The Surname Baker: Its Meaning and Origin

Like Weaver or Smith, Baker is an Occupational Name

Chef rolling dough
Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

From the Middle English bakere and Old English bæcere, a derivation of bacan, meaning "to dry by heat," Baker is an occupational surname that originated in medieval times. The name did not, however, necessarily involve a tradesman who baked bread. Baker was also used for others involved with baking in some capacity, including owners of communal ovens in humbler communities.

Fast Facts for the Surname Baker

Where do People with the Baker Surname Live?

According to WorldNames PublicProfiler, the Baker surname is most popular—based on a percentage of the population—in Australia. It is next most popular in the United Kingdom, especially in southern England, followed by the United States, and New Zealand. The Baker surname is also especially popular in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Forebears ranks Baker as the 740th most common surname in the world, and marking it as most common, based on frequency, in Australia, Jamaica, the United States, Wales, and England.

Famous People with the Surname Baker

  • Ella Baker—American civil rights activist
  • Josephine Baker—jazz singer and Harlem Renaissance figure
  • Gilbert Baker—creator of the gay pride flag
  • Anita Baker—Grammy-winning R&B singer
  • Mary Baker Eddy—American author, teacher and religious leader; founder of Christian Science
  • Henry Baker—assistant U.S. patent examiner dedicated to uncovering the contributions of African American inventors
  • Chet Baker—American jazz trumpeter and singer

Genealogy Resources for the Surname Baker

Contrary to what you may have heard, there's no such thing as a coat of arms for the Baker surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families. Coats of arms may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male-line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted. While you won't be able to look up a coat of arms, there are many other resources to help further your study of all things Baker. Here are just a few:

  • 100 Most Common U.S. Surnames & Their MeaningsSmith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown. If you're one of the millions of Americans sporting one of these top 100 common last names from the 2000 census, this is a great resource for finding out more about your family history.
  • Baker Family History and GenealogyPictures, documents, and stories for the descendants of Reason Baker of Rowan County, North Carolina. There are also genealogies for a number of other early Baker lines.
  • Baker DNA StudyOver 300 male Baker descendants from around the world have already submitted their DNA to this project in order to determine "who connects to whom." Individuals with the Baker surname and variations passed down through their direct male line are welcome to join the project.
  • Baker Family Genealogy ForumSearch this popular genealogy forum for the Baker surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Baker query.
  • FamilySearch - BAKER GenealogyAccess over 8 million free historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Baker surname and its variations on this free genealogy website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
  • BAKER Surname & Family Mailing Lists—RootsWeb hosts several free mailing lists for researchers of the Baker surname. You can either join the list or browse or search the list archives to research in postings going back more than a decade.
  • DistantCousin.com - BAKER Genealogy & Family HistoryExplore databases and genealogy links for the last name Baker.
  • The Baker Genealogy and Family Tree Page—Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the Baker surname from the website of Genealogy Today.

Sources

Cottle, Basil. "Penguin Dictionary of Surnames." Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967.

Menk, Lars. "A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames." Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2005.

Beider, Alexander. "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia." Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2004.

Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. "A Dictionary of Surnames." New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Hanks, Patrick. "Dictionary of American Family Names." New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Hoffman, William F. "Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings." Chicago: Polish Genealogical Society, 1993.

Rymut, Kazimierz. "Nazwiska Polakow." Wroclaw: Zaklad Narodowy im. Ossolinskich - Wydawnictwo, 1991.

Smith, Elsdon C. "American Surnames." Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.