Humanities › History & Culture Surnames Derived From Occupations Share Flipboard Email Print 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 May 03, 2019 When surnames first came into popular use in 12th-century Europe, many people came to be identified by what they did for a living. A blacksmith named John became John Smith. A man who made his living grinding flour from grain took the name Miller. Does your family name come from the work your ancestors did long ago? 01 of 10 BARKER Westend61/Getty Images Occupation: shepherd or leather tannerThe Barker surname may derive from the Norman word barches, meaning “shepherd,” the person who watches over a flock of sheep. Alternatively, a barker may also have been a "tanner of leather," from the Middle English bark, meaning "to tan." 02 of 10 BLACK Getty / Annie Owen Occupation: DyerMen named Black may have been cloth dyers who specialized in black dyes. In medieval times, all cloth was originally white and had to be dyed to create colorful cloth. 03 of 10 CARTER Antony Giblin/Getty Images Occupation: Delivery manA person who drove a cart pulled by oxen, carrying goods from town to town, was called a carter. This occupation eventually became the surname used to identify many such men. 04 of 10 CHANDLER Clive Streeter/Getty Images Occupation: CandlemakerFrom the French word 'chandelier,' the Chandler surname often referred to a person who made or sold tallow or lye candles or soap. Alternatively, they may have been a retail dealer in provisions and supplies or equipment of a specified kind, such as a "ship chandler." 05 of 10 COOPER Leon Harris/Getty Images Occupation: Barrel makerA cooper was someone who made wooden barrels, vats, or casks; an occupation that commonly became the name they were referred to by their neighbors and friends. Related to COOPER is the surname HOOPER, which referred to the craftsmen who made the metal or wooden hoops to bind the barrels, casks, buckets, and vats made by coopers. 06 of 10 FISHER Getty / Jeff Rotman Occupation: FishermanThis occupational name derives from the Old English word fiscere, meaning "to catch fish." Alternate spellings of this same occupational surname include Fischer (German), Fiszer (Czech and Polish), Visser (Dutch), de Vischer (Flemish), Fiser (Danish) and Fisker (Norwegian). 07 of 10 KEMP Getty / John Warburton-Lee Occupation: Champion wrestler or jousterA strong man who was a champion at jousting or wrestling may have been called by this surname, Kemp derives from the Middle English word kempe, which came from Old English cempa, meaning "warrior" or "champion." 08 of 10 MILLER Duncan Davis/Getty Images Occupation: MillerA man who made his living grinding flour from grain often took on the surname Miller. This same occupation is also the origin of many various spellings of the surname including Millar, Mueller, Müller, Mühler, Moller, Möller and Møller. 09 of 10 SMITH Edward Carlile Portraits/Getty Images Occupation: Metal workerAnyone who worked with metal was called a smith. A blacksmith worked with iron, a whitesmith worked with tin, and a goldsmith worked with gold. This was one of the most common occupations in medieval times, so it is little wonder that SMITH is now among the most common surnames worldwide. 10 of 10 WALLER Getty / Henry Arden Occupation: MasonThis surname was often bestowed upon a special kind of mason; someone who specialized in building walls and wall structures. Interestingly, it may also be an occupational name for someone who boiled sea water to extract the salt, from the Middle English well(en), meaning "to boil." More Occupational Surnames Hundreds of surnames initially derived from the occupation of the original bearer. Some examples include: Bowman (archer), Barker (leather tanner), Collier (coal or charcoal seller), Coleman (one who gathered charcoal), Kellogg (hog breeder), Lorimer (one who made harness spurs and bits), Parker (someone in charge of a hunting park), Stoddard (horse breeder), and Tucker or Walker (one who processed raw cloth by beating and trampling it in water). Does your family name come from the work your ancestors did long ago? Search for the origin of your surname in this free Glossary of Last Name Meanings & Origins.