WATSON Surname Meaning and Origin

The Watson surname derives from terms meaning "ruler of the army."
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Watson is a patronymic surname meaning "son of Watt." The popular Middle English given names Wat and Watt were pet forms of the name Walter, meaning "powerful ruler" or "ruler of the army," from the elements wald, meaning rule, and heri, meaning army.

Watson is the 19th most common surname in Scotland and the 76th most popular surname in the United States. Watson is also popular in England, coming in as the 44th most common surname.

Surname Origin: ScottishEnglish

Alternate Surname Spellings: WATTIS, WATTS, WATTSON, WATS  See also WATT.

Where Do People with the WATSON Surname Live

The last name Watson is common in Scotland and the Border Country, according to WorldNames PublicProfiler, most especially the northeast English counties of Cumbria, Durham and Northumberland and the Lowlands and East of Scotland, especially in the area around Aberdeen. Surname distribution data from Forebears concurs, placing the surname at the turn of the 20th century as most common in Aberdeenshire, Angus, Fife, Lanarkshire and Midlothian in Scotland, and Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham, Northumberland, and Cumberland (a parent county of present-day Cumbria) in England.

Famous People with the WATSON Surname

  • John B. Watson - American psychologist, best known for his role in the development of behaviorism
  • James Watson - American molecular biologist and geneticist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA
  • James Watt - Inventor of the modern steam engine
  • Emma Watson - English actress and feminist advocate, best known for playing the role of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise
  • Tom Watson - American professional golfer

Clan Watson

The crest of Clan Watson is two hands coming from the clouds holding the trunk of a sprouting oak tree. The Watson clan motto is "Insperata floruit" which means "It has flourished beyond expectation."

Genealogy Resources for the Surname WATSON

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?

Watson DNA Surname Project
Over 290 group members belong to this Y-DNA surname project, working together to combine DNA testing with traditional genealogy research to sort out Watson ancestral lines.

Watson Family Crest - It's Not What You Think
Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Watson family crest or coat of arms for the Watson 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. 

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

FamilySearch - WATSON Genealogy
Access over 8 million free historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Watson surname and its variations on this free genealogy website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

WATSON Surname & Family Mailing Lists
RootsWeb hosts several free mailing lists for researchers of the Watson surname. You can also browse or search the list archives to explore over a decade of postings for the Watson surname.

DistantCousin.com - WATSON Genealogy & Family History
Free databases and genealogy links for the last name Watson.

The Watson Genealogy and Family Tree Page
Browse family trees and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the last name Watson from the website of Genealogy Today.


References: Surname Meanings & Origins

Cottle, Basil. "Penguin Dictionary of Surnames." Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967.

Menk, Lars. "A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames." Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2005.

Beider, Alexander. "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia." Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2004.

Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. "A Dictionary of Surnames." New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Hanks, Patrick. "Dictionary of American Family Names." New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Hoffman, William F. "Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings." Chicago: Polish Genealogical Society, 1993.

Rymut, Kazimierz. "Nazwiska Polakow." Wroclaw: Zaklad Narodowy im. Ossolinskich - Wydawnictwo, 1991.

Smith, Elsdon C. "American Surnames." Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.

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