The Meaning and Origin of the Name Smith

Black smith working on anvil next to smelter

Edward Carlile Portraits/Getty Images

Derived from the Anglo-Saxon smitan, meaning "to smite or strike," Smith and its derivations are an occupational name for a man who works with metal (smith or blacksmith), one of the earliest jobs for which specialist skills were required. It is a craft that was practiced in all countries, making the surname and its derivations the most common of all surnames. Smith still tops the list of most popular surnames in England and America, and is also a very common last name in Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Canada and Australia.

Alternate Surname Spellings: Smyth, Smythe, Schmidt

Facts About the Surname Smith

Unsurprising to most, Smith continually tops the list for most common English last name and the most common in America.

The Granny Smith green apple is named after a woman named Maria Ann Smith (nee Sherwood), who developed it from a seedling in her orchard in Australia in 1868 at the age of 69.

Famous People With the Surname Smith

  • John Smith - One of the original settlers of Jamestown colony in 1607; saved from execution by the Indian princess Pocahontas.
  • Captain Edward John Smith - Captain of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
  • Paul Smith - British designer.
  • Anna Nicole Smith - American model.
  • Adam Smith - Scottish economist and author.
  • Michael J. Smith - American Astronaut; died aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on 28 January 1986.
  • Gregory Paul Smith - Christian singer.

Where Do People with the Smith Surname Live?

As you might expect, surname distribution data from Forebears indicates that the Smith is found throughout the world, although it ranks it at 117th most common. The Smith spelling ranks 1st, however, in the United States, England, Australia, Canada, Scotland, New Zealand, Belize, Bermuda, Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Tuvalu, and Monaco.

Genealogy Resources for the Surname Smith

Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Smith family crest or coat of arms for the Smith 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. 

Genealogy.com allows you to search their genealogy forum for the Smith surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Smith query.

With FamilySearch.org you can explore over 48 million historical records which mention individuals with the Smith surname and variants, as well as online Smith family trees.

GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Smith surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.

DistantCousin.com allows you to explore free databases and genealogy links for the last name Smith and its variations.

At GenealogyToday.com you can browse family trees and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the last name Smith from the website of Genealogy Today.

References

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.

Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.