The last few letters of a family name are often the most informative feature of the name. This gives strong clues as to the origin of the name. In this post, we gathered some of the most commonly known name endings and determined which are the most popular. Then for each of these name endings we list the top 20 most popular family names. All this is bundled into one interactive bar chart.
The top 20 chart can be sorted by "Popularity", that is the name endings held by the most people, or by "Count" the name endings that appear at the end of the greatest number of unique last names. Then you can click or tap on the orange buttons for each name ending to see the list of top 20 last names that end with those letters.
What is the most popular last name ending in the US?
It is clear from the chart above that "ER" is the most popular, 9% of the US population have a last name that ends with these letters, as do 5.9% of all the unique last names. "ES" is another popular ending in terms of both popularity and name count, it ranks 3rd and 4th respectively.
What are some of the standouts?
Two name endings really stand out "SKI" and "EZ". "SKI" stands out because it falls just shy of the top 20 list by popularity, it ranks 21st. Yet it ranks 2nd on the list by count. "EZ" is exactly the opposite, it ranks number three in terms of popularity but it appears only at number 48 in the rankings by count. The reason is that there is a rich diversity in names ending in "SKI" with relatively few people holding any single name, the most popular "SKI" name Kowalski has an estimated population of just over 25,000. In contrast the most popular "EZ" name Rodriguez has population 30 times larger at just less than 770,000. There are over 20,000 "SKI" names and less than 3,300 "EZ" names.
What constitutes a name ending and how are they counted?
Name endings, as with most things to do with names are somewhat subjective. Is "SON" its own name ending, or should it be counted as part of the "ON" names? To solve this question, we relied on a predetermined list of name endings, ones for which there was a record and etymological support. We turned to the List of family name affixes on Wikipedia. We made some small changes and consolidations to the list, we only considered suffixes that were at least two characters long and all special characters were converted to their nearest ascii equivalent, so a suffix such as "ská" was converted to "ska;". This is because all names in the MyNameStats.com database are stored in ascii format.
Each ending in the list is mutually exclusive, that is names ending in "SON" are counted only once. Names ending in "ON" can be more specifically described as all names ending in "ON" but not ending "SON", nor in "TON". The final list of suffixes used has 372 unique records. Only 59.4% of all the names were categorized with a specific name ending and of all names 28.3% were categorized with one of the top 20 name endings (by count). From a population basis, 38% of the US population, 2 in 5, have a family name that ends with one of the top 20 name endings (by population).
One last detail, for the sake of completeness.
As mentioned above the name endings used here were selected based on their etymology. Take as an example the ending "EL", it is considered a valid name ending because it is often found in Nothern French and Occitan names, such as Noel or Esquivel. It is possible that names counted as having an "EL" ending are not in fact of French origin and but names that for other reasons ended in the letters E and L. The astute reader will notice that first name in the Top 20 Last Names Ending in "EL" is Patel a name of East Indian origin. We do not believe that this diminishes in any away the outcome of this study but felt that it was worth pointing this out.
It should come as no surprise that the name endings "ER" and "SON" are the most popular suffixes in the US as these are most often associated with names of English, Dutch, French, German, Swedish and Norwegian origins, some of the largest ethnic groups in the US. Let's not forget "EZ" the fourth most popular ending, it is associated with names of Hispanic origin, another import ethnic group in America. This shows that the last few letters of our family name can tell us a lot about who we are and where we come from.