ALI Surname Meaning and Family History

What Does the Last Name Ali Mean?

Muhammed Ali standing over his opponent
Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most famous individual with the Ali surname, was actually born Cassius Clay.

Bettmann / Getty Images

The Ali surname derived from the Arabic root ʕ-l-w, which literally means "high," "elevated," or "exalted." The Ali surname is especially common in Arab countries and the rest of the Muslim world.

Surname Origin: Arabic

Famous People with the ALI Surname

  • Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) - American athlete, boxer and philanthropist
  • Laila Ali - athlete, boxer and television personality; daughter of Muhammad Ali
  • Tatyana Ali - American actress, model and R&B singer
  • Imtiaz Ali  - Indian film director and writer

Where Is the ALI Surname Most Common?

According to surname distribution from Forebears, Ali is the 38th most common surname in the world—found most prevalently in India where over 1.1 million people bear the name. The Ali surname is among the ten most common last names in Bahrain (1st), the Maldives (2nd), Trinidad and Tobago (2nd), Sudan (3rd), Tanzania (7th), Algeria (7th), Chad (8th), Fiji (9th) and India (9th).

Surname maps from WorldNames PublicProfiler also show the Ali surname as especially common in India, but does not include data from most Arab countries. Other regions where the Ali surname is fairly common include Kosovo and several regions of England (South East, West Midlands, North West, and Yorkshire and Humberside.

Genealogy Resources for the Surname ALI

  • Ali Family Genealogy Forum: This free message board is focused on descendants of Ali ancestors around the world. Search or browse the archives for your Ali ancestors, or join the group and post your own Ali family query.
  • FamilySearch - ALI Genealogy: Explore over 1 million results from digitized historical records and lineage-linked family trees related to the Ali surname on this free website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • GeneaNet - Ali Records: GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Ali surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.

Resources and Further Reading

  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Collins Celtic (Pocket edition), 1998.
  • Fucilla, Joseph. Our Italian Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.