WHAT A WANG-DERFUL WORLD

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When it comes to English-speaking countries, the popular conception is that Smith is the most common last name, but does that theory really hold water? And if we look past English-speaking countries to survey other nations around the world, what are the most common surnames of each country?

To answer this question, we can look to this map created by online lending firm NetCredit, which shows the most popular surname of each country. Here's a full-sized image of the map here.

According to NetCredit, you can sort the etymologies of surnames into five general categories: occupational, personal descriptor, toponymic (a name that comes from a place), patronymic (from the name of a father or ancestor) and names that connote patronage.

A good example of an occupational surname would be Smith, which is the most common surname of countries like the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. The surname originally came from the profession of blacksmiths.

Wang, a patronymic surname that means "king" in Mandarin, is the most common surname in China. It should be noted that Wang is also the most common surname in the world: around 76 million people around the world bear the surname Wang, and following in second is the Indian surname Devi, with 69 million people.

If you want to take a closer look, you can take a look at these maps that break down the original map from NetCredit into different continents:

And according to VividMaps, here are the most common surnames around the world:

  1. Wang — 76 million
  2. Devi — 69 million
  3. Zhang — 68 million
  4. Li — 57 million
  5. Liu — 52 million
  6. Singh — 37 million
  7. Yang — 32million
  8. Kumar — 32million
  9. Wu — 28 million
  10. Xu — 26 million

And the most common surnames in the US are roughly as follows:

  1. Smith — 3.0 million
  2. Johnson — 2.3 million
  3. Williams — 1.9 million
  4. Brown — 1.7 million
  5. Jones — 1.7 million
  6. Miller — 1.4 million
  7. Davis — 1.4 million
  8. Wilson — 1.0 million
  9. Anderson — 1.0 million
  10. Taylor — 900,000

Among the top 10 surnames in the US, Miller and Taylor are occupational surnames like Smith, deriving from the occupations of millers and tailors. Aside from Brown, which was a nickname for people with brown hair and complexions, the rest of the most common last names in the US are patronymic surnames — Jones and Johnson both mean "John's son" while Davis signifies "son of David."

[Read more at NetCredit]

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