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

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15 Responses to “Occupation names: A Labor Day celebration”

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christylou Says:

September 2nd, 2011 at 6:35 am

I think you mean Drover rather than Dover! The name is actually on my boys short list! Fitting, I think, as he would be a 5th generation cattle rancher! 🙂

dotmyiis Says:

September 2nd, 2011 at 9:38 am

I use to love the name Booker until it was brought to my attention that it sounds an awful lot like “booger!”

Lola Says:

September 2nd, 2011 at 9:46 am

I adore Cormac and would use it in a heartbeat even though he sounds funny with my other kids. (Leo, Simon, Josephine & Cormac? ) : D

Reeve is wicked cool as are Ward & Baxter.

CountryLizB Says:

September 2nd, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I like Tolliver.

Nyx Says:

September 2nd, 2011 at 2:32 pm

While occupational names are not my style, there are some that I find appealing (or not!).

Booker: Being a bookworm myself, just the sound of this name appeals to me 🙂 And being very similar to Cooper, I see it as a stylish alternative to a very popular name.

Brenner: Very similar to the masculine Brennan and the trendy, feminine Bryn/Brynlee – I have a feeling that this would make a great cross-over name for some parents.

Chaucer: This name appeals to me more for the literary aspects then anything else!

Collier: Okay, a bad review this time 🙁 But, truly, this name makes me think of a Border Collie. Besides, wouldn’t “Collie” be the obvious nickname here?

Mercer: I feel that this name has a WOW factor! It’s soft, yet strong. It share the beginning “M” that a lot of trending-popular names currently use (Mason, Max, Micah, Miles, and Malachi to just name a few), plus has the hot “er” ending. It’s got a history of use for those parents who want something they can claim is an actual “name”, but isn’t popular and has never been so.

Painter: With Smurfs making a small comeback, this name is not for everybody. Some hip parents might feel comfortable sliding it into a middle name position, especially if it has extra-meaning for them. However, the truly Bold and Hip parents will be able to pull this name off easily. I know of one family that has a Paisley (g), Indigo (b), and Mavi (b) – they could easily use Painter as a name!

Quiller: While this name really doesn’t do anything for me, it might be a perfect solution for parent’s looking for a alternate to Quinn/etc. names…

Sumner: Another bad review 🙁 This name seems to close to the feminine Summer to be readily used today.

Tolliver: A great alternative to the popular Oliver. Plus you could use Tolly or Olly as a nickname 🙂

Wheeler: My mom’s favorite. I think it could find a very receptive audience once the general public “rediscovers” it.

Bard: Once again, the bookworm in my comes to the fore. I love the sound and feel of this name!

Overall, this is a great collection of names. If anybody is looking for some alternative occupational names, this is definitely a good spot to turn 😀

agirlinred Says:

September 2nd, 2011 at 10:11 pm

I know guys with many of these names. Farrar and Reeve appeal to me because they’re family names.

sunshinetina Says:

September 2nd, 2011 at 11:14 pm

I once met a girl named Baxter. I always assumed it to be a more masculine name. She said it was her mothers maiden name.

linelei Says:

September 3rd, 2011 at 6:37 am

You forgot Luthier, which is a maker of stringed instruments. It’s one of my absolute favorites. 🙂

Abby Says:

September 3rd, 2011 at 5:10 pm

@dotmyiis, I knew a grown up Booker. It was very handsome on him, but then, I didn’t know him in school … it might be tough to be a 12 y.o. called Booker. (Then again, I think it is just plain tough to be a 12 y.o.!)

Someone mentioned Ranger maybe a year ago, and it took me a while to warm up to it. But I must say, I’m really in love with it these days. It isn’t for me, but I’d love to meet one.

linzybindi Says:

September 3rd, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I’m not a huge fan of occupational names but there are some great ones here…


OliviaSarah Says:

September 4th, 2011 at 6:01 am

Although like others I’m not really into occupation/surname type names, there are some of these I really like. Here are a few which jumped out at me:

Baxter – I can totally see this on a sweet little boy, plus it sounds a lot like Dexter which I just adore.

Booker – So cool 🙂

Collier – Although I do like the sound of this I could never use it; living in an area where there are A LOT of ex-colliery towns, and therefore ex-colliers. It would certainly get a few strange looks, but then again it’s a nice way to honour heritage…

Dexter – Adore! I know the sweetest little boy named Dexter (brother to Philippa ‘Pippa’ and Finlay *swoon*)

Granger – Like, but when I say it, it’s always followed by ‘Hermione’

Hopper – Very… hip. God praise anyone brave enough to use it.

Miller – I’ve always loved Milla (same pn. not Mila) for a girl, so Miller seems a tad feminine to me.

Painter – Spunky, but unusable imo.

Potter – Again, I think ‘Harry’

Quiller – I genuinely really like this. Probably a little too out-there for me, I think.

Sayer – Similar situation to Miller; I’ve always liked the girl’s name Sayah/Saya so Sayer for a boy seems silly to me.

Linz2 Says:

September 4th, 2011 at 11:42 am

I like this list. Last year’s was nice too. I like some of the fresh, new occupational names like Keeler, Sumner, Lander, and Tolliver. I also tend to appreciate surname names though.

GracePheiffer Says:

September 29th, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I’ve really warmed up to classic surnames like Smith or Jones as a first name.

I also love Baker.

notsoclevername Says:

February 9th, 2012 at 10:44 am

I’d be tempted to suggest some of these for twinsets. Barker and Tanner, Collier and Brenner, or Hooper and Keifer! Or maybe something a little less silly like Booker and Devin or Jagger and Fisk. I also think Webster could be revived for girls’ use. But I’m pretty sure, with a few exceptions, these are all used for last names much more than first names anyway.

Abaum Says:

September 5th, 2012 at 10:59 am

You forgot Mason (Fem: Mayson). Another great trade name!! And getting more popular

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