ROSS Surname Meaning and Family History

United Kingdom, Scotland, Wester Ross, Glen Docherty, natural horizontal landscape of a valley that ends in a Scottish loch surrounded by mountains under a stormy sky
SPANI Arnaud / / Getty Images

The Ross surname has Gaelic origins and, depending upon the origin of the family, could have several different meanings:

  1. From ros, a peninsula, isthmus, or promontory signifying someone who lived on a headland.
  2. From rhos, Welsh for "moor or bog"; signifying someone who lived near a moor.
  3. From rose and rosh, signifying a valley or dale between hills.
  4. A descriptive name from the Middle English rous, meaning "red-haired."
  5. A habitational name for one who came from the district of Ross, in Scotland. Or from Rots near Caen in Normandy.

Ross is the 89th most popular surname in the United States.

Surname Origin: English, Scottish

Alternate Surname Spellings: ROSSE, ROS

Famous People With the Surname ROSS

  • Betsy Ross (born Griscom): widely credited with making the first American flag
  • Marion Ross: American actress; best known for her role as Mrs. C on the 1970s sitcom Happy Days
  • Nellie Ross (born Tayloe): first woman in the U.S. to serve as governor, and the first to direct the U.S. mint

Where the Ross Surname Is Most Common

According to surname distribution from Forebears, the Ross surname today is most prevalent in the United States but is found in the greatest numbers (based on population percentage) in Scotland. It ranks as the 1,083rd most common surname in the world—and ranks among the top 100 surnames in Scotland (14th), Canada (36th), New Zealand (59th), Australia (69th) and the United States (79th).

Surname maps from WorldNames PublicProfiler indicate slightly different numbers from Forebears, putting the Ross surname as most common in Australia and New Zealand, based on frequency per million people. Within Scotland, the Ross surname is found in the greatest numbers in northern Scotland, including the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, Moray, and Angus.

Genealogy Resources for the Surname Ross

  • 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?
  • Ross DNA Project: The Ross Family DNA Project seeks to use Y-DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogy research to enable Ross families to determine if they share a common ancestor with other Ross families. This project welcomes all derivatives of the surname (Ross, Ros, etc.).
  • Ross Family Crest - It's Not What You Think: Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Ross family crest or coat of arms for the Ross 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.
  • ROSS Family Genealogy Forum: Search this popular genealogy forum for the Ross surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Ross query.
  • FamilySearch - ROSS Genealogy: Explore over 5.2 million results from digitized historical records and lineage-linked family trees related to the Ross surname and variations on this free website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • GeneaNet - Ross Records: GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Ross surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.
  • The Ross Genealogy and Family Tree Page: Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the Ross surname 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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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "ROSS Surname Meaning and Family History." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). ROSS Surname Meaning and Family History. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "ROSS Surname Meaning and Family History." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).