Help me find surnames that come from occupations.
April 21, 2006 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Smith, Potter, Miller, Carter, Bishop, Thatcher, Fisher, Archer, Cook. Can anyone point me to a list of other surnames that come from occupations or come up with some other examples for me?
posted by pwb503 to Society & Culture (49 answers total)
Fletcher, Mason, Stone, Bowman, Seaman, Wood, Farmer...
posted by frogan at 9:47 PM on April 21, 2006

Google ? The Wikipedia article on surnames also has some.
posted by oxonium at 9:48 PM on April 21, 2006

I found this page
which has a pretty good list.
posted by supercrayon at 9:48 PM on April 21, 2006

posted by caddis at 9:48 PM on April 21, 2006

Gah! Here it is. I suck at teh internets.
posted by supercrayon at 9:49 PM on April 21, 2006

Helyar, hellier, hellyer, etc all mean "roofer"
Schmidt (Smith)
Bush (idiot)
posted by johngumbo at 9:49 PM on April 21, 2006

Weaver, Butcher, Harper, Taylor/Tailor, Farmer, Fletcher, Chandler. There must be hundreds, so I hope someone finds a list.

Do you want this in other languages, too?
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:51 PM on April 21, 2006

Barber, Plumber, Abbot, Waggoner, Priest, Baker, Cooper, Barker, Brewster, Turner, Weaver, Carpenter, Cartwright, Draper, Fowler, Hooper, Painter, Sawyer, Shepherd, Goldsmith, Brewster, Collier, Keeler, Faulkner, Porter, Roper, Scrivener...
posted by Saccade at 9:54 PM on April 21, 2006

Sorry for the duplication -- we're all typing at the same time!
posted by Saccade at 9:56 PM on April 21, 2006

"Horner" is a more obscure example. They made things out of horn like, I guess, horn-rimmed spectacles and stuff?

This previous thread explored the interesting question of how ecclesiastical surnames like "Bishop" and "Monk" came about if the clergy were celibate.

The same is true in other languages of course.

The common Indian name "Kumar" is "Potter" and "Kravitz", I heard the other day, means "Tailor". The popular ones are all bourgeois-businessman capitalist names, I note. The descendants of Mr Ditchdigger and Mr Farmlabourer weren't as numerous...
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:59 PM on April 21, 2006

Palmer, people who brought back palm fronds from the holy land, to prove they had made the trip.
posted by hortense at 10:01 PM on April 21, 2006

Butler, Brewer, Wright (and Cartwright), Gardener, Forester, Glazier, Fuller, Marshall, Porter, Stewart, Shepherd, Knight, Reeve, Shoemaker, Barker, Piper, Plumber, Barber..

I got all these with a simple search for "medieval occupations". This site has a lot.
posted by Hildago at 10:02 PM on April 21, 2006

Butler (my personal favorite)
posted by sbutler at 10:02 PM on April 21, 2006

posted by nathan_teske at 10:03 PM on April 21, 2006

Wainwright, Judge, Cryer, Mercer, Harper, Painter, Hayward, Dean.

Most of the suggestions here are English; here's a resource [] that gives example occupation names for a few more languages.
posted by dammitjim at 10:20 PM on April 21, 2006

My favorite is Dolittle.
posted by Axandor at 10:24 PM on April 21, 2006

Sergeant, Major, Marshall?
posted by Devils Slide at 10:25 PM on April 21, 2006

Are you only looking for English surnames?
posted by acoutu at 10:28 PM on April 21, 2006

The ever-popular polish surname of Kowalski comes from 'kowal' which means blacksmith.
posted by jedrek at 10:33 PM on April 21, 2006

Baxter - feminine of Baker.
posted by annathea at 10:55 PM on April 21, 2006

Batista, if baptist is close enough to a job.

I once knew a family named Handschumacher, or Glovemaker.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 PM on April 21, 2006

Wurster -- German for the dude that makes the sausage. ;-)

/finally my last name is put to good use!
posted by Wild_Eep at 11:11 PM on April 21, 2006

Kolar is a cartwright (person who makes carts) in Slovenian.

Cartwright is a cartwright in English.
posted by tkolar at 11:20 PM on April 21, 2006

Kovacs (pronounced KOvahch) is the most common Hungarian family name (not last name!); it means smith.
posted by Aknaton at 11:26 PM on April 21, 2006

Kellogg, Kemp, Black, Bailey, Coleman, Stewart, Turner, Tyler, Usher, Weber
posted by namret at 11:38 PM on April 21, 2006

German: Schneider (tailor), Müller (Miller), Bauer (Farmer), Fleischer (Butcher), Eisenhauer / Eisenhower (Iron worker)...

Lots of others at this site.
posted by syzygy at 12:52 AM on April 22, 2006

I suggest this book, which discusses the different types of English surnames, with lots of examples. Occupational surnames are one of the major types (the others being locative names, names of relationship, and nicknames).
posted by litlnemo at 3:00 AM on April 22, 2006

Clark, Schwartz, Schwartznegger
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:39 AM on April 22, 2006

Tucker, Fuller.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:10 AM on April 22, 2006

Parker (keeper of the parks)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:42 AM on April 22, 2006

Ferrante or Ferranti in Italian means Smith (from someone who works in Iron)

There are also a plethora of placenames that became last names, but we don't need to go there.
posted by Gungho at 5:58 AM on April 22, 2006

Brewer or in Dutch, Brouwer (also becomes Brower in America)
posted by dagnyscott at 6:00 AM on April 22, 2006

I had a roommate with the surname "Damman" which meant "dam man", or the guy who takes care of the dam.
posted by agropyron at 7:11 AM on April 22, 2006

Abbott, Fisher (Fischer), Chandler, Barker, Hunter, Bailey, Carter. . .
posted by lisaj32 at 7:13 AM on April 22, 2006

Decker = Germanic/Dutch for thatcher, slater or tiler. (abt. 1250)
posted by disclaimer at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. This is great. I'm really only interested in English ones but that is becuase it's easier for me to tie them to the occupation (since I know the language.) However if you know any common non-English ones, please throw them in too.
posted by pwb503 at 9:27 AM on April 22, 2006

Many Polish names are derived from occupations, but you may not recognize them, you Yank.
posted by NortonDC at 9:43 AM on April 22, 2006

posted by baphomet at 10:09 AM on April 22, 2006

Two common German names that come to mind that you don't usually see translated are Hoffman (door man) and Zimmermann (room man)
posted by walleeguy at 10:22 AM on April 22, 2006

hoff auf deutsch means door?
posted by CCK at 1:56 PM on April 22, 2006

Hmm, that seems a little suspect of me. I believe Hoffman is a variant of Hoffmann, in which case the word hoff refers to a courtyard or farm. It translates to "steward", specifically a farm manager.
posted by tkolar at 2:16 PM on April 22, 2006

Umm, "to me", not "of me".
posted by tkolar at 2:16 PM on April 22, 2006

Lorimer -- a person who makes metal pieces for saddles and harnesses. It's in the larger dictionaries.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:36 PM on April 22, 2006

I had a friend in HS whose last name was Apfelbaum (Apple Tree). I assume that one of her ancestors ran an orchard.

BTW Cooper was the first one that came to mind before reading the responses
posted by tkolstee at 8:57 PM on April 22, 2006

Snyder is the Dutch form of Schneider, (as mentioned by syzygy,) and means the same in both languages, tailor.
posted by Snyder at 9:06 PM on April 22, 2006

"Thayer" which is a hatter.
posted by sgobbare at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2006

Bowyer (Boyer): people who made bows.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Schreier, my maiden name, means "screamer" or "yeller" or "shrieker" in German and Yiddish. But it's also a religious trade name: it was the person who, in Jewish communities, would go around town on Friday nights and announce to everyone that the Sabbath was starting, or that prayers were going to be held at a certain time, or a holiday was coming, or whatever. Basically, they were the town crier.

However, I am inclined to believe that my ancestors were not involved in this trade and were just awfully noisy people...
posted by Asparagirl at 11:38 PM on April 23, 2006

Levi - the Levites, or Tribe of Levi were Jewish Priests of the Old Testament. Cohen is also considered to have been part of this group.
posted by kc0dxh at 1:12 PM on April 25, 2006

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