BROWN Surname Meaning and Origin

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Brown is generally a descriptive surname (nickname) referring to the color of the individual's complexion, color of hair, or garments, from the Middle English br(o)un, deriving from Old English or Old French brun, meaning "brown."

As a Scottish or Irish name, Brown may also be a translation of the Gaelic donn for "brown."

Brown is the 4th most popular surname in the United States, the 5th most common in England, and the 4th most common last name in Australia. The variant surname, Browne, is also common in England and Ireland.

Surname Origin: English, Scottish, Irish


Fun Facts About the Brown Surname:

Brown is the second most common surname among African Americans in the United States. Some freed slaves adopted the surname Brown following the Civil War for the obvious reason that it described their appearance, but there were also many who adopted the surname Brown in honor of abolitionist John Brown, as well as for other reasons.

Where in the World is the BROWN Surname Common?

According to surname distribution data from Forebears, the Brown surname is most prevalent in the United States, although it is born by the highest percentage of population in the Pitcairn Islands. The Brown surname ranks as the 2nd most common surname in the country in Canada and Scotland, followed by 3rd in Australia, and 4th in the United States and England. Going back to the 1881-1901 time frame, Brown was the most common surname in the Scottish counties of Lanarkshire, Midlothian, Stirlingshire, and West Lothian, and the second most common surname in the English counties of Middlesex, Durham, Surrey, Kent, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, and Hertfordshire, and Scottish counties of Ayrshire, Selkirkshire and Peebleshire.

Some Early BROWN Ancestors:

  • John Brown - born abt. 1312, Of, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England
  • John Brown - born abt. 1380, of Stanford Draper, Rutlandshire, England, Died July 26 1442, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England

Famous People with the Surname BROWN:

Genealogy Resources for the Surname BROWN:

100 Most Common U.S. Surnames & Their Meanings
Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown... Are you one of the millions of Americans sporting one of these top 100 common last names from the 2000 census?

Brown Genealogy Society
A great collection of information on genealogies and histories related to the Brown surname.

Brown DNA Study
This huge DNA surname study includes over 463 tested members to date, who belong to some 242 unrelated, biologically separate Brown, Browne and Braun family lines.

Brown Family Crest - It's Not What You Think
Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Brown family crest or coat of arms for the Brown surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.

Brown Family Genealogy Forum
Search this popular genealogy forum for the Brown surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Brown query. There are also separate forums for the BROWNE and BRAUN variations of the Brown surname.

FamilySearch - BROWN Genealogy
Explore over 26 million historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Brown surname and its variations on the free FamilySearch website, hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

BROWN Surname & Family Mailing Lists
RootsWeb hosts several free mailing lists for researchers of the Brown surname. - BROWN Genealogy & Family History
Free databases and genealogy links for the last name Brown.

References: Surname Meanings & Origins

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

Menk, Lars. A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames. Avotaynu, 2005.

Beider, Alexander. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia. Avotaynu, 2004.

Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.