Explore the Family Name Bell

The meaning of Bell

1. English (northern) and Scottish (Lowlands): from the Middle English personal name Bell. As a man’s name this is from Old French beu, bel ‘handsome’, which was also used as a nickname. As a female name it represents a short form of Isabel. 2. English (northern) and Scottish (Lowlands): from Middle English belle ‘bell’ (Old English belle), in various applications; most probably a metonymic occupational name for a bell ringer or bell maker, or a topographic name for someone living ‘at the bell’ (as attested by 14th-century forms such as John atte Belle). This indicates either residence by an actual bell (e.g. a town’s bell in a bell tower, centrally placed to summon meetings, sound the alarm, etc.) or ‘at the sign of the bell’, i.e. a house or inn sign (although surnames derived from house and inn signs are rare in Scots and English). 3. English: from Middle English bel ‘fair, fine, good’ (Old French bel ‘beautiful, fair’). See also Beal 1. 4. German: from Bell in Rhineland or possibly from Belle in Westphalia. 5. Norwegian: habitational name from a farmstead in western Norway named Bell, the origin of which is unexplained. 6. Scandinavian: of English or German origin (see above). 7. Americanized form of German Böhl or Böll (see Boehle, Boll). 8. American shortened and altered form of various Slavic names beginning with Bel- ‘white’, e.g. of Rusyn (from Slovakia) Belejčák, a derivative of Belej (see Beley 3). 9. Americanized form of one or more similar (like-sounding) Jewish surnames. History: The original surname of the American novelist Thomas Bell (1903–61) was Belejčák. His parents were Rusyns from the village of Nižný Tvarožec in present-day Slovakia.

Dictionary of American Family Names, 2nd edition, © Oxford University Press, 2022.

How common is the last name Bell in the United States?

Based on the Decennial U.S. Census data, the popularity of the surname "Bell" saw a significant decrease between 2000 and 2010. In the year 2000, it was ranked as the 67th most common surname, but by 2010, it had fallen to the 106th position, marking a 58.21% drop in rank. The actual count of individuals with this surname also decreased during this period from 264,752 to 220,599, representing a reduction of 16.68%. Consequently, the proportion of the "Bell" surname per 100k population fell by 23.8%.

Proportion per 100k98.1474.78-23.8%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Bell

Regarding "Bell"'s ethnic identity, based on the Decennial U.S. Census, there were noticeable shifts from 2000 to 2010. The percentage of Bells identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander increased by 34.15%, while those identifying as having two or more races went up by 39.44%. Interestingly, the Hispanic Bell population saw the most substantial growth at 58.71%. The number of Bells who identified as Black increased slightly by 1.79%, and the American Indian and Alaskan Native group increased by 12.22%. However, the proportion of Bells identifying as White saw a modest decrease of 3.87%.

Two or More Races1.8%2.51%39.44%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.9%1.01%12.22%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.41%0.55%34.15%

Bell ancestry composition

23andMe computes an ancestry breakdown for each customer. People may have ancestry from just one population or they may have ancestry from several populations. The most commonly-observed ancestry found in people with the surname Bell is British & Irish, which comprises 51.6% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (20.4%) and Nigerian (4.2%). Additional ancestries include Eastern European, Scandinavian, Ashkenazi Jewish, Italian, and Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean.

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British & Irish51.6%
French & German20.4%

Possible origins of the surname Bell

Your DNA provides clues about where your recent ancestors may have lived. Having many distant relatives in the same location suggests that you may all share common ancestry there. Locations with many distant relatives can also be places where people have migrated recently, such as large cities. If a large number of individuals who share your surname have distant relatives in a specific area, it could indicate a connection between your surname and that location, stemming from either recent ancestral ties or migration.

Based on 23andMe data, people with last name Bell have recent ancestry locations in United Kingdom and Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom82.10%
Merseyside, United Kingdom82.00%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom81.80%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom81.80%
West Midlands, United Kingdom81.40%

What Bell haplogroups can tell you

Haplogroups are genetic population groups that share a common ancestor on either your paternal or maternal line. These paternal and maternal haplogroups shed light on your genetic ancestry and help tell the story of your family.

The top paternal haplogroup of people with the surname Bell is R-L1, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup R-L1 is descended from haplogroup R-M343. Other common haplogroups include R-M405 and R-CTS241, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Smith, Adams, Brown, Taylor, Wilson, Miller, Brooks, Hall, Clark, Mitchell.

The most common maternal haplogroups of people with Bell surname are: H1, T2b, H. These most commonly trace back to individuals of European ancestry.

bellPaternal Haplogroup Origins R-M343
Paternal Haplo Image

Your paternal lineage may be linked to King Louis XVI

The rule of France by men of the House of Bourbon began with King Henri IV in 1589 C.E. and continued until the beheading of his direct paternal descendant King Louis XVI in 1793. Several years ago, researchers analyzed a mummified head and a blood-soaked cloth that they believed might belong to the two kings, and concluded that the royal paternal line belonged to haplogroup G. In a more recent study, however, a different set of researchers tested three living men who are direct descendants of the Bourbon kings. Their efforts revealed that the male lineage of the House of Bourbon is actually a branch of haplogroup R-M405.

Your maternal lineage may be linked to Marie Antoinette

Because it is so dominant in the general European population, haplogroup H also appears quite frequently in the continent's royal houses. Marie Antoinette, an Austrian Hapsburg who married into the French royal family, inherited the haplogroup from her maternal ancestors. So did Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose recorded genealogy traces his female line to Bavaria. Scientists also discovered that famed 16th century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus traced his maternal lineages to haplogroup H.

Maternal Haplo Image

What do people with the surname Bell have in common?

Spoiler alert: it's complicated. People with the same last name are usually no more genetically similar than a randomly sampled group of people from the same population. That said, people with the same surname are more likely to have similar ancestries than randomly sampled individuals. The reason is the tendency of people with similar cultural or geographical backgrounds to preferentially mate with one another. That's why people who share a surname may be more likely to share traits and tendencies in common than people within the general population. Check out the percentages below to see the prevalences of tastes, habits, and traits of people with your surname compared with prevalences among 23andMe users.



Chocolate Ice Cream

Prefers chocolate flavored ice cream over other flavors.

"Bell" Surname 40.9%

23andMe Users 41.3%




When sounds made by others, like the sound of chewing or yawning, provoke strong emotional reactions in an individual.

"Bell" Surname 25.2%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Bell" Surname 22.8%

23andMe Users 21.1%




A severe headache characterized by intense pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

"Bell" Surname 18.0%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Bell?

The short answer is that, if there is an association between surname and health, it's usually more about your ancestry than your name. Individuals with a given surname are no more genetically similar than the general population but often have similar ancestries. The populations of people associated with those shared ancestries often have sets of genetic variations, also known as alleles, in common. Some of those alleles are associated with a greater likelihood of developing certain diseases.

Disease variant frequency by ancestry

Disease allele frequencies in populations associated with the surname Bell are shown below. Important Note: not everyone with a disease allele will develop these health condition

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Y402H variant

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina (the macula), impairing vision needed for reading, driving, or even recognizing faces. The 23andMe Health + Ancestry DNA test includes the two most common variants associated with an increased risk of developing the condition: the Y402H variant in the CFH gene and the A69S variant in the ARMS2 gene. Learn more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration

British & Irish 62.1%

23andMe Users 57.2%