Wilson Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

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

Wilson, 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 Wilson surname is from the 2010 census data.

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

The surname Wilson derives from the common first name of William which itself is of Germanic extraction. The German names of Wilhelm and Willelm are most obvious, although less obvious is the Norman-French version Guillaume. All of these versions have the same root meaning “resolute protection.”

It is thought that Wilhelm may also derive from the name Gildhelm which translates as “golden helm.” The name Gildhelm was bestowed to Germanic fighters who were able to kill Roman soldiers in battle.

Although Williams is connected to these continental European first names, its use as a surname comes from the country of Scotland. It is likely that Viking settlers brought with them their naming practices by which the son would take his father's given name as a surname. In this case, the son of William would be called Wilson.

There is belief that the Wilson name originated in the Orkney Islands and that the families may descend from a prince of Denmark. The Viking settlers from Scandinavia settled and intermarried with the local island clans.

It seems likely that following the 11th century Viking settlements in the Northern Scottish islands Wilson descendants moved further south. The earliest recorded use of the name, although spelled differently, is in the early 1400s. In 1405 a John Wulson is recorded as a merchant in the service of Sir John of Montgomery. This was in the border region of Southern Scotland.

Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, the name Wilson is commonly recorded in Scottish records.

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

According to the data, Wilson is ranked #14 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Wilson surname appeared 801,882 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 271.84 would have the surname Wilson.

We can also compare 2010 data for Wilson 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 14 10 33.33%
Count 801,882 783,051 2.38%
Proportion per 100k 271.84 290.27 -6.56%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Wilson

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

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 Wilson was:

  • 67.36%, or 540,148 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 25.99%, or 208,409 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 0.60%, or 4,811 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 1.06%, or 8,500 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.38%, or 19,085 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.61%, or 20,929 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 Wilson has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 67.36% 69.72% -3.44%
Black 25.99% 25.32% 2.61%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.60% 0.46% 26.42%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 1.06% 1.03% 2.87%
Two or More Races 2.38% 1.74% 31.07%
Hispanic 2.61% 1.73% 40.55%

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

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

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