Black Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

In this article we'll look at the origin and meaning of the surname Black and how popular it is in the United States. We'll also look at the race and ethnic origin of people in the United States who are named Black.

Black, like all of the names we have data for, is identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a surname which has more than 100 occurrences in the United States in the Decennial Census survey. The most recent statistics we have for the Black surname is from the 2010 census data.

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What is the Origin and Meaning of the Last Name Black?

The surname Black seems to have originated in the British Isles, most notably England and Scotland. Several theories exist regarding its exact origin all of which may be at least partly correct. The prevailing theory is that black was a nickname bestowed based on dark hair or complexion. It is also possible that it derives from the old English word for fair or pale, blac.

Similar surnames such as Blake may also have had an impact on the spread of Black as a surname, as these names have been found to be interchangeable in some areas. A shortened version of the profession black-smith may also have given rise to some Black family lines. It is most likely that all of these theories hold some level of truth.

The surname was found most commonly in Scotland and in early records in Lincolnshire. In Scotland, the Clan Black is closely related to the Highland clans including MacGregors, Lamonts and Macleans. The clan historically used the Gaelic word for black as their name, which was dhuibh. This gave rise to a number of surname variants such as Macilduy, Macildowie, and MacGilledow. These names later became anglicized to Black.

Adam Black (1784-1874) is a notable bearer of the surname from Scotland. Born in Edinburgh, Black became a publisher and politician. The founder of the A & C Black publishing company, he has the distinction of having published the 7th 8th and 9th editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Black was also Lord provost of Edinburgh twice, representing the city in parliament.

Where Does Black Rank in the Most Common U.S. Names?

According to the data, Black is ranked #174 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Black surname appeared 154,738 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 52.46 would have the surname Black.

We can also compare 2010 data for Black to data from the previous census in 2000. The table below contains all of the statistics for both years in a side-by-side comparison.

2010 2000 Change (%)
Rank 174 160 8.38%
Count 154,738 150,186 2.99%
Proportion per 100k 52.46 55.67 -5.94%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Black

We also have some data on the ancestry of people with the surname Black.

The below race categories are the modified race categories used in the Census Bureau's population estimates program. All people were categorized into six mutually exclusive racial and Hispanic origin groups: "White only", "Black only", "American Indian and Alaskan Native only", "Asian and Pacific Islander only", "Two or More Races", and "Hispanic".

For the most recent 2010 census data, the race/ethnic origin breakdown for Black was:

  • 74.63%, or 115,481 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 19.00%, or 29,400 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 0.53%, or 820 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 1.44%, or 2,228 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.08%, or 3,219 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.33%, or 3,605 total occurrences, were "Hispanic Origin".

Note: Any fields showing (S) means the data was suppressed for privacy so that the data does not in any way identify any specific individuals.

Since we have data from the previous census in 2000, we can also compare the values to see how the popularity of Black has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 74.63% 76.65% -2.67%
Black 19.00% 18.56% 2.34%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.53% 0.42% 23.16%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 1.44% 1.35% 6.45%
Two or More Races 2.08% 1.49% 33.05%
Hispanic 2.33% 1.53% 41.45%

Data Source(s)

All of the data on this page is sourced from the Decennial Census survey, from the United States Census Bureau.

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  • "Black Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin". NameCensus.com. Accessed on December 8, 2022. https://namecensus.com/last-names/black-surname-popularity/.

  • "Black Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/last-names/black-surname-popularity/. Accessed 8 December, 2022

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