Where does the Name Smith Come From?

By Ariam Alula | | People
Where does the Name Smith Come From?
Ermalaeva Olga 84/Shutterstock

Our surnames can give us clues and insights into our family’s history and identity. For instance, the last name Smith, which is popular in the U.S., is an occupational surname with roots in the United Kingdom. In this article, we explore the question: Where does the last name Smith come from?

What does the Smith name mean?

Smith is a male name of English origin. It is considered an Anglo-Saxon name. As stated on BabyNames.com, the surname derives from the old English word “smid,” which meant “to strike with a hammer.” If that sounds strange, it may be easier to understand the job of a smith as a blacksmith or a craftsperson. Many people during the medieval period were metal workers, so the surname Smith was common for people of the profession.

Used in a sentence, Merriam-Webster refers to Smiths as workers who “developed the techniques to make metal tools.” Therefore, the surname Smith is associated with the occupation of someone who works and redesigns metal. Centuries later, the name is still defined by its occupational roots.

Where does the last name Smith come from?

According to name researchers at HouseofNames.com, the earliest record of Smith was found in 975 in the medieval kingdom of Northumbria, which is now Northern England and southeast Scotland. The name is also common in other European countries like the Netherlands and Germany.

Older spellings of the name Smith include Smyth and Smythe.

Smith is the 130th most common surname in the world, so expect a lot to show up when running a people search. Approximately 4.4 million people have Smith as their last name in the U.S., making it one of the most prevalent names in the country.

True to its history, Smith is also popular in other English-speaking countries, including England, Canada and Australia. The database also shows that the surname was just as common during the late 19th century as it is in the 21st century.

Prominent figures with the name Smith

Will Smith is probably one of the most powerful and recognizable Smiths in contemporary film and television. The Philadelphia-born actor and musician has won several awards throughout his career. He starred on the NBC television sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which ran for six seasons until 1996. Smith went on to star in and produce iconic films such as “Independence Day,” “Men in Black” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

Another well-known Smith is Bessie Smith. Known as the “Empress of the Blues,” Smith was an American vocalist who sold millions of copies of her work during the 1920s. Her most notable songs include “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” “Careless Love Blues” and “Gimme a Pigfoot.” She died in 1937 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.