POLK Surname Meaning and Origin

The Polk surname derives from a Scottish word meaning "pool," such as these fairy pools in Scotland.
Vytenis Malisauskas,Carrigphotos / Getty Images

The Polk surname most commonly originated as an abbreviated form of the Scots surname Pollack, Gaelic Pollag, meaning "from the little pool, pit or pond." The name derives from the Gaelic word poll, meaning "pool."

Surname Origin: Scottish

Alternate Surname Spellings: POLLACK, POLLOCK, POLLOK, PULK, POCK

Where the Polk Surname Is Found

The Polk surname is by far the most common in the United States, according to WorldNames PublicProfiler, especially in the state of Mississippi. Polk is generally common throughout the southern U.S., including also the states of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and the District of Columbia. Outside of the United States, the Polk last name is found most frequently in Canada, Germany (especially Baden Württemberg, Hessen, Sachsen, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommen), and Poland.

Surname distribution data from Forebears agrees that the Polk surname is found primarily in the United States, but it is actually found in the highest density based on the percentage of the population in Slovakia, where the surname ranks as the 346th most common surname in the nation. It is also somewhat common in Poland, Germany, and the Philippines. Within the United Kingdom, where the name generally originated, it is was most prevalent in Surrey, Devon, and Lancashire during the period 1881–1901. The Polk surname did not make an appearance in 1881 Scotland, however, the original Scottish version Pollack was most common in Lanarkshire, followed by Stirlingshire and Berwickshire.

Famous People with the Last Name Polk

  • James K. Polk - eleventh president of the United States
  • Benjamin Polk - American architect and designer
  • Ezekiel Polk - American surveyor, soldier, and pioneer; grandfather of President James K. Polk
  • Charles Polk Jr. - American farmer and politician; member of the Federalist Party, followed by the Whig Party

Genealogy Resources for the Surname Polk

  • Polk-Pollock DNA Project: Learn more about the history and origins of the Polk surname by joining this Polk Y-DNA surname project. Group members are working to combine DNA testing with traditional genealogy research to learn more about shared Polk ancestors.
  • President James K. Polk Home & Museum: About the Polks: Learn about the upbringing and ancestral home of U.S. President James K. Polk, along with the history of his wife Sarah.
  • How to Trace Your Family Tree in England and Wales: Learn how to navigate through the wealth of records available for researching family history in England and Wales with this introductory guide.
  • Presidential Surname Meanings and Origins: Do the surnames of U.S. presidents really have more prestige than your average Smith and Jones? While the proliferance of babies named Tyler, Madison, and Monroe may seem to point in that direction, presidential surnames are really just a cross-section of the American melting pot. 
  • Polk Family Crest - It's Not What You Think: Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Polk family crest or coat of arms for the Polk 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 - POLK Genealogy: Explore over 440,000 historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Polk surname and its variations on the free FamilySearch website, hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Polk Family Genealogy Forum: Search this popular genealogy forum for the Polk surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Polk query.
  • POLK Surname & Family Mailing Lists: RootsWeb hosts a free mailing list for researchers of the Polk surname. Post a query about your own Polk ancestors, or search or browse the mailing list archives.
  • DistantCousin.com - POLK Genealogy & Family History: Explore free databases and genealogy links for the last name Polk.
  • The Polk Genealogy and Family Tree Page: Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the popular last name Polk from the website of Genealogy Today.


  • 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.
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Powell, Kimberly. "POLK Surname Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/polk-surname-meaning-and-origin-4059815. Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). POLK Surname Meaning and Origin. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/polk-surname-meaning-and-origin-4059815 Powell, Kimberly. "POLK Surname Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/polk-surname-meaning-and-origin-4059815 (accessed May 28, 2023).