'What's in a name?' asks Juliet to her beloved Romeo. Well, quite a lot, apparently! That's according to new research from the University of West of England in Bristol that delved into the origins of the most common British surnames - did yours make the list?
The four-year study into the origins of 46,500 names showed that the most common surname in the UK is Smith, which is currently used by more than half a million people
There's something about names that is inherently interesting - it can reveal so much about where we came from and what was happening at the time. There's no wonder we're so curious about the most popular baby names of the year!
Now a new comprehensive 'dictionary of names' has been published that reveals the fascinating origin of surnames in Britain. While around 80% of the surnames still have their origins in the UK, the rest were of French Huguenot, Dutch, Jewish, Indian, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Chinese or African descent.
The four-year study into the origins of 46,500 names showed that the most common surname in the UK is Smith, which is currently used by more than half a million people. It’s closely followed by Jones (used by 400,000 people) and Williams (nearly 300,000 people).
While some names have been around for centuries, other more recent arrivals like Farah, Twelvetrees and Li are amongst the 8,000 family names explained for the first time.
Other interesting finds? Around half of British surnames are derived from places, such as Hill, Sutton or Green, while just under 25% are 'relationship names' like Jackson or Thompson.
About 19% of names began life as a nickname, such as Fox, Goodfellow or Short (although Short may in fact have been an ironic 'nickname' surname for a tall person!), and one in 12 names describes the original user’s occupation, like Baker and Smith, or the more surprising Rutter (an old word for musician) and Beadle (church official).
If you're interested in finding out more about the origins of surnames, the new Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland can be yours for £400 (gulp!) OR you could flick through a copy in your nearest library that has purchased the resource.