Bernard Surname Meaning and Origin

The Bernard surname derives from terms meaning strong or brave as a bear

David Fettes/Getty Images

The common Bernard surname derives from the Germanic given name Bernhard or Beornheard, meaning "strong or brave as a bear," from the elements beran, meaning "bear" and hardu, meaning "brave, hardy, or strong." The Bernard surname has appeared with several dozen different spelling variations, originating in a number of different countries.

Bernard is the 2nd most common surname in France

  • Alternate surname spellings: Barnard, Bernart, Berndsen, Bernhard, Bernhardt, Bernaert, Benard, Bernat, Bernth
  • Surname origin: French, English, Dutch 

Where in the World Do People With This Surname Live?

According to surname distribution data from Forebears, Bernard is the 1,643rd most common surname in the world—most prevalent in France, and in countries with a French-speaking population or French histories such as Haiti, the Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Belgium, and Canada. WorldNames PublicProfiler also has the surname as most common in France, followed by Luxembourg and Canada (especially on Prince Edward Island).

Geopatronyme, which includes surname distribution maps for different periods of French history, has the Bernard surname as fairly common throughout France during the period 1891–1915, although slightly more common in Paris, and the departments of Nord and Finistère. The popularity in Nord has continued to increase, now topping the list by a large margin.

Famous People With This Last Name

  • Claude Bernard - French physiologist; pioneer in the introduction of blind experiments and the discovery of homeostasis
  • Catherine Bernard - French novelist
  • Émile Bernard - French painter
  • Émile Bernard - French composer
  • Tristan Bernard - French novelist and playwright

Genealogy Resources

  • How to Research French Ancestry - Learn how to research your French family tree with this guide to genealogical records in France. Includes information on both online and offline records including birth, marriage, death, census and church records, plus a letter writing guide and tips on sending research requests to France.
  • Family Genealogy Forum - Search this popular genealogy forum for the Bernard surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Bernard genealogy query.
  • FamilySearch - Explore over 2.3 million historical records which mention individuals with the Bernard surname and its variations, as well as online Bernard family trees.
  • GeneaNet - Includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Bernard surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.


  • 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.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "Bernard Surname Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). Bernard Surname Meaning and Origin. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Bernard Surname Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).