Last Name Meanings

In the United States, when looking at popular last names, you have to think of it from one of two vantage points. Are you talking about how common they are? Because if you are, then that would mean that we're talking about boring last names like Smith and Wilson. But if we're talking popular last names like celebrities and last names that sound cool in general, then there is much more opportunity to explore the meanings of last names.

For example, take the last name Letterman, which is mine by chance. I can't tell you how many times I have been asked if I'm related to David Letterman as a joke. Letterman isn't a common last name, but it sure is a popular one seeing as it is a famous person's last name that isn't very common at all actually. Last time I checked, there were only 10,000 or so Letterman's on the books.

Now Letterman is a Jewish last name that has changed spelling and even its phonetics over time, and this goes to show you how last names have changed. You have to look up where these last names originated and this can often show a trail of changes to the name over time.

In Dutch, this last name simply means a short person. What's interesting is most of the Letterman's I know are not short at all. Although, my extra few inches in height likely came from my mom's side of the family anyway.

Some of the more common last names are still very interesting to look up. Moreover, some names you don't think are that interesting might just have very interesting roots. I'm sure if you're reading this and have the last name Smith, you already want to prove me wrong. There is probably a wonderful back story to why so many people have ended up with that last name.

I'm merely painting a picture that people often don't give much thought to how far back last names go, centuries in fact. Just where did your last name come from and what does it mean? You can easily find out, but as with looking up the meaning behind names can lead to all kinds of results, you have to choose a reputable source. You want to find the real meaning behind your last name and where it comes from.