CLARK - Name Meaning and Origin

Man reading a book
Getty / Jeremy Woodhouse

The Clark surname is an occupational name for cleric, clerk, or scholar - one who can read and write, from the Old English cler(e)c, meaning "priest." Also from the Gaelic Mac a' Chlerich/Cleireach"; son of the cleric or, sometimes, clerk.

During the Middle Ages, the common pronunciation of -er was -ar, so the man who sold items was the "marchant," and the man who kept the books was the "clark." At the time, the primary members of the literate class were the clergy, which in minor orders were allowed to marry and have families. The term clerk (clark) eventually came to designate any literate man.

The Cleary / O'Clery surname, one of the oldest surnames in Ireland, is often anglicized to Clarke or Clark.

Clark is the 25th most popular surname in the United States and the 34th most common in England. Clarke, with an "e," is actually more common in England - coming in as the 23rd most popular surname. It is also a very common name in Scotland (14th) and Ireland.

Surname Origin 

English, Irish

Alternate Surname Spellings


Famous People With the Surname CLARK

  • William Clark - one half of the legendary Lewis & Clark expedition to the Pacific Ocean, along with Meriwether Lewis.
  • Guy Clark - American singer/songwriter
  • Arthur C. Clarke - British science fiction writer, best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey

Genealogy Resources for the Surname CLARK

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?

Clark(e) Surname DNA Project
This project was started to determine if the early Clark families in Virginia were of the same family, and/or if they were connected to explorer William Clark. The project has now expanded to include a broader scope of Clark families around the world.

Clark Family Genealogy Forum
Search this popular genealogy forum for the Clark surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Clark query. There is also a separate forum for the CLARKE variation of the Clark surname.

FamilySearch - CLARK Genealogy
Find records, queries, and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Clark surname and its variations. - CLARK Genealogy & Family History
Free databases and genealogy links for the last name Clark.


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.

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "CLARK - Name Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). CLARK - Name Meaning and Origin. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "CLARK - Name Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).