Most Common First Letters Of Last Names (Statistics)

The letter M is the most common starting letter of last names in America by a narrow margin over the letter S.

Names starting with the letter M had just over 25.6 million people in the 2010 U.S. census. The letter S had about half a million fewer residents.

This article gives a full breakdown and distribution of the numbers.

Top Five Starting letters Of Last Names

Here are the exact numbers of U.S. residents for the top five first letters of last names:

RankLetterPeople
#1M25,610,240
#2S25,056,728
#3B22,587,641
#4C20,582,563
#5H18,810,320

The order of these most common five first letters hadn’t changed since the census in 2000.

6th, 7th, And 8th Most Common Letters

However, the order of the next most common letters switched in the decade between 2000 and 2010.

The table below shows the positions of the 6th, 7th, and 8th most common first letters in 2010.

RankLetterPeople
#6R15,699,799
#7G14,814,448
#8W14,741,478

Although the same letters appeared in these positions in the census of 2000, the order was different.

In the year 2000, the letter W was in sixth place above G and W. But the latter two letters grew faster over the next decade.

first page of a census with typical questions about name and gender

Three Least Common First Letters Of Last Names

X was the rarest first letter at the beginning of American surnames in 2010. That was also the case in 2000.

You may be surprised to learn that this letter had nearly thirty different surnames in the U.S. census. You can see them all in our list of last names starting with X.

The next two rare letters were Q and U. In 2010, Q had slightly higher numbers than U. In other words, it was a little less rare.

Here are the exact numbers in 2010:

RankLetterPeople
#24Q642,349
#25U617,005
#26X102,201

The order was slightly different in 2000. The letter U had slightly more numbers than the letter Q.

Statistical Distribution Of Last Names By First Letter

Here is the statistical distribution from 2010.

Distribution By First Letter

The graph is based on these raw numbers:

LetterPeoplePercentage
M25,610,2409.6
S25,056,7289.4
B22,587,6418.5
C20,582,5637.7
H18,810,3207.1
R15,699,7995.9
G14,814,4485.6
W14,741,4785.5
P13,233,8685.0
L13,045,2574.9
D12,045,6964.5
A10,080,0863.8
T9,413,1873.5
F8,981,8093.4
K8,669,4083.3
J7,935,4013.0
N5,069,5171.9
E4,932,3131.9
V4,657,5041.8
O4,051,8501.5
Y1,684,9210.6
Z1,504,4040.6
I1,097,2350.4
Q642,3490.2
U617,0050.2
X102,2010.04

What Letter Has The Most Last Names?

Now that we’ve looked at the number of people, let’s look at the number of different names in America by letter.

The letter S has the most number of different names in America, based on the 2010 U.S. census.

The letter X has the least number of different names.

Here are the top ten:

LetterNames
S17,497
B14,204
M13,521
C10,347
K9,246
D9,149
H8,790
G8,717
P8,518
L8,354

These are the rest of the letters in descending order of the number of different names.

LetterNames
R7,767
A6,696
T6,406
F5,722
W5,390
V4,257
N3,533
E3,338
O2,781
J2,236
Z2,094
I1,285
Y1,100
U820
Q437
X48

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