Humanities › History & Culture PENN Surname Meaning and Origin Share Flipboard Email Print Darren Woolridge Photography / Getty Images History & Culture Genealogy Surnames Basics Genealogy Fun Vital Records Around the World American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kimberly Powell Genealogy Expert Certificate in Genealogical Research, Boston University B.A., Carnegie Mellon University Kimberly Powell is a professional genealogist and the author of The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy. She teaches at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. our editorial process Kimberly Powell Updated June 03, 2019 The Penn surname has several possible meanings: a topographical name for someone who lived near a fold or hill. From the Breton/Old English word penn, meaning "hill" and "pen, fold."a habitational name from various places called Penn, such as Penn in Buckinghamshire and Staffordshire, England.an occupational name for an impounder of stray animals, from the Old English penn, meaning "(sheep) pen."as a German surname, Penn may have originated as a nickname for a short, stocky person, from pien, meaning "tree stump." Surname Origin: English, German Alternate Surname Spellings: PENNE, PEN Where in the World the Penn Surname Is Found While it originated in England, the Penn surname is now most prevalent in the United States, according to surname distribution data from Forebears, but most common in the British Virgin Islands, where it is the 3rd most popular surname. Around the turn of the 20th century, the Penn surname in Britain was most common, based on the percentage of the population with the surname, in Northamptonshire, England, followed by Hertfordshire, Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire. WorldNames PublicProfiler, on the other hand, indicates the Penn surname is most frequent in the United Kingdom, especially in southern England, plus Cumbria in the north and Stirling in Scotland. It is also common in the Eferding district of Austria, especially in Freistadt and Urfahr-Umgebung. Famous People with the Last Name Penn William Penn - an English Quaker is best known for founding the colony of Pennsylvania as a place for religious freedom in AmericaSean Penn - Academy-award winning American actorKal Penn - American film and television actor, who has also served several roles in the Obama administrationArthur Horace Penn - member of the British royal householdHarry Penn - African-American civil rights activist and dentistRobert Penn - African-American sailor, recipient of the Medal of Honor during the Spanish–American War Genealogy Resources for the Surname Penn The Family of William Penn, Founder of Pennsylvania, Ancestry and Descendants: A digitized copy of a book on the ancestors and descendants of Sir William Penn, published by Howard M. Jenkins in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1899. Free on Internet Archive.Penn Family Genealogy: A website tracing the descendants of John Penne, born in 1500 in Minety, Gloucestershire, England.Penn Family Crest - It's Not What You Think: Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Penn family crest or coat of arms for the Penn 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.FamilySearch - PENN Genealogy: Explore over 500,000 historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Penn surname and its variations on the free FamilySearch website, hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.PENN Surname & Family Mailing Lists: RootsWeb hosts several free mailing lists for researchers of the Penn surname.DistantCousin.com - PENN Genealogy & Family History: Explore free databases and genealogy links for the last name Penn.PENN Genealogy Forum: Search the archives for posts about Penn ancestors, or post your own Penn query.The Penn Genealogy and Family Tree Page: Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the popular last name Penn from the website of Genealogy Today. References 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.