Gao Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

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

Gao, 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 Gao surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The common Chinese surname Gao is a habitual name that legend suggests originates from the Western-Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 771 bc). It is claimed that a son of the Zhou Dynasty was granted the lands Gao and that his descendants thereafter adopted the surname related to that place. Gao itself translates as “high" or "tall” which would seem to support a habitual origin for the name.

Gao as a surname is first officially recorded in the Lushi Chunqui (an encyclopedic text from around 239 bc). In this ancient text, Gao Yuan is mentioned as a creator of dwellings. Another use of the name comes from Chinese mythology in the form of Zhuanxu, who was also known as Gao Yang. Zhuanxu was considered to be one of the 5 mythical emperors of China (3162 – 2070 bc).

Emperor Wenxuan of (Northern) Qi (526 – 559) was known more commonly as Gao Yang. The second-born son and the Eastern Wei Dynasty general Gao Huan, Yang became the first emperor of the Qi Dynasty. Gao Yang was a very wise man even from a young age, realizing early on that he should downplay his abilities. As the second son of the family Yang wished to deceive his family especially his older brother into thinking he was unintelligent and awkward.

In 549 Gao Yang’s father died and his older brother Gao Cheng took over. Cheng decided to try and overthrow the Wei Emperor Xiaojing. Hatching a plot, Cheng set the wheels in motion with a number of co-conspirators. Cheng was killed by his own servant, however, before the plan could take place. Gao Yang quickly moved to kill his brother's allies and took his brother's position, proving his patience and wisdom.

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

According to the data, Gao is ranked #2,948 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Gao surname appeared 12,172 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 4.13 would have the surname Gao.

We can also compare 2010 data for Gao 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 2948 5866 -66.21%
Count 12,172 5,405 77.00%
Proportion per 100k 4.13 2.00 69.49%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Gao

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

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 Gao was:

  • 1.22%, or 148 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • (S), or less than 100 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 97.39%, or 11,854 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • (S), or less than 100 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 0.62%, or 75 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 0.41%, or 50 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 Gao has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 1.22% 2.02% -49.38%
Black (S) (S) 0.00%
Asian and Pacific Islander 97.39% 96.28% 1.15%
American Indian and Alaskan Native (S) (S) 0.00%
Two or More Races 0.62% 1.04% -50.60%
Hispanic 0.41% 0.44% -7.06%

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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  • "Gao Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin". NameCensus.com. Accessed on May 20, 2022. http://namecensus.com/last-names/gao-surname-popularity/.

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