“What’s in a name?” asks Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet.” Actually a name can reveal a lot. Some are patronyms, reflecting the identity of your father or ancestors, or references to a clan or tribe; some are occupational, based on profession; others are toponyms, signifying geographic origins; and some derive from personal characteristics like hair color or physical strength. (Names are important: Consider “Friends,” Snapchat, and other famous things that almost had other names.)
24/7 Tempo has compiled a roster of the three most common last names (or surnames) in every state, based on research by Ancestry.com. It will probably come as no surprise that Smith is the most common last name in America overall and in almost every state. It’s an occupational name, suggesting an ancestor who worked with metal, like a blacksmith or tinsmith.
Of course, this can be deceiving because Smith has also long been a popular choice for people looking to change their name, sometimes in order to assimilate or sometimes to conceal their identity — as with the fugitive outlaws in the ‘70s TV series “Alias Smith and Jones.” (Interestingly, though Jones has long been another common American last name, it shows up in the top three in only four states here.)
Williams and Johnson are also common surnames across the country. They’re both patronymics, meaning son of William and son of John, respectively.
In states such as Arizona, California, and Texas, names such as Garcia and Martinez are very common, reflecting the growth of America’s Hispanic population, particularly in the West and Southwest. Lee, Wong, and Kim are the most common last names in Hawaii, reflecting the history of Asian immigration to the Aloha State. Unlike last names, first names are often unconnected to ethnic origin. These are the most popular baby names of the 21st century.
Names are listed here in order of popularity in each state.