Sterling last name popularity, history, and meaning

Find out how popular the last name Sterling is in the United States and learn more about the meaning, history, and race and ethnic origin of people in America who are named Sterling.

Meaning of Sterling

A surname referring to a person of high quality or excellence, derived from the Old English word "steorra" meaning star.

Sterling, like all of the last 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 Sterling surname is from the 2010 census data.

Popularity of Sterling in America

Sterling is the 1362nd most popular name in America based on the data we have collected from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Sterling surname appeared 25,894 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 9 people would have the surname Sterling.

We can also compare 2010 data for Sterling 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 1362 1333 2.15%
Count 25,894 24,314 6.29%
Proportion per 100k 8.78 9.01 -2.59%

The history of the last name Sterling

The surname Sterling originates from England and dates back to the 12th century. It is derived from the Old English word "sterling," which referred to a coin made of pure silver. The name likely developed as an occupational surname for those who worked with silver coins or as a nickname for someone with silver hair or complexion.

The earliest recorded instances of the Sterling surname can be found in various English historical records, including the Hundred Rolls of 1273, where it appears as "Sterlyng." The Domesday Book of 1086 also mentions a village named "Sterlinghe" in Cambridgeshire, suggesting that the name may have originated from a place name.

One of the earliest known individuals with the Sterling surname was Sir Ralph Sterling, a prominent nobleman who lived in the 13th century. He was involved in the Barons' War against King Henry III and was ultimately executed for his role in the conflict.

Another notable figure with the Sterling surname was John Sterling, a Scottish writer and philosopher born in 1806. He was known for his works on ethics and social philosophy, including "The Secret of Hegel" and "Rationalism and Experience."

In the 16th century, a family named Sterling held lands in Hertfordshire, England. One member, John Sterling, served as a Member of Parliament for Hertford in 1554.

During the American Revolutionary War, Captain Abraham Sterling fought for the Continental Army and was present at the Battle of Long Island in 1776.

Poet and critic Susannah Sterling was born in 1844 in Ireland and authored several works, including "Eastward and Other Poems" and "Twickenham Prize Poems."

While the Sterling surname is found throughout the English-speaking world today, it has its roots in medieval England, with a connection to the silver trade and various historical figures who played significant roles in their respective eras.

Race and ethnic origin of people with the last name Sterling

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

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:

  1. White only
  2. Black only
  3. American Indian and Alaskan Native only
  4. Asian and Pacific Islander only
  5. Hispanic
  6. Two or More Races

For the most recent 2010 census data, the race/ethnic origin breakdown for Sterling was:

Race/Ethnicity Percentage Total Occurrences
Non-Hispanic White Only 63.61% 16,471
Non-Hispanic Black Only 28.49% 7,377
Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only 0.69% 179
Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.49% 127
Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races 2.38% 616
Hispanic Origin 4.35% 1,126

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 Sterling has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 63.61% 67.54% -5.99%
Black 28.49% 26.40% 7.62%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.69% 0.52% 28.10%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.49% 0.46% 6.32%
Two or More Races 2.38% 2.02% 16.36%
Hispanic 4.35% 3.06% 34.82%

Data source

The last name data and ethnic breakdown of last names is sourced directly from the Decennial Census survey, conducted every 10 years by the United States Census Bureau.

The history and meaning of the name Sterling was researched and written by our team of onomatology and genealogy experts.

If you have a correction or suggestion to improve the history of Sterling, please contact us.

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"Sterling last name popularity, history, and meaning". Accessed on July 22, 2024.

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