As you’ve gone through life, you’ve likely run into at least a few people with the last name Martin, but do you ever wonder where it came from? That’s what we’ll cover today. We’ll talk about the origin of the Martin family name, including where it originated, where many Martin’s live today, and some of the famous Martins that graced the planet today and in the past.
Martin Family History
The history of most surnames (last name) starts the same. The original idea was to separate people into groups. Those groups could have included occupation, tribe, hair color, etc. Plus, they were made to separate one “Bob” from another “Bob.”
As for the Martin family name, it has been traced back to Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, and other countries. It’s a name of great antiquity. Similar variants include Kilmartin, Gilmartin, Martens, and Martyn, among others.
The name was first started in the 4th century by Christian saint Martin of Tours. From there, it spread like wildfire and became popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. African American kids often get the name in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The name Martin can be both a first and last name, and, in one interpretation, it means “the son of Martin.” Others believe it is a name derived from the Latin word Martinus, which is a derivative of Mars or Martis, the Roman God of War and Fertility. And that name may go back to the root of mar or ‘gleam.’
While we learned that the Martin name has traced back to Ireland, Germany, and other countries, where has it been popular since then? According to Ancestry.com, many Martin families moved over time, and between the years of 1840 and 1920, Martins were mostly found in Scotland, Canada, the UK, and the USA. During that time, most Martins were found in the USA during 1880. Even back in 1840, there were 909 Martin families living in New York alone, accounting for 12% of Martins in the country. Today, Martin is the 20th most common surname in America.
Back then, Martins worked various jobs. During the 1940s, housewife and laborer were the top reported jobs. Other Martins were teachers, truck drivers, and maids.
Today, 74% of people with the name Martin are considered “Non-Hispanic White Only,” 15% are considered “Non-Hispanic Black Only,” and the numbers greatly decrease from there among other races.
Notes For Specific Regions
The Martin name is known worldwide, and so there are some famous notes and history depending on where you go.
Martin is a common name in Bulgaria and is the third most common baby name in the region. You'd pronounce the name the same as it is in English.
Currently, over 230,000 people have the last name of Martin here. In fact, it is one of the most common surnames in the region.
Martin is a common name here, reaching hte peak of popularity in the 1990s. Other variations of the name here include Martinson and Martinsen.
Martin has been a common name in all three Scandinavian countries for decades. The name Morten is also a Scandinavian version of Martin.
The Martin family name has been so common for so many years that there are naturally some famous folks who share the surname.
- Peter Martin (died 1645) – A famous Master of Sacred Theology
- Saint Richard Martin (died 1588) – English Martyr
- Alexander Martin (1740–1807) – American Politician
- John Martin (1789–1854) – English Painter
- Luther Martin (1748–1826) – American Politician
- Blakey Martin (1891–1940) – English Football Player
- Jesse M. Martin (1877–1915) – Governor of Arkansas
- Karlheinz Martin (1886–1948), German Film Director
- Barney Martin (1923–2005) – American Actor
- Dee Martin (born 1949) – American Football Player
- Dottie Martin (born 1937) – First Lady of North Carolina
- George R. R. Martin (born 1948) – American Fantasy Writer
- John Martin (1939–2019) – American Racing Driver
- Steve Martin (born 1945) – American Actor and Comedian
- Strother Martin (1919–1980) – American Actor
- Valerie Martin (born 1948) – American Novelist
- Ann M. Martin (born 1955) – Author of The Baby-sitters Club Series
- Chris Martin (born 1977) – Singer for the Band Coldplay
- Tyrese Martin (born 1999) – Basketball Player
First Name Martin
The name Martin is also a popular first name. In the United States, there are 122 people with the first name Martin among every 100,000 people. Famous people with the first name include:
- Martin Sheen (Actor)
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (Civil Rights Leader)
- Martin Lawrence (Comedian)
- Martin Freeman (Actor)
- Martin Luther (German Priest)
- Martin Short (Comedian)
- Martin Van Buren (Former American President)
This has been your brief history of the Martin family name. It’s been a common name for generations, and it continues to be one of the most common names until this day. The next time you run into a Martin, announce that you know all about them.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.com.