Occupation names: A Labor Day celebration

Occupation names: A Labor Day celebration

It’s Labor Day weekend, and so time once more to turn our attention to the original, pre-barbecue significance of the holiday and celebrate some hard-working occupational names.

We’re focusing on the more uncommon, fresher sounding examples, and those with less obvious meanings, so no Archer, Shepherd or Baker.  The er-ending trade names have continued their popularity run, with some individual examples rising (Ryder, Sawyer, Tucker) and others falling (Cooper, Carter, Hunter, Tanner).

Here are some examples of occupational surname names that still seem fresh enough to consider, together with the sometimes surprising trades they originally represented—even if it was so long ago that many don’t have much meaning in today’s world:

The _er-_ending brigade:

Banner— flag bearer

Barker –stripper of bark from trees for tanning

Baxter— a baker, usually female

Beamer — trumpet player

Booker — scribe

BouvierFrench for herdsman

Boyer — bow maker, cattle herder

Brenner — charcoal burner

Brewster — brewer of beer

Bridger — builder of bridges

Carver — sculptor

Chaucer — maker of breeches, boots or leg armor  (with its bonus literary connection)

Collier — charcoal seller, coal miner

Coster — fruit grower or seller

Currier — leather finisher

Cutler — knife maker

Decker — roofer

Dexter — dyer

Draper — woolen cloth maker or seller

Droverdriver of sheep or cattle

Duffer — peddler

Farrier— iron worker

Fletcher — arrow maker

Forester — gamekeeper, forest warden

Foster — sheep shearer

Fowler — hunter of wild birds

Glover — maker or seller of gloves

Granger — granary worker

Hooper —  one who makes or fits hoops for barrels

Hopper — dancer, acrobat

Jagger — peddler, usually of fish

Keeler — barge maker

Kiefer — barrel maker

Lander — launderer

Lardner — servant in charge of the larder

Lorimer — a spur maker

Mercer — merchant, especially in luxury fabrics

Miller — grinder of corn


Potter — maker or seller of earthenware pottery

Quiller — scribe

Ranger — game warden

Sadler— saddle maker

Salter — worker in or seller of salt

Sayer — assayer of metal, food taster

Slater — roofer


Sumner — court summoner

Thatcher — roofer

Tolliver — metal worker

Turner — turner of wood on a lathe

Webster — weaver, originally female

Wheeler— wheel maker

Not all trade names end in _er—_as evidenced by these others:

Baird, Bard— minstrel or poet

Beaman— beekeeper


Chapin/Chaplin— clergyman



Farrar— blacksmith, metalworker

Fisk— fisherman

Haywardfence keeper, guardian

Laird—Scottish landowner


Reeve— bailiff, chief magistrate

Smith— metal worker, blacksmith

Steele— a steel worker

Travis— gate keeper, toll collector

Ward— watchman, guard

Wright— carpenter

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.