Miller Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

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

Miller, 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 Miller surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The surname Miller is an occupational name given to someone who worked or owned a mill. It derives from the Middle English term "Mille" and possibly the old Norse word Mylnari which roughly translates as “to grind.” Many European languages have their own versions of the Miller name based on the respective terms for a mill worker. These include Meunier (French), Muellar (German), Molenaar (Dutch) and Molinero (Spanish).

As a surname, the earliest recorded uses were found in Dumfries, Scotland. The Miller family held a family seat in the region in ancient times. During the Middle Ages, the name would have been recorded in a Latinized style such as Milendinarius, Le Molendinator, or De Molendino. It was not until the 1500s that the more modern spellings of Miller or Millar became more common in use.

As an occupational name, the original worker would have used the miller profession along with his first name. If his son followed him into the family business he too would take the name. Tradition held that subsequent generations of the family would carry the name whether they remained in the profession or not.

There are also alternate origins for the name that may derive from the old Gaelic words Malair (merchant) or Maillor (soldier). These are both occupational terms so they could also account for possible roots for Miller lineage.

A supporting argument for Gaelic versions of Malair and Maillor lies in the fact that many Scottish Miller families use the spelling Millar. The English Millers seem to favor the “er” possibly indicating different origins for the name.

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

According to the data, Miller is ranked #7 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Miller surname appeared 1,161,437 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 393.74 would have the surname Miller.

We can also compare 2010 data for Miller 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 7 6 15.38%
Count 1,161,437 1,127,803 2.94%
Proportion per 100k 393.74 418.07 -5.99%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Miller

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

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 Miller was:

  • 84.11%, or 976,885 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 10.76%, or 124,971 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 0.54%, or 6,272 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 0.66%, or 7,665 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 1.77%, or 20,557 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.17%, or 25,203 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 Miller has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 84.11% 85.81% -2.00%
Black 10.76% 10.41% 3.31%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.54% 0.42% 25.00%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.66% 0.63% 4.65%
Two or More Races 1.77% 1.31% 29.87%
Hispanic 2.17% 1.43% 41.11%

Data Source(s)

All of the data on this page is sourced from the Decennial Census survey, from the United States Census Bureau.

Link To or Reference This Page

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