Clark Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

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

Clark, 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 Clark surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The surname of Clark is a name of occupational origin that likely dates back to before the 7th century. Originally based on the religious occupation of clerk, the name is derived from the Old English and French word clerc, meaning priest. Clerc also originally derives from the Latin word clericus.

In the early days of Christianity in Europe clerks were all priests so it did not initially become a surname. As minor orders broke away over time, however, some allowed their clergy to marry and this likely led to some clerks taking the name as a family name.

It wasn’t until the Middle Ages (5th – 15th century) that non-clergy began becoming more educated. This led to the clerk profession moving beyond the church. As the profession grew in popularity the Clerk name spread and eventually over time morphed into the Clark surname we know today.

The first mention of the name as a surname dates to the 1086 Doomsday Book which mentions Richerus Clericus. A few years later Willelm de Clerec (William the Clerk) is another example of the profession used as a surname. In 1100 Willelm is mentioned in "The Old English Byname Register of Somerset."

Alice Clark (1 August 1874 – 11 May 1934) was born the daughter of renowned shoe manufacturer Stephens Clark of C and J Clark Ltd. A student at the London School of Economics, she argued that historically women took a larger role in industry. It was her belief that in the 17th century capitalism shifted the division of labor sending men into the workforce while women were pushed into the home. Clark became an influential suffragette serving on the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

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

According to the data, Clark is ranked #27 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Clark surname appeared 562,679 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 190.75 would have the surname Clark.

We can also compare 2010 data for Clark 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 27 25 7.69%
Count 562,679 548,369 2.58%
Proportion per 100k 190.75 203.28 -6.36%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Clark

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

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 Clark was:

  • 74.65%, or 420,040 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 19.02%, or 107,022 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 0.54%, or 3,038 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 1.01%, or 5,683 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.19%, or 12,323 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.58%, or 14,517 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 Clark has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 74.65% 76.84% -2.89%
Black 19.02% 18.53% 2.61%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.54% 0.41% 27.37%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 1.01% 0.94% 7.18%
Two or More Races 2.19% 1.60% 31.13%
Hispanic 2.58% 1.68% 42.25%

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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