Family names are at the heart of a country’s history. So, to find out all you need to know about European nations, looking at the most common last names in Europe is a great place to start.
As generations of people have moved around the globe and migrated throughout Europe, traditional last names have made their way across the continent and further afield.
Throughout Europe, many surnames derived from a family profession in years gone by. So, while it may not be evident at first – as many of these last names have been altered to fit local translations – several last names are popular throughout numerous countries around Europe.
So, to get an idea of the most popular family names throughout the continent, here are the top twenty most common last names in Europe, ranked.
Popa – meaning priest
As Catholic clergy are ordered to remain celibate, Priest as a surname is almost non-existent throughout much of Europe. However, this is not the case in the Balkans, where Orthodox and Islamic clergies have passed the last name down through generations.
Variations include Popov in Bulgaria, Popovic in both Serbia and Montenegro, Popovski in Macedonia, Hodži? in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hoxha in both Kosovo and Albania, and Papadopoulos in Greece.
Fisher – a fisherman
Deriving from the trade of a fisherman, Fisher and its translations are popular surnames throughout Europe.
Fischer is a popular name in German-speaking countries such as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, while Visser is common in the Netherlands.
Moore – a bog or open land
A popular name in English-speaking countries, the surname Moore comes from Middle English mor, which means a bog or open land.
Variations across the continent include Moser in Austria or Moreau and Morel in France.
Jones – number one in Wales
The most popular last name in Wales, Jones, also proves to be one of the most common last names in Europe.
Popular throughout the rest of the U.K., Jones means son of Ioan and variations of this name include MacSeoin in Ireland.
Wood – a nature-themed name
In the past, the surname Wood would have been used to describe a person who lived or worked in the forest.
A popular name in the U.K., similar translations throughout Europe include Silva in Portugal, Kieffer in Luxembourg, and Dubois in France.
Brown – named after a colour
One of the most common last names in Europe is Brown. Its origin leads back to its use as descriptive for someone with brown hair, complexion, or clothing.
Common in English-speaking countries, its variations, such as Braun in Germany, Moreno in Spain, and Bruno in Italy, can be seen throughout Europe
Little – popular in the U.K. and Hungary
Everyone in the U.K. will know someone with the surname Little or Lyttle. However, this name is also popular elsewhere in Europe.
The Hungarian variation of this surname is Kiss, the Greek is ?????? (Kontos), and in Luxembourg and Germany, it is Klein.
Meyer – a name of German origin
Meyer, which derives from the occupation farmer, is another popular profession name throughout Europe.
Variations include Mayer in Austria, Turcan in Moldova, and Hoffmann in Luxembourg.
Weber – another important profession
Deriving from German origins, Weber is one of the most common last names in Europe.
Meaning weaver, it is a popular name throughout both English and German-speaking countries. The Hungarian variation of this name is Takács.
White – a name with many variations
A popular name in the U.K., White in all its variations is also a popular name throughout the rest of Europe.
Some variations include Bianchi in Switzerland, Blanco in Spain, De Wit in the Netherlands, and Weiss in Germany and Luxembourg.
Rossi or Russo – meaning red
The names Rossi and Russo, meaning red, are extremely popular last names throughout Italy.
Rossi can be seen most often through regions of Northern and Central Italy, while Russo is more prevalent throughout the country’s southern regions.
Garcia – a popular Spanish name
Common throughout Spain, Portugal, and France, Garcia derives from the Basque surname Gatzea.
Variations include Garci, Garza, Garcia, Garcés, Garcicea, Garciandia, Gassie, Gassion, and Gaztea.
Silva – a popular Portuguese name
Comprising of 9.4% of the Portuguese population is the surname Silva or Da Silva, meaning woodland.
It is also widespread in the Galacian-speaking nations of Spain and further afield in regions of the former Portuguese Empire.
Taylor – from a profession
Deriving from the profession of a tailor, someone who makes and mends fitted clothes, is one of the most common last names in Europe: Taylor.
Variations across the continent include Schneider in Austria, Luxembourg, and Germany, Szabó in Hungary, and Krawczyk in Poland.
Baker – another name derived from a profession
You can probably guess from where the last name Baker derives – yes, from the profession of a baker.
Popular in England, Scotland, and Wales, variations of this surname across Europe include Bakker in the Netherlands, Bäcker in Germany, Fournier in France, and Becker in Luxembourg.
Novak – new man
Topping the list of most common last names in Europe in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia is Novak, meaning ‘new man’.
Variations of the surname include Novák in Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak, and Nowak or Novack in German and Polish.
Murphy – a popular Irish name
One of the most popular Irish surnames, Murphy, has also proved popular throughout Europe.
Meaning sea-warrior, variations of the name Murphy throughout Europe include Marino, meaning seaman, in Italy.
Martin – the most popular name in France
In France, there are around 240,000 people with the surname Martin, and this popularity is attributed to France’s most famous saint Saint Martin of Tours.
However, this name is also popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hungary, Estonia, and Italy.
Miller – another name derived from a profession
The surname Miller is popular in many countries throughout Europe and derives from mill-workers, people who worked a mill to grind grain to make flour.
Numerous variations of this name can be seen across Europe, including the popular Müller in German-speaking countries, Melnyk in Ukraine, Mulder in the Netherlands, and Molina in Spain.
Smith – an essential craft in years gone by
The theory goes that, in centuries past, the reason for the plethora of ‘Smiths’ throughout Europe was due to the importance and widespread nature of metalworkers.
The English-language name Smith is translated into a number of variations across Europe, including Schmitt or Schmidt in Germany and Luxembourg, McGowan in Gaelic, Ferrari in Italy, Ferreira in Portugal, Kowalski in Poland, and the list goes on.
So, with all its various translations, Smith tops our list of the most common last names in Europe.