Explore the Family Name Brown

The meaning of Brown

1. English, Scottish, and Irish: generally a nickname referring to the color of the hair or complexion, Middle English br(o)un, from Old English brūn or Old French brun. This word is occasionally found in Old French, Middle English and Old Norse as a personal name or byname (Middle English personal name Brun, Broun, ancient Germanic Bruno, Old English Brūn, or possibly Old Norse Brúnn or Brúni). Brun- was also an ancient Germanic name-forming element. Some instances of Old English Brūn as a personal name may therefore be short forms of compound names such as Brūngar, Brūnwine, etc. As a Scottish and Irish name, it sometimes represents a translation of Gaelic Donn (see below). Brown (including in the senses below) is the fourth most frequent surname in the US. It is also very common among African Americans and Native Americans (see also 5 below). 2. Irish and Scottish: adopted for Ó Duinn (see Dunn) or for any of the many Irish and Scottish Gaelic names containing the element donn ‘brown-haired’ (also meaning ‘chieftain’), for example Donahue. 3. Irish: phonetic Anglicization of Mac an Bhreitheamhnaigh; see Breheny. 4. Americanized form (translation into English, or assimilation) of various European surnames meaning ‘brown’ or derived from a word meaning ‘brown’, including the like-sounding German and Jewish surname Braun, which is by far most common among them, Jewish Bron, and Slovenian Erjavec. 5. Native American: translation into English and shortening of a personal name composed of a word meaning ‘brown’. In many cases, however, this surname was chosen because it is a one of the most common English surnames in North America (see 1 above).

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

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

Based on the Decennial U.S. Census data, the Brown surname was ranked as the 4th most popular in both 2000 and 2010, with no changes in rank noted over the decade. However, the count of individuals carrying this surname increased by 4.12%, from 1,380,145 in 2000 to 1,437,026 in 2010. Despite this increase in absolute numbers, the proportion of the population bearing the Brown surname per 100,000 people slightly decreased by 4.78%, from 511.62 to 487.16.

Proportion per 100k511.62487.16-4.78%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Brown

In terms of ethnic identity, the Decennial U.S. Census data indicates that the distribution of the surname Brown across different ethnic groups experienced some shifts between 2000 and 2010. The largest growth was seen among Hispanic bearers of the surname, which increased by 53.66%. The “two or more races” category also saw a significant increase of 37.10%. While individuals of Asian/Pacific Islander descent and American Indian and Alaskan Native origin bearing the surname Brown increased by 24.39% and 4.82% respectively, the surname's prevalence among White individuals decreased by 4.55%. Notably, the Black community maintained a steady increase of 3.07%, reaching 35.60% in 2010.

Two or More Races1.86%2.55%37.1%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.83%0.87%4.82%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.41%0.51%24.39%

Brown 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 Brown is British & Irish, which comprises 49.6% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (21.3%) and Nigerian (4.9%). Additional ancestries include Eastern European, Scandinavian, Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean, Ashkenazi Jewish, and Italian.

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British & Irish49.6%
French & German21.3%

Possible origins of the surname Brown

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 Brown have recent ancestry locations in United Kingdom and Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom77.10%
Merseyside, United Kingdom76.90%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom76.80%
West Midlands, United Kingdom76.50%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom76.40%

What Brown 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 Brown is R-P311, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup R-P311 is descended from haplogroup R-M343. Other common haplogroups include R-CTS241 and E-P252, which are predominantly found among people with European and Sub-Saharan African ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Smith, Taylor, Green, Young, Wilson, Williams, White, Clark, Mitchell, Thompson.

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

brownPaternal 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 Brown 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.

"Brown" Surname 40.1%

23andMe Users 41.3%




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

"Brown" Surname 27.1%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Brown" Surname 23.8%

23andMe Users 21.1%




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

"Brown" Surname 18.1%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Brown?

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 Brown 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%