King Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

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

King, 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 King surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The surname of King derives from the Old English (pre – 7th century) "cyning," which is a combination of two words, "cyn" (tribe or race) and "ing," which is a Germanic suffix. It is considered a nickname-based surname and would have been bestowed on tribal leaders or someone conducting themselves in a kingly manner.

It is possible that those who have worked in a royal household may also have been bestowed the King nickname. As was often the case with nicknames the original bearer of the nickname may pass down that moniker as a family name.

One if the earliest mentions of a version of King in use as a family name pre-dates the 1086 British Doomsday Book. In 1050 prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066 the name Aelwine se Cyng or “Aelwine the King” is mentioned in a byname register in Devonshire, England.

Jessie King was a 19th century Scottish born author, known for her essays and poems. Supported from a young age by her father and newspaper editor uncle to read and study Jessie quickly became interested in writing. Her first chance to display her work came from her first job working in an office in her home village. While working at this office the Free Church “Welfare of Youth of the Church Scheme” began and King was able to write essays in their newsletter.

Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was born Michael King Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia and was likely the most iconic voice in the civil rights movement. The son of a pastor, King followed his father into the profession. In 1954 King became minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in Montgomery, Alabama. Just one year later the infamous Rosa Parks bus incident occurred leading King deep into the civil rights fight.

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

According to the data, King is ranked #34 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The King surname appeared 465,422 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 157.78 would have the surname King.

We can also compare 2010 data for King 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 34 35 -2.90%
Count 465,422 438,986 5.85%
Proportion per 100k 157.78 162.73 -3.09%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name King

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

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 King was:

  • 70.16%, or 326,540 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 22.76%, or 105,930 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 1.23%, or 5,725 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 0.98%, or 4,561 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.31%, or 10,751 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.55%, or 11,868 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 King has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 70.16% 72.80% -3.69%
Black 22.76% 22.02% 3.31%
Asian and Pacific Islander 1.23% 0.88% 33.18%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.98% 0.97% 1.03%
Two or More Races 2.31% 1.71% 29.85%
Hispanic 2.55% 1.62% 44.60%

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

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

  • King Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/last-names/king-surname-popularity/.