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Surname Washington - Meaning and Origin

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Undertaking the iGENEA DNA test has proven to be an emotionally charged journey, completely transforming my perceptions about my family history and the origins of the surname Washington.

C. Washington

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Washington: What does the surname Washington mean?

The surname 'Washington' originates from England and is derived from Old English. It is a locational surname denoting someone who came from a place named Washington. The name Washington breaks down into two Old English words - 'Wasa' and 'Ington'. 'Wasa' refers to a settlement or homestead; 'Ington' refers to 'people of' or 'settlement of'. So, the surname Washington essentially means 'settlement of the Wasa people'. It played an important role in the history of the United States, bearing the name of the country's first president, George Washington. Even before the Revolutionary War, the Washington family was among the gentry in Colonial Virginia – their wealth based on marriage and land ownership rather than on emoluments of government. Therefore, in American context, the name Washington often carries connotations of political leadership and historical significance.

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Washington: Where does the name Washington come from?

The surname Washington is of English origin, deriving from the place name "Washington", first seen in records as "Wassingetune" around 1096. The name itself translates to "the homestead of the Wassa's people", Wassa being an Old English personal name.

The homestead referenced is believed to be in either West Sussex or Sunderland, England. The latter is the ancestral home of the family of George Washington, the first U.S. President, thus explaining the name's prevalence in America. A parish in West Sussex also bears the name Washington, possibly contributing to the distribution of the surname in England.

Today, the surname Washington is very common in the United States. According to the U.S. census of 2010, it is the 152nd most common surname, with over 163,000 bearers. Interestingly, the use of the surname Washington is disproportionately high among African-Americans, likely due to formerly enslaved people adopting the name post-Emancipation. In England, the name is significantly less common, ranking 558th in prevalence according to a 2016 review of the electoral roll.

Variations of the surname Washington

The surname Washington is of English origin and it is primarily used in English-speaking countries. There are not many known variants or alternative spellings for this surname due to its historical significance, especially in the United States. A common variation is the addition of a prefix or suffix such as "de Washington" or "Washington-Smith," altering it for marriage or cultural reasons.

The surname is derived from a place-name meaning "settlement (Old English 'tun') of the people of Wassa's." It is speculated that alternative surnames with similar origins might include similarly constructed English surnames such as Wessington or Wassington, which follow the same format of a personal name followed by "tun".

For people with African ancestry in America, the surname "Washington" has become common due to historical circumstances like slavery and the subsequent emancipation, where newly freed individuals would adopt the surname of famous figures like George Washington.

In modern naming practices, the surname can sometimes be adapted to fit different cultural syntaxes. This might include translations of "Washington" to other languages such as Vashingtoni in Georgian, Вашингтон in Russian or Uašingtonas in Lithuanian. However, these are quite rare and most often the surname is kept in its original form.

Famous people with the name Washington

  • George Washington- First President of the United States
  • Denzel Washington- Award-winning actor, director, and producer
  • Dave Washington- Former Major League Baseball player
  • Booker T. Washington- American educator, author, speaker, and advisor to Presidents
  • Frederick Douglass Washington- African-American abolitionist and statesman of the late 19th century
  • Martha Washington- First First Lady of the United States
  • Booker T. Washington Jr.- African-American Geologist
  • Booker T. Washington III- Multimedia artist and educator
  • Kerry Washington- Award-winning actress
  • Booker T. Washington IV- Businessman and entrepreneur

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