WASHINGTON Last Name Meaning and Origin

One possible origin of the Washington surname is a town along a small wash or creek.
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The Washington surname is believed to have originated with the English place name Washington, the name of a parish in Durham, five miles from Gateshead, and also of a parish in Sussex, ten miles from Shoreham. The original bearer of this surname could, therefore, have hailed from either of these places.

The Washington place name itself is derived from the Old English personal name wassa, which means "hunting," combined with the locative suffix -thn, meaning "settlement, homestead."

Another possible origin for the place name comes from weis, meaning "wash," or "the shallow part of a river," plus ing, or "a meadow or low ground," and ton, for "dun, a hill or town." Thus the place name Washington could have been used to describe a town located on a wash or creek.


Surname Origin: English

Where the Washington Surname Is Found

According to WorldNames public profiler, the Washington surname is most popular in the United States, especially in the District of Columbia, followed by Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama. Outside of the U.S., the largest numbers of individuals as a percentage of the total population are found in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (most particularly in England).

Famous People with the Washington Surname

  • Booker T. Washington - educator and civil rights activist
  • Denzel Washington - American film actor
  • Kenny Washington - one of two Black athletes to reintegrate the NFL in 1946

Genealogy Resources for the Surname WASHINGTON

  • Meanings of Common English Surnames: Uncover the meaning of your English last name with this free guide to English surname meanings and origins for the most common English surnames.
  • Washington: the 'Blackest Name' in America: Huffington Post article discussion statistics from the 2000 U.S. census which points to 90% percent of individuals with the Washington surname identifying as African-American, a much higher percentage than with other common last names.
  • Washington Surname DNA Project: The Washington Surname DNA Project originally began as a means for two different Washington family lines to try and determine if they were related through Y-DNA testing. Since that time, additional Washington families have joined the project. 
  • WASHINGTON Family Genealogy Forum: This free message board is focused on descendants of Washington ancestors around the world.
  • FamilySearch - WASHINGTON Genealogy: Search or browse for free access to 1.6 million digitized records and lineage-linked family trees for the Washington surname on FamilySearch.org, the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • WASHINGTON Surname Mailing List: Free mailing list for researchers of the Washington surname and its variations includes subscription details and searchable archives of past messages.
  • DistantCousin.com - WASHINGTON Genealogy & Family History: Free databases and genealogy links for the last name Washington.
  • The Washington Genealogy and Family Tree Page: Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the Washington surname from the website of Genealogy Today.
    • Looking for the meaning of a given name? Check out First Name Meanings
    • Can't find your last name listed? Suggest a surname to be added to the Glossary of Surname Meanings & Origins.


  • 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. "WASHINGTON Last Name Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo, Jan. 22, 2021, thoughtco.com/washington-last-name-meaning-and-origin-1422717. Powell, Kimberly. (2021, January 22). WASHINGTON Last Name Meaning and Origin. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/washington-last-name-meaning-and-origin-1422717 Powell, Kimberly. "WASHINGTON Last Name Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/washington-last-name-meaning-and-origin-1422717 (accessed March 21, 2023).