Smith Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

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

Smith, 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 Smith surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The surname Smith is believed to have originated from the Anglo-Saxon language. It finds its roots in the Anglo-Saxon word "Smid," which itself may have derived from the Norse term "Smitan." These two words mean “To strike with a hammer.”

Those associated with metalworking would use hammers to strike the heated metals and would be referred to as smiths. With the profession of the blacksmith being so widespread during the medieval period, the Smith surname became widespread in the British Isles as well as mainland Europe.

The first recorded mention of an early form of the surname Smith in use dates back to around 975, with records showing Ecceard Smythe as living in Durham, England. Little else is known of Ecceard but other notable Smyths have been recorded throughout history.

Sir Thomas Smyth (1513-1577) of Essex, England served as chancellor of the garter and principal secretary of state, under both King Edward VI and Elizabeth I. He was briefly displaced during the reign of Mary I.

Captain John Smith was an explorer and adventurer of great renown whose exploits fighting for the Holy Roman Empire caught the attention of influential men back in his homeland of England. Smith's renown earned him a place as one of the first settlers of the Jamestown colony in Virginia. The Captain is likely most commonly remembered for his connection to Pocahontas.

It is unclear exactly why the surname Smith is such a common surname, especially considering that there were far more common professions such as Farmer. Regardless, the name Smith, which began with the profession of blacksmithing, has spread globally.

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

According to the data, Smith is ranked #1 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Smith surname appeared 2,442,977 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 828.19 would have the surname Smith.

We can also compare 2010 data for Smith 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 1 1 0.00%
Count 2,442,977 2,376,206 2.77%
Proportion per 100k 828.19 880.85 -6.16%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Smith

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

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 Smith was:

  • 70.90%, or 1,732,071 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 23.11%, or 564,572 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 0.50%, or 12,215 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 0.89%, or 21,742 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.19%, or 53,501 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.40%, or 58,631 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 Smith has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 70.90% 73.35% -3.40%
Black 23.11% 22.22% 3.93%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.50% 0.40% 22.22%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.89% 0.85% 4.60%
Two or More Races 2.19% 1.63% 29.32%
Hispanic 2.40% 1.56% 42.42%

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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