Carter Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

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

Carter, 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 Carter surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The surname of Carter is an occupational name that finds its origins in several European languages. Deriving from the Latin "carettarius," it also finds roots in Celtic cairt (cart), Norman French cartier (carter), Middle English (8th to 15th centuries) cart(e), Old Norse kartr and Old English (pre-7th century) craet.

Used as a name to identify a person who used a cart to transport goods, Carter would originally have been intended as a way to uniquely identify an individual. John the Carter for example would be a clearly defined different person than John the Baker.

Naming traditions during the Medieval period would see a person identified by their profession and this name would pass down to a son if they also worked in the same field. In subsequent generations, the name could pass down as a family name regardless of occupation.

Rannulf le Caretier was listed in the 1192/93 “Pipe Rolls for Huntingdonshire, England." This is an early recording of the Carter name which may derive from the Norman French version. Rannulf may have descended from Norman settlers who travelled to England in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquests.

Col. Landon Carter, I (August 18, 1710 – December 22, 1778) was born in Virginia the son of a merchant planter. Educated in England, Carter spent 8 years abroad before returning home to Virginia. Carter is most notable for his pre-Revolutionary War diaries. Considered a window into colonial life prior to the revolution, it is of great historical interest as a text.

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

According to the data, Carter is ranked #49 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Carter surname appeared 376,966 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 127.79 would have the surname Carter.

We can also compare 2010 data for Carter 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 49 46 6.32%
Count 376,966 362,548 3.90%
Proportion per 100k 127.79 134.40 -5.04%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Carter

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

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 Carter was:

  • 58.20%, or 219,394 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 35.59%, or 134,162 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 0.45%, or 1,696 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 0.78%, or 2,940 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.65%, or 9,990 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.34%, or 8,821 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 Carter has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 58.20% 60.51% -3.89%
Black 35.59% 34.99% 1.70%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.45% 0.39% 14.29%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.78% 0.71% 9.40%
Two or More Races 2.65% 1.88% 34.00%
Hispanic 2.34% 1.52% 42.49%

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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