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There are approximately 747,967 people named Smith in the UK. That makes it the most common surname overall. Out of every million people in the UK, approximately 11,838 are named Smith.

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British Isles

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Related and similar surnames


The Smith surname in historical dictionaries

An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names (1857)

The most common of all surnames, and might of itself furnish matter enough for a volume. The word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Smitan, to smite or strike. "From whence comes Smith, all be he knight or squire, But from the Smith that forgeth at the fire?" Verstegan. Among the Highland clans, the smith ranked third in dignity to the chief, from his skill in fabricating military weapons, and his dexterity in teaching the use of them. In Wales there were three sciences which a villain (tenant) could not teach his son without the consent of his lord, Scholarship, Bardism, and Smithcraft. This was one of the liberal sciences, and the term had a more comprehensive sense than we give to it at this time. The smith must have united in this profession, different branches of knowledge which are now practiced separately, such as raising the ore, converting it into metal, etc. The term was originally applied to artificers in wood as well as metal, in fact, to all mechanical workmen, which accounts for the great frequency of the name. The New York City Directory for 1856 (in which the names of the heads of families only, are given,) contains the names of more than eighteen hundred Smiths, of whom seventy-four are plain James Smiths, and one hundred and seventeen, John Smiths! We see in the papers, that John Smith dies, is married, hanged, drowned, and brutally murdered, daily! John Smith doesn't identify anybody, and is therefore no name at all. This numerous family is the subject of many laughable anecdotes and witty sallies. A wag, on a certain occasion, coming late to the theater, and wishing to get a seat, shouted at the top of his voice, "Mr. Smith's house is on fire!" The house was thinned five per cent., and the man of humor found a snug seat. In many neighborhoods the name is so frequent that it is necessary to append some soubriquet to identify the person. "Can you tell me where Mr. Smith lives, mister?" "Smith--Smith--what Smith? there are a good many of that name in these parts--my name is Smith." "Why, I don't know his t'other name, but he's a sour, crabbed sort of fellow, and they call him 'Crab Smith.'" "Oh, the deuce! s'pose I'm the man." But the best piece of humor relating to the name is the following which we take from Lower, which appeared some years since in the newspapers, under the title of "The Smiths. "Some very learned disquisitions are just now going on in the journals touching the origin and extraordinary extension of the family of 'the Smiths.' "Industrious explorers after derivatives and nominal roots, they say, would find in the name of John Smith a world of mystery; and a philologist in the Providence Journal, after having written some thirty columns for the enlightenment of the public thereanent, has thrown down his pen, and declared the subject exhaustless. "From what has hitherto been discovered, it appears that the great and formidable family of the Smiths are the veritable descendants, in a direct line, from Shem, the son of Noah, the father of the Shemitish tribe, or the tribe of Shem; and it is thus derived--Shem, Shemit, Shmit, Smith. Another learned pundit, in the Philadelphia Gazette, contends for the universality of the name John Smith, not only in Great Britain and America, but among all kindred and nations on the face of the earth. Beginning with the Hebrew, he says, the Hebrews had no Christian names, consequently they had no Johns, and in Hebrew the name stood simply Shem or Shemit; but in the other nations John Smith is found at full, one and indivisible. Thus, Latin, Johannes Smithius; Italian, Giovanni Smithi; Spanish, Juan Smithas; Dutch, Hans Schmidt; French, Jean Smeets; Greek, '??; Russian, Jonloff Skmittowski; Polish, Ivan Schmittiwciski; Chinese, Jahon Shimmit; Icelandic, Jahne Smithson; Welsh, Iihon Schmidd; Tuscarora, Ton Qa Smittia; Mexican, Jontli F'Smitti. "And then, to prove the antiquity of the name, the same savant observes, that 'among the cartouches deciphered by Rosselini, on the temple of Osiris in Egypt, was found the name of Pharaoh Smithosis, being the ninth in the eighteenth dynasty of Theban kings. He was the founder of the celebrated temple of Smithopolis Magna.' We heartily congratulate the respectable multitude of the Smiths on these profound researches--researches which bid fair to explode the generally received opinion that the great family of the Smiths were the descendants of mere horse-shoers and hammer-men!"

Arthur, William (1857) An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain.

Patronymica Britannica (1860)

In entering upon the illustration of this surname, I feel almost overcome with the magnitude of my subject. Closely connected as it is with the personal identity of thousands upon thousands of my countrymen, enjoying as it does the proud pre-eminence of being the commonest of all English surnames, and associated as it must be with statistics, with anecdote, with archaeology, with varieties of orthography, the name of Smith is a topic which requires no common handling. Why, it demands a separate essay, a dissertation, a volume, to do it anything like justice! Nay, I am not quite sure that a new science to be designated Smithology would not prove quite as instructive as many existing ologies, while it would have the merit of being perhaps more amusing; assuredly it would come home both to "the business and bosoms" of a vast section of Englishmen. And I might go further afield and trace out the history of smith-craft from the days of Tubal-Cain-expatiate upon the labours of Vulcan, of Icarus, of Wayland Smith, and of St. Dunstan-show how men lived in the Iron Age-bring in the classical Fabri, and Fabricii, the Schmidts of Germany, the Lefevres of France, the Fabbroni of Italy, and the Gowana of Scotland, as members of this mighty race-and deal largely in irony and "smith's-work in general." But space forbids, and I must be as brief as possible. Let us first hammer out the archaeology of the subject. The word smith, then, is Anglo-Saxon from smitan, to smite-originally, "any one who strikes or smites with a hammer, an artificer, a carpenter, smith, workman." Boaworth. So general was the application of the word, that in the Saxon Chronicle we find the expression "mighty war-smiths" applied to valorous soldiers, and the great enemy of mankind is called "hell-smith," though this phrase, being also applied to Vulcan, has probably a direct reference to "smithery" in the modern sense. One who worked in iron was called iren-smith, an ironsmith. In later times, Smith was applied more specifically to a worker in metals, while myrhta, Wright, was the name given to artificers in wood and other materials. See Wright.

Lower, Mark A (1860) Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom. London: J.R. Smith. Public Domain.

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