Brown Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

In this article we'll look at the origin and meaning of the surname Brown 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 Brown.

Brown, 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 Brown surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The origin of the surname Brown or Browne is somewhat obvious. It is believed that an early member of the family may have had brown hair, eyes or may have favored wearing clothing of that color.

The Brown family, however, does have deep roots and was first recorded in Cumbria, England around the time of the Norman Conquest. Holding lands in the decades after the Norman invasions the Brown families claimed lineage from the Le Brun’s of Normandy.

The Norman names Le Brun or Brunnus occur frequently in the 1086 Doomsday book of the British Isles. These families are found in Suffolk, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.

In 1096 Baron Hugh de Le Ferte, along with his youngest son Gamel Le Brun, travelled to Palestine. It is a family tradition that Gamel was referred to as Le Brun to differentiate him from his older brother known as Le Blond. Gamel settled in Cumberland where he was awarded land grants and his family flourished. The name Le Brun over the years morphed to Broyne, Broun and Browne.

Descendants of Gamel Le Brun also migrated North from Cumberland to settle in Scotland. Gamel, son of Brunn, was awarded land in Scotland during the reign of King Henry I.

The Norman Le Brun’s fought with distinction and were greatly rewarded for their efforts. This led to no fewer than twenty-one different Le Brun families in the UK that held hereditary titles.

Some modern-day Brown families may be more recent immigrants from regions such as Germany. Immigrants to the United States with surnames such as Braun may have anglicized their names to avoid political backlash. Prejudice toward Germans from the early 1800s onward would often cause immigrants to try and hide their true lineage.

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

According to the data, Brown is ranked #4 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Brown surname appeared 1,437,026 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 487.16 would have the surname Brown.

We can also compare 2010 data for Brown 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 4 4 0.00%
Count 1,437,026 1,380,145 4.04%
Proportion per 100k 487.16 511.62 -4.90%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Brown

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

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 Brown was:

  • 57.95%, or 832,757 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 35.60%, or 511,581 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 0.51%, or 7,329 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 0.87%, or 12,502 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.55%, or 36,644 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.52%, or 36,213 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 Brown has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 57.95% 60.71% -4.65%
Black 35.60% 34.54% 3.02%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.51% 0.41% 21.74%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.87% 0.83% 4.71%
Two or More Races 2.55% 1.86% 31.29%
Hispanic 2.52% 1.64% 42.31%

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

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