Explore the Family Name Black

The meaning of Black

1. English and Scottish: chiefly from Middle English blak(e) ‘black’ (Old English blæc, blaca), a nickname given from the earliest times to a swarthy or dark-haired man. However, Middle English blac also meant ‘pale, wan’, a reflex of Old English blāc ‘pale, white’ with a shortened vowel. Compare Blatch and Blick. With rare exceptions it is impossible to disambiguate these antithetical senses in Middle English surnames. The same difficulty arises with Blake and Block. 2. Scottish: in Gaelic-speaking areas this name was adopted as a translation of the epithet dubh ‘dark, black-(haired)’, or of various other names based on Gaelic dubh ‘black’, see Duff. 3. Americanized form (translation into English) of various European surnames directly or indirectly derived from the adjective meaning ‘black, dark’, for example German and Jewish Schwarz and Slavic surnames beginning with Čern-, Chern- (see Chern and Cherne), Chorn-, Crn- or Czern-. 4. Swedish: nickname from black ‘pale’. 5. Americanized form of Danish Blak: nickname from blak ‘pale’. 6. Native American: translation into English and shortening of a personal name composed of a word meaning ‘black’, such as Lakota Sioux Četaŋ Sapa ‘Black Hawk’ (see Blackhawk).

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

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

The surname "Black" has seen a minor shift in its popularity ranking based on data from the Decennial U.S. Census. In 2000, Black was ranked 160th among all surnames and that slipped to 174th by 2010, showing a decline of approximately 8.75%. Despite this dip in rank, the overall count of individuals with the surname Black actually rose from 150,186 in 2000 to 154,738 in 2010, yielding a growth of 3.03%. Nevertheless, when considering the proportion per 100,000 people, there was a slight decrease of about 5.77%.

Proportion per 100k55.6752.46-5.77%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Black

Looking at the ethnic identities associated with the surname Black, according to the Decennial U.S. Census data, reveals some interesting trends. The largest ethnic group associated with the surname remained White, although it decreased from 76.65% in 2000 to 74.63% in 2010. Over the same period, there were increases in the proportions of those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander (from 0.42% to 0.53%), Two or more races (from 1.49% to 2.08%), Hispanic (from 1.53% to 2.33%) and American Indian and Alaskan Native (from 1.35% to 1.44%). Interestingly, people identifying as Black with the surname Black also saw an increase, rising from 18.56% in 2000 to 19.00% in 2010.

Two or More Races1.49%2.08%39.6%
American Indian and Alaskan Native1.35%1.44%6.67%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.42%0.53%26.19%

Black 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 Black is British & Irish, which comprises 52.4% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (22.6%) and Eastern European (4.2%). Additional ancestries include Scandinavian, Ashkenazi Jewish, Nigerian, Italian, and Spanish & Portuguese.

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British & Irish52.4%
French & German22.6%
Eastern European4.2%

Possible origins of the surname Black

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 Black have recent ancestry locations in United Kingdom and Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom84.50%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom84.40%
Merseyside, United Kingdom84.40%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom84.20%
West Midlands, United Kingdom83.90%

What Black 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 Black is R-L21, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup R-L21 is descended from haplogroup R-M343. Other common haplogroups include R-CTS241 and R-U152, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Thompson, Evans, Taylor, White, Smith, Clarke, Roberts, Walker, Martin, Wilson.

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

blackPaternal Haplogroup Origins R-M343

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 Black 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.

"Black" Surname 43.7%

23andMe Users 41.3%




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

"Black" Surname 26.4%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Black" Surname 24.7%

23andMe Users 21.1%




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

"Black" Surname 18.5%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Black?

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 Black 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%