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American Last Names as First Names

American Last Names as First Names

American last names used as baby names -- either first names or middle names -- is a popular trend in the U.S. Other Western cultures, including English-speaking ones, do not generally use last names as first names, which makes American last names particularly suited to this genre.

Some of these American last names have been used for a long time as first names, or even originated as first names, as with Thomas. Other American surnames are more recent entrants to the baby name pool, especially when used for girls: Taylor, for example, or Carter. And while non-Anglo last names have been slower to be adapted as first names, that is starting to happen too.

Especially stylish right now are last names ending with S: Brooks, Collins, Wells. Hilary Duff named her little girl Banks, and Emma Roberts' son is name Rhodes.

To gather typical American last names in one place, we drew all the names on this list from the Census Bureau's count of top last names in the U.S. They are ordered here not by how popular they are as last names in the US, but how popular they are as baby names among the visitors to Nameberry.

  1. OliverHeart
    • Origin:

      Germanic
    • Meaning:

      "olive tree"
    • Description:

      Oliver derives from Olivier, the Norman French variation of the Ancient Germanic name Alfihar ("elf army") or the Old Norse Áleifr ("ancestor's relic"), from which comes Olaf. Olivier emerged as the dominant spelling for its associations with the Latin word oliva, meaning "olive tree." Oliver was used as a given name in medieval England after the spread of the French epic poem ‘La Chanson de Roland,’ which features a character named Olivier.
  2. JamesHeart
    • Origin:

      English variation of Jacob, Hebrew
    • Meaning:

      "supplanter"
    • Description:

      James is an English derivation of the Hebrew name Jacob. James is biblical (the name of two apostles in the New Testament), royal (kings of both England and Scotland), presidential (with more U.S. Chief Executives named James (six) than any other name), and it is shared by countless great writers and entertainers.
  3. HenryHeart
    • Origin:

      German
    • Meaning:

      "estate ruler"
    • Description:

      Henry was derived from the French Henri, which ultimately comes from the Germanic name Heimrich, made up of the components heim, meaning "home" or "estate," and rich, meaning "ruler." The most famous wearer is Henry VIII of England, best known for having six wives—two of whom he beheaded for not bearing him sons. It’s been used in the British royal family many times since.
  4. ThomasHeart
    • Origin:

      Aramaic
    • Meaning:

      "twin"
    • Description:

      Thomas is the Greek variation of the Aramaic name Ta’oma’. It came about because there were too many apostles named Judas; Jesus renamed one Thomas—meaning "twin"—to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot and the Judas also known as Thaddeus. At first, it was used only for priests.
  5. RoseHeart
    • Origin:

      Latin
    • Meaning:

      "rose, a flower"
    • Description:

      Rose is derived from the Latin rosa, which referred to the flower. There is also evidence to suggest it was a Norman variation of the Germanic name Hrodohaidis, meaning “famous type,” and also Hros, "horse". In Old English it was translated as Roese and Rohese.
  6. AlexanderHeart
    • Origin:

      Greek
    • Meaning:

      "defending men"
    • Description:

      Alexander is derived from the Greek name Aléxandros, composed of the elements aléxein, meaning “to defend,” and aner, meaning “man.” According to Greek legend, the first Alexander was Paris, who was given the nickname Alexander by the shepherds whose flocks he defended against robbers. He was followed by Alexander the Great, aka Alexander III, who conquered much of Asia.
  7. GrahamHeart
    • Origin:

      Scottish
    • Meaning:

      "gravelly homestead"
    • Description:

      Well used in England and Scotland since the fifties, the smooth and sophisticated Graham is catching on here.
  8. HarperHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "harp player"
    • Description:

      Harper is a red hot name for girls, having jumped from obscurity to near the top of the popularity list in less than a decade; it entered the Top 10 for the first time in 2015, and has stayed near there since. Harper is a prime example of the trend of surnames that turn into boys' names and then become girls' names. Harper was rarely heard for either sex before the mid-2000s, entering the girls' list in 2004. (For boys, it was in use until 1906 when it dropped off the scope and didn't reappear until a full century later.)
  9. HarrisonHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "son of Harry"
    • Description:

      Harrison, a name made viable by Harrison Ford, is increasingly popular with parents who want an H name that's more formal than Harry or Hank but doesn't veer into the stiff Huntington-Harrington territory.
  10. HudsonHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "Hugh's son"
    • Description:

      Hudson has risen quickly up the charts after emerging at the bottom of the list in 1995, now solidly in the Top 100.
  11. LawrenceHeart
    • Origin:

      Latin
    • Meaning:

      "from Laurentium"
    • Description:

      Lawrence has survived from Roman times, when Laurentium was a city noted for its laurel trees (the laurel is a symbol of wisdom and achievement). It was in the Top 50 from the 1890s through the 1950s and the Top 100 for decades longer, always among the most popular boys' names starting with L, but Lawrence is now used less for babies than Landon or Lorenzo. Nickname Lauro perks it up while Larry feels terminally dated. The Laurence spelling was popularized by Sir Laurence Olivier and is also attached to fellow actor Laurence Fishburne.
  12. ColeHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "swarthy, coal black"
    • Description:

      Cole -- a short name that embodies a lot of richness and depth -- has long been associated with the great songwriter Cole Porter. It's quite popular in Scotland.
  13. BrooksHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "of the brook"
    • Description:

      Surname name, nature name, and word name, with a more masculine slant than Brook or Brooklyn. Brooks Robinson was one of the greatest third basemen ever, playing for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 until 1977. Brooks might be considered one of the new wave of stylish English names for boys.
  14. HayesHeart
    • Origin:

      English surname and nature name
    • Meaning:

      "hedged area"
    • Description:

      One of those simple, straightforward English surnames -- and with a presidential pedigree -- that's easy to translate into a first. It was recently chosen by both Kevin Costner and Jessica Alba for their sons, which can likely be credited for its spike in popularity in the past few years. Surname names and nature names like Hayes, which qualifies on both counts, along with occupational names all make up the new generation of stylish English names for boys that go far beyond Harry and Edward.
  15. GriffinHeart
    • Origin:

      Welsh, variation of Griffith
    • Meaning:

      "strong lord"
    • Description:

      Griffin is one of the newer and most appealing of the two-syllable Celtic surnames. In English, griffin is the name of a mythological creature, half eagle, half lion. It re-entered the list in 1983 after an absence of 75+ years.
  16. TateHeart
    • Origin:

      English from Norse
    • Meaning:

      "cheerful"
    • Description:

      A strong single-syllable surname with a joyful meaning, Tate is finding a place on more and more birth certificates.
  17. CooperHeart
    • Origin:

      English occupational name
    • Meaning:

      "barrel maker"
    • Description:

      The genial yet upscale and preppy Cooper was one of the first occupational last names to catch on -- and Cooper remains a pleasing option.
  18. AustinHeart
    • Origin:

      English, shortened form of Augustine
    • Meaning:

      "great, magnificent"
    • Description:

      Austin is one of the most attractive city names for babies, with an attractive southwestern feel, place-name panache and the solid base of having long been an Anglo-Saxon surname and a first name since medieval times. Austin reached the Top 10 in the 1990s, but has been gradually slipping down the list.
  19. WellsHeart
    • Origin:

      Surname from place name
    • Meaning:

      "spring"
    • Description:

      Wells is a newly-famous baby name thanks to pregnancy guru Rosie Pope, who uses it as the short form of the buttoned-up Wellington, name of her youngest child.
  20. ReidHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "red-haired"
    • Description:

      The Reid spelling is the most popular by half, probably because it feels more like a name than Reed, which looks more like a word. It's used occasionally for girls but this name is firmly in the boys' camp.