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Johnson: Family Name, Meaning, History, And More

Wooden sign with the name Johnson

Johnson: Family Name, Meaning, History, And More

What is the true meaning of the Johnson family name? If you have ever wondered, you're in the right place. “Johnson,” may be one of the more common surnames, with roots in English, and Scottish. “Johnson” is the second most common surname in the United States. Surnames are unique in their origins, and can truly say so much about a family's history. Read on to learn more about the Johnson family name. We'll discuss the history behind the name, the meaning of the name, and all the variations. Stick around for some fun facts, and to learn what historical figures and modern celebrities share the last name “Johnson.”

Origin And Meaning

There are a number of ways in which the name “Johnson,” rose to be such a common surname. It is an anglicized variation of the Swedish surname “Johannesen,” and also showcases variations from the Norweigian/German surnames Jantzen, Janz, and other Dutch, Czech, and Slovenian variations. The Johnson family name can be traced to England as far back as the Norman Conquest of 1066. It was a common way of differentiating families by referring to offspring as “son of,” in this case, “son of John,” therefore “Johnson.” The name “John,” stems from the Hebrew name “Johanan” which translates to “Jehovah has favored.” It was widely popular in the Middle Ages as a religious name, and therefore there were a lot of “sons of Johns.”

Viking attacks throughout Normandy brought an influx of Scandinavian settlers to that region, which meant more name assimilation. Noble families with the name Johnson also began to immigrate to parts of Scotland, which was traditional for Norman families. This resulted in a rise in Johnsons across both England and Scotland.

Johnson Town is the name of the entire former U.S. military housing area in Iruma City, Saitama Prefecture.
The Johnson name has roots in England, Ireland, and Scotland. Now, it is the #2 surname in the U.S.

©Faula Photo Works/Shutterstock.com

The Scottish roots of the name spread throughout Ireland, Wales, and England. It would appear in many documents as an anglicized version of traditional last names. It is thought that the Scottish surnames “MacShane,” “McShane,” “McSeain,” “MacKeown,” and “McKeon,” became anglicized to the surname Johnson. For many of the Irish and Scottish families who took on the Johnson name, there is a family coat of arms that represents loyalty and truth (via Irish Surnames).

Variations Of The Name “Johnson”

In terms of physical evidence of “Johnson,” it crops up in Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls around the late 1370s in the various spellings of “Johanson, “Jonesson,” and “Jonson.” It should be noted that the early ways in which words were spelled were impacted by the way in which they were spoken to official scribes. This meant that “Johnson,” was likely spelled “Joneson,” “Jonson,” and even “Joynson,” but spoken the same.

Between 1840 and 1920, the Johnson family name and its variations spread between Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. By the 1880s, most Johnsons were living within the United States, with the highest population centered in New York.

Common Spellings Of “Johnson”

There are many ways the name Johnson has remained such a common name. Here are some of the many ways that Johnson can be spelled throughout its history of immigration and anglicization:

  • Jonsson
  • Johansson
  • Johansen
  • Johnsen
  • Jorgensen
  • Joneson
  • Jonson
  • Joynson

Interesting Facts About The Surname “Johnson”

  • In America, the first Johnsons most likely held jobs as either a laborer or a maid. The second most common jobs for individuals with the last name “Johnson,” were as carpenter or housewife.
  • The Johnson is a common anglicized surname. There's evidence that Gaelic surnames that didn't look much like “Johnson,” at all, took on this surname while in the process of immigration.
  • According to a Name Census, “Johnson” is ranked #2 in terms of the most common American surnames. The most common last name in the U.S. is “Smith,” followed closely by “Johnson.”

Famous/Historical Individuals With The Last Name “Johnson”

Notable Johnsons in history include Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, an American mathematician who worked for NASA. This particular Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, and a Congressional Gold Medal in 2019. She was the inspiration for the film Hidden Figures.

In politics, you've got Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the UK Prime Minister (2019 – 2022), President Andrew Johnson, the 17th U.S. President (1865 – 1869), and Lyndon B. Johnson, the 38th U.S. President (1961-1963). There's Eddie Bernice Johnson, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Mike Johnson, the current Speaker of the House, and U.S. House Representative.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Dollar, USA coin a portrait image of LYNDON B. JOHNSON in God We Trust 36th PRESIDENT 1963-1969 on $1 United Staten of Amekica, Close Up UNC Uncirculated - Collection
President Lyndon B. Johnson is among the most famous individuals with the Johnson surname.

©Prachaya Roekdeethaweesab/Shutterstock.com

In terms of sports celebrities, there was Patrick E. Johnson, an esteemed American Martial artist, and Adam Robert Johnson an American ice hockey forward. How about Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. one of the NBA's greatest point guards?

Celebrities with the last name Johnson include Dakota Johnson, the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, and Duane “The Rock” Johnson, former wrestler, and current actor.

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