Surname Dictionaries

Surname dictionaries can provide the genealogist with a solid foundation for further research. They often supply such useful information as variant spellings, descriptions of the origins of family names, nationality, and probably geographic locations of these names. The following is a basic list of forename and surname dictionaries. Patrons are urged to consult the online catalog for additional material, which can be traced under the entry “Names, Personal” (e.g., “Names, Personal–Arabic.”)

Alderman Reference
CS2051.B29 1903
Barber, Henry. British Family Names, Their Origin and Meaning, with Lists of Scandinavian, Frisian, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman Names. 2d ed., enlarged. London: Elliot Stock, 1903.

Includes over 10,000 names as well as lists of landholders, tenants, and undertenants listed in the Domesday Book.

Alderman Stacks PF3576 .B64 1957
Brechenmacher, Josef Karhann. Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen familiennamen. 2d ed. Limburg an der Lahn: C. A. Starke-Verlag, 1957-63. 2 vols.

The most comprehensive dictionary of German family names, including more than 28,500 entries.

Alderman Reference
CS2691 .D3 1980
Dauzat, Albert. Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de famille et prénoms de France. Ed. rev. et aug. Paris : Larousse, c1980.

Explains French surnames, given names, and geographic names; lists variant spellings.

Alderman Reference
CS 2415 .K4 1976
Kelly, Patrick. Irish family names : with origins, meanings, clans, arms, crests, and mottoes. 1st ed. Detroit : Gale Research Co., 1976, c1939.
Alderman Stacks
CS 1593 .P36 1992
Pama, C. British families in South Africa : their surnames and origins. 1st ed. Cape Town : Human & Rousseau, 1992.
Alderman Reference
CS2505.R39 1976
Reaney, P. H. A Dictionary of British Surnames. 2d ed. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976.

Meanings and origins of British surnames with historical references to original uses. Variants given.

Alderman Reference
CS2435.S5 1968
Sims, Clifford Stanley. The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames, with a Vocabulary of Christian Names. Albany, 1862; Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968.

Short annotations explaining meanings of Scottish surnames.

Alderman Reference &
Clemons Stacks CS2485 .S5 1969
Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Philadelphia: Chilton Book Co., 1969.

Discusses origins and classifications of names in general.

Alderman Reference &
Clemons Reference
CS2481 .S55 1973
Smith, Elsdon C. New dictionary of American family names. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.

Lists most common American surnames, particularly those of European origin. Provides brief descriptions of origin of name and designates nationality.