According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 150,000 last names and at least 5,100 first names in common use in America. It stands to reason, then, that there would be a number of identical combinations of first and last names.
The most common example in this country is John Smith — not surprising, since nearly 2.5 million Smiths were recorded in the 2010 Census. It is estimated that there are almost 48,000 John Smiths around the U.S., more than any other name. There are also, interestingly, more than a thousand James Bonds. It’s safe to say that examples like these are not among the names that are going extinct.
Speaking of Bond, James Bond, many of the common first and last name combinations in the U.S. are also common in the U.K. and other Anglophone nations. John Smith, however, takes third place across the pond — behind No. 1 David Smith and No. 2 David Jones.
Throughout history, there have been a number of prominent figures who have had exactly the same names. Students of history and art will know that there have been two celebrated Francis Bacons; film buffs know that there’s a groundbreaking director named Steve McQueen but that there was also a famously cool actor with exactly the same moniker, star of some of the biggest movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s. (These are the top grossing movies of all time.)
24/7 Tempo has gathered 14 salient examples, including those two combinations, of notable figures with identical names, both British and American, sometimes from different eras and sometimes almost exact contemporaries.
We have not included names spelled even slightly differently (actor/comedian Peter Sellers and opera director Peter Sellars; model Kate Moss and best-selling author Kate Mosse) or parent-and-offspring “Jr.” combinations (actor/comedians Damon Wayans and Damon Wayans Jr.; high-profile former New Orleans district attorney Harry Connick and singer Harry Connick Jr.).
If our examples are familiarly related at all, it’s very distantly, though in two cases, the modern-day iteration of the name was borrowed from the earlier one.
It’s all enough to cause confusion sometimes if we don’t specify who we have in mind when we mention one of these famous folks.