surnames Smithson and Smisson. Historically, "Smitty" has been a common nickname given to someone with the surname, Smith; in some instances, this usage has passed into "Smitty" being used as a surname itself.[21]

Other languages[edit]

Surnames relating to smiths and blacksmiths are found across the world. When relevant, transliterations are included in parentheses and italicised, and adaptations (i.e. anglicisations or gallicisations) in brackets. Additionally, brief etymologies are noted if a name used in a certain language derives from another language.


Language Surnames
Afrikaans Smit, Smidt
Danish Smed, Smidt (from German)
Dutch Smit, Smits, Smid, Smidt
Flemish De Smedt, Desmedt, De Smet, Desmet, Smets
Frisian Smid
German Kowalitz (from Slavic); Schmidt, Schmied,[11] Schmiedel, Schmieden
Alemannic: Schmid, Schmied, Schmed
Bavarian: Schmid, Schmidl, Schmied, Schmitt, Schmitzer
Franconian: Schmitt, Schmitz, Schmich
Low German: Schmidt, Schmidtke, Schmick
Limburgish Smeets
Luxembourgish Schmit, Schmitz
Yiddish שמידט (Schmidt), שמיט (Schmitt), שמיץ (Schmitz)


Language Surnames
Catalan Ferrer, Ferré, Farré, Fabra
French Favre, Faber, Favret
Northern: Lefebvre, Lefèvre, Lefébure
Western: Lefeuvre
Galician Ferreiro, Ferreira
Italian Ferraro
Northern: Fabbro, Fabris, Ferrari, Ferrero
Central: Fabbri
Southern: Ferrara, Ferrera
Norman Lefebvre, Lefèvre
Anglo-Norman: Lefebvre [Feaver], Ferror [Farrar, Farrer, Ferrar, Farrow]
Occitan Fabre, Fabré, Faure, Fauré, Dufaure
Portuguese Ferreira
Romanian Feraru, Fieraru; Covalciuc, Covaliov, Covali, Coval (from Slavic)
Spanish Herrero, Herrera, Ferrera, Ferrero


Language Surnames
Breton ar Gov [Le Goff], ar Govig [Le Goffic]
Cornish an Gov [Angove, Goff, Goffe]; [Trengove]
Irish Mac Gabhann [McGowan, MacGowan, McGouran][22]
Scottish Gaelic Gobha [Gow], Mac a' Ghobhainn [McGowan, MacGowan, McGavin[a]][22]
Welsh Gof [Goff[b]][23]


Language Surnames
Belarusian Кавалевіч (Kavalevich), Кавалёў (Kavalyow), Кавалёнак (Kavalyonak), Кавальчук (Kavalchuk), Кавалюк (Kavalyuk), Коваль (Koval)
Bosnian Kovač, Kovačić, Kovačević; Demirdžić (from Ottoman Turkish)
Bulgarian Ковачевски (Kovačevski), Ковачев (Kovachev), Ковачино (Kovachino)
Croatian Kovač, Kovačić, Kovačević, Kovačev, Kovačec, Kovaček
Czech Kovář, Kovařík; Šmíd (from German); Šmicer (from Bavarian)
Kashubian Kowalski, Kowalewski
Macedonian Ковачевски (Kovačevski), Ковачев (Kovačev)
Polish Kowal, Kowalewicz, Kowalski, Kowalik, Kowalczyk, Kowalewski, Kuźniar, Kuźniarski; Szmidt (from German)
Russian Ковалевич (Kovalevich), Ковалёв (Kovalyov), Ковальков (Kovalkov), Ковалевский (Kovalevskiy), Кузнецкий (Kuznetskiy), Кузнецов (Kuznetsov), Кузнецовский (Kuznetsovskiy), Кузнечевский (Kuznechevskiy), Кузнеченко (Kuznechenko), Кузнеченков (Kuznechenkov), Кузнечихин (Kuznechikhin); Шмидов (Shmidov) (from German or Yiddish)
Rusyn Ковалькевич (Kovalkevich), Ковалёвич (Kovalyovich), Кузняк (Kuzniak)
Serbian Ковачевић (Kovačević), Ковач (Kovač), Ковачев (Kovačev)
Slovak Kováč, Kováčik, Kovačovič, Kovalík
Slovene Kovač, Kovačič
Ukrainian Ковалевич (Kovalevych), Коваленко (Kovalenko), Ковальчук (Kovalchuk), Коваль (Koval), Ковальков (Kovalkov), Ковалевський (Kovalevskyi)
Upper Sorbian Kowar, Kowarjec

Other European[edit]

Language Surnames
Albanian Nallbani
Estonian Sepp
Finnish Seppä, Seppälä, Seppänen
Greek Σιδεράς (Sideras)
Hungarian Kovács (from Slavic), Koufax (corruption)
Latvian Kalējs; Šmits (from German)
Lithuanian Kalvaitis, Kavaliauskas; Kovalskis (from Slavic)

South Asian[edit]

Language Surnames
Bengali কর্মকার (Karmakar)
Hindi लोहार (Lohar)
Kannada ಕಮ್ಮಾರ (Kammara)
Malayalam കമ്മാരൻ (Kammaaran)
Nepali कामी (Kami)
Oriya କମାର (Kamara)
Punjabi ਲੁਹਾਰ (Lohar)
Sanskrit अयस्काम (Ayaskama), कर्मार (Karmara), लोहकार (Lohakara), व्योकार (Vyokara)
Tamil கம்மாளர் (Kammalar)
Telugu కమ్మరి (Kammari)


Language Surnames
Arabic حداد (Haddad)
Azerbaijani Dəmirçi
Aramaic Haddad
Armenian Դարբինյան (Darbinyan, Tarpinyan)
Balinese Pande
Georgian მჭედლიძე (Mchedlidze), მჭედლიშვილი (Mchedlishvili)
Hebrew חדד (Haddad)
Japanese 鍛冶屋 (Kajiya)
Kazakh Tömirshi
Lingala Motuli
Median Esmi[citation needed]
Persian زرگر (Zargar)
Syriac ܚܕܕܐ (Hadodo, Hadad, Haddad)[11]
Tatar Tümerche
Turkish Demirci
Uyghur Tömürchi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elgin and Galloway
  2. ^ common in East Anglia in England



  1. ^ a b Services, Good Stuff IT. "Smith surname meaning, origin, etymology and distribution in Great Britain". Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  2. ^ "1990 Census Name Files". 30 March 2005. Archived from the original on 30 March 2005. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  3. ^ "SMITH — Surname Meaning and Origin". Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  4. ^ "UK surnames ranking". Surname Map of UK.
  5. ^ "Genealogy — Frequently Occurring Surnames From Census 2000". 19 November 2007. Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  6. ^ Citation: Brooke, 2006.
  7. ^ Franklin Carter Smith, Emily Anne Crom, A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors (2009), pp. 109–110.
  8. ^ United States Census Bureau. "[1]". 27 December 2016. Accessed 3 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Surname Profiler". 18 January 2006. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b Bardsley. English and Welsh Surnames. 1901.
  11. ^ a b c Citation: Anderson, 1863.
  12. ^ Citation: Simpson, 2007.
  13. ^ USCIS Home Page Archived 22 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Smith surname distribution
  15. ^ a b Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  16. ^ a b c d Citation: Lower, 1860.
  17. ^ "Surname Database: Athersmith Last Name Origin". The Internet Surname Database. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  18. ^ "Surname Database: Arsmith Last Name Origin". The Internet Surname Database. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Surname Database: Sixsmith Last Name Origin". The Internet Surname Database. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Surname Database: Wildsmith Last Name Origin". The Internet Surname Database. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  21. ^ Elsdon Coles Smith, The Book of Smith (1979), p. 195, ISBN 0399503935.
  22. ^ a b "Mcgowan Name Meaning & Mcgowan Family History at". Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  23. ^ "Goff Name Meaning & Goff Family History at". Retrieved 8 October 2018.


External links[edit]