The Last Name Peterson, Its Meaning and Origin

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Peterson is a Scandinavian patronymic surname meaning "son of Peter." The given name Peter is derived from the Greek πέτρος (petros), meaning "rock" or "stone," and has been a popular name choice throughout history for the Christian apostle Peter, chosen by Christ to be 'the rock" on which the church was to be found. It is estimated that there are over 700 different spellings of the Peterson surname and suspicions that the name came from the Danish name Petersen.

Quick Facts

  • The Peterson spelling may also be an Americanized form of similar non-English surnames such as Petersen or Pettersson. Five additional alternate surname spellings include Peters, Petersson, Peterssen, Peterzen and even Pedersen.
  • The surname is most commonly found in European countries such as Denmark, Germany, Holland, and Brussels in the northwestern region.
  • In Denmark, it has been calculated that nearly 3.4% of the population has the surname Peterson.
  • Peterson is the 63rd most popular surname in the United States.
  • Some of the most popular male first name with the surname Peterson include John, Robert, and William. Anna, Emma, and Mary are some of the most common female names.
  • The origin of the surname includes English, Scottish, and German.

Famous People

  • Oscar Peterson: Canadian jazz pianist and composer who won eight Grammy Awards
  • Amanda Peterson: Former American actress who was in the romantic comedy movie Can't Buy Me Love (1987)
  • Drew Peterson: Former policeman convicted of murdering his wife
  • Adrian Peterson: NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings
  • Debbi Peterson: American drummer and musician in the all-female band, The Bangles

Genealogy Resources

To find the meaning of a given name, review the resource First Name Meanings. If, for some reason, you can't find your last name listed below, suggest a surname to be added to the Glossary of Surname Meanings and Origins.

References: Surname Meanings and 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. "The Last Name Peterson, Its Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). The Last Name Peterson, Its Meaning and Origin. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "The Last Name Peterson, Its Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 2, 2023).