Thomas Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

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

Thomas, 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 Thomas surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The surname Thomas derives from the given name of the same spelling. A biblical name associated with the most doubting of Jesus' disciples, its meaning derives from the Aramaic word for “the twin.” With the close association the name has to one of Jesus' disciples, Thomas in a wide variety of spellings became very popular in Christian Europe.

Early in Christian Europe, the name was more associated with priests than as a common name but during and following the crusades the name spread beyond the priesthood. Another major event that boosted the popularity of the name was the 1170 murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett. Three years later Beckett was awarded sainthood furthering the popularity of the name.

Thomas as a surname became especially popular in the country of Wales around the early 16th century. At this time new taxation laws from England meant that a population that usually only used given names required surnames for unique identification purposes. The common practice became to take the given name of a person's father and add an "s" at the end. This would denote that the child was the son of, or daughter of in this case, Thomas. Obviously, with the name already ending with an "s" this addition was not required.

Although popular in Wales, versions of the Thomas name arose throughout Europe and, with over 200 different spellings of the given name, this gave rise to almost as many surname variants. These include Tomas, Tomasino, Khomich, and Fominov.

The earliest recorded mention of the Thomas name in the UK was in 1293, where Richard Thome of York was listed in local rolls. A similar name was recorded earlier than this in Germany when in 1252 Henneko Thom was listed in Hamburg.

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

According to the data, Thomas is ranked #16 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Thomas surname appeared 756,142 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 256.34 would have the surname Thomas.

We can also compare 2010 data for Thomas 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 16 14 13.33%
Count 756,142 710,696 6.20%
Proportion per 100k 256.34 263.45 -2.74%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Thomas

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

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 Thomas was:

  • 52.63%, or 397,958 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 38.75%, or 293,005 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 2.44%, or 18,450 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 1.07%, or 8,091 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.58%, or 19,508 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.54%, or 19,206 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 Thomas has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 52.63% 55.53% -5.36%
Black 38.75% 38.17% 1.51%
Asian and Pacific Islander 2.44% 1.63% 39.80%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 1.07% 1.01% 5.77%
Two or More Races 2.58% 2.00% 25.33%
Hispanic 2.54% 1.66% 41.90%

Data Source(s)

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