There was someone, though, who really stood out. And that was the guy who fixed your plow, made your hoe, fashioned your cooking utensils – even made swords and stuff for the lord of the manor. In other words, he was basically the man. Every village had one, and he was pretty darn important to everyone there.
Yeah, you can take your sons of John (“Johnson,” “Jones”), your guys who lived by the village green (“Green”), your guys who had a darker complexion (“Brown”) … Give me a Smith any day!
A Smith by Any Other Name
Now, here’s the fun part about this … You might already know that Smith is a pretty darn popular name in the English-speaking world ... Its equivalents, though, are also pretty popular in other countries as well. I’m talking about being in the top 3 in countries like Germany, Poland, Italy, and Russia. Wow! Read on …
The Germanic Languages
So, this is us. And, sure enough, Smith is #1 in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
What comes up when you Google “smith”
The Germanic languages, though, also include German (duh!), as well as Dutch, Flemish, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Here’s how Smith shakes out in those places:
|German||Schmidt||1||Also includes Schmitt, et al.|
|Dutch||Smit||3||Also includes Smits, de Smet …|
|Any Scandinavian||Smet||30 in Danish|
Why so low in the Scandinavian countries? You’ve got to remember how many patronymics there are there – Johannson, Pedersen, Nillson, Olsen, Larsen …
Surprisingly, that’s exactly what happened in Flemish as well. There, we’ve got Peteers, Janseens, Jacobs, Willes, Martens …
Hmm … I don’t recall any Irishmen with names of O’Smith or McSmith. The Gaelic equivalent of that, though – McGowan – actually is fairly common. It’s not exactly Murphy, Kelly, or Sullivan, but it does click in at #5. Now, that number actually includes “Smith” as well. A fair amount of McGowans did, however, take that name.
Rose and friend
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any equivalent in Scotland, Wales, or Cornwall. The Bretons, however, claim the name Goff, which was later taken to England and is known in the eastern part of the country (East Anglia). Think NFL QB Jared.
The Latinate languages – i.e., those descended from Latin – are divided into two groups … at least when it comes to Smiths.
In France, LeFevre (and LeFebvre) comes in 13th and is derived From the Latin for a craftsman, faber. All the rest come from the Latin word for iron, ferrum.
|Catalan||Ferrar||31||Jose Ferrar = Joe Smith|
|Romanian||Feraru||Closest language to Latin|
Interestingly, the Slavs seem to be as fond of this name as anyone out there. Needless to say, it’s not something that most speakers of Germanic and Italianate languages would recognize. It’s amazing how similar they all are. They do, though, all seem to have their own individual endings.
Basically, the same guy
Finno-Ugrics? What the …?
Europe can be divided into three basic language – Germanic, Latinate, and Slavic. Finland and Hungary, however, represent two linguistic islands - related to each other, but with no relationship to the languages surrounding them. Both, in fact, date back to the Barbarian invasions. Their nearest current-day relatives are 1200 miles away, in northern Russia.
Interestingly, however, Hungarian chose to go with the very Slavic Kovacs. The Finns, on the other hand, went with the very un-Smith-like Sepp (and Seppanen). Estonia, the only other Finno-Ugric country went with Sepp as well. Both the Hungarian and Finnish versions come in at third overall in their respective countries.
Moving out of Europe, Smith extends somewhat into the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Nowhere, though, does it have the same prevalence as in Europe.Here's what I could find:
- Greek – Sideris
- Arabic – Haddad
- Armenian – Tarpinian
- Turkish – Demirci
- Persian – Zargar
- Albanian – Nallbani
Just think of him as Dave Smith
Even more interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be any Smiths out there past the Middle East. Not in Africa, not in Asia, not nowhere.