American names such as Smith and Garcia
There was a list in a magazine of the 10 most common last names in the United States. The first five were Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown and Jones.
Smith is one of the oldest and widest-spread all over the world because, in many languages, the second name originated as identification of a man’s occupation. The smithies who worked with metal were important, so there would be John the Smith and James the Smith and so forth. Other languages were no different than English. Ancient Celtic gobha, meaning smith, gave us names like Gowan and Goren. The word for smith became the names Schmidt in German and Smits in Dutch. Scandinavia has Smed. In Poland, it’s Kowalski, Hungarian is Kovacs, Russian is Kuznets, Italian is Ferraro, French is LeFavre, Spanish is Herrera and Arabic is Haddad. And a fancier German name for Smith is Eisenhower, meaning iron worker. At seventh on that list is Miller, another occupational name. Not in the top 10 are such trade names as Carpenter, Sawyer, Mason, Taylor and Shoemaker. From the days of Robin Hood we get Archer, Bowman and Fletcher; fletchers put feathers on arrows
Johnson is second on the list; the name John in varied forms goes back to ancient Hebrew and wanders through Latin, Greek and almost everything else to get to English.
Jones also meant John’s son. Experts trace it to 13th century Wales and southern England. It was fourth most common in the 1990 U. S. Census, but somehow, Brown has sneaked in ahead of it.
Brown as a family name is believed by most sources to have originated from the color of hair or complexion. It was Brun or Bron in the 12th century or so.
Now come the last five on the current list, with some possible surprises: Garcia, Miller, Davis, Rodriguez and Martinez.
I’ve already mentioned Miller. It was the seventh name in the 1990 Census, and sixth in 2000. Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones and Davis were in the top seven with Miller in 1990 and 2000.
Davis is from Hebrew and generally considered a derivative of David, which means “beloved.”
The name Wilson hovered around the end of the census top ten for years. It entered English in medieval times as, obviously, the son of somebody named William or Will.
But in 2000, Wilson dropped to last, and eighth and ninth were Garcia and Rodriguez. And in 2010, Garcia was sixth, and ninth and 10th were Rodriguez and Martinez.
Furthermore, 11th, 12th and 13th were Hernandez, Lopez and Gonzalez. Does El Presidente Trump know about this?
One Spanish dictionary website says Garcia might come from a Basque word for young or another Basque word for bear or maybe Iberian for “graceful prince.” Take your pick.
Rodriguez is defined as a married man who has to stay home and work while his family goes on vacation.
The best I could do with the other names were that Martinez is son of Martin, Hernandez is son of Hernando, Lopez is son of Lopo and Gonzalez is son of Gonzalo.
But, like Schultz and O’Brien and D’Angelo and Cohen and Wong and McTavish and Zongolowicz and Tamanend, they’re all good American names.
As Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Or, a Garcia might say: “Lo que llamamos rosa seria tan fragante con qualquier otro nombre.”