The Meaning and Origin of the Last Name 'Thomas'

This Welsh and English name was a popular Medieval first name

Young male hipster twins looking out from city footbridge
Eugenio Marongiu / Getty Images

Some of the most common names from the Middle Ages tend to come from religious backgrounds such as biblical texts and the names of saints. Other names have come from the language spoken at the time. For example, Bennett is Latin and means blessed while Godwin comes from English and means good friend. Along with vernacular language, some medieval surnames have been based on a job or where the person lived, and many of these names still exist today. For instance, the last name Baker could come from a family who had a maker of bread while the last name Fisher involved someone who was a catcher of fish.

Patronymic Origin of Thomas

Derived from a popular medieval first name, Thomas comes from the Aramaic term t’om’a, for "twin." The Thomas surname is of patronymic origin, based on the first name of the father, meaning "son of Thomas," much like Thomason. The first letter of the name Thomas was originally the Greek "theta" which accounts for the common "TH" spelling.

Thomas is the 14th most popular surname in the United States and the 9th most common in England. Thomas is also the third most common surname in France and its surname origin is of Welsh and English descent.

Alternate Surname Spellings

If you have one of the following surnames, it may be counted as an alternative spelling to Thomas with similar origin and meaning:

  • Tomas
  • Thomason
  • Tomason
  • Tommasi
  • Toma
  • Thom
  • Thoma
  • Thumm
  • Thome
  • Tomaschek
  • Tomich
  • Khomich
  • Thomasson

Famous People With the Surname

  • Clarence Thomas: U.S. Supreme Court Justice
  • Dylan Thomas: Welsh poet
  • Kristin Scott Thomas: British-born French actress
  • Danny Thomas: American comedian, producer, and actor
  • M. Carey Thomas: Pioneer in women's education
  • Debi Thomas: Olympic figure skater; first African-American to win a medal at the Winter Olympics
  • Jamie Thomas: Pro skateboarder
  • Isiah Thomas: American basketball player and coach

Genealogy Resources

100 Most Common US 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?

Thomas Surname DNA Study
The objectives of the Thomas project are to use Y-DNA to find connections between Thomas lines and to hopefully determine the countries of origin of these various families. All Thomas males are welcome to participate.

Thomas Family Genealogy Forum
Search this popular genealogy forum for the Thomas surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Thomas query.

FamilySearch - THOMAS Genealogy
Explore over 14 million historical records, lineage-linked family trees, and other results posted for the Thomas surname and its variations on the free FamilySearch website.

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.