This article is about short last names beginning with B that are under five letters.
We look at the most common four-letter, three-letter, and two-letter names in the United States in recent years.
We also investigate whether anybody in the United States is named simply “B”.
Using The 2010 U.S. Census
We used the 2010 U.S. Census to look at the numbers for these names.
That allowed us to grab the top ten in each category of four, three, and two-letter names.
The 2010 census also gives a breakdown of how people reported their ethnicity. Many of these names have at least tiny percentages of all the possible ethnic categories.
We’ve included the top two ethnicities in the tables below. The first listed ethnicity has the higher percentage.
Four Letter Last Names Starting With B
The most common four-letter names starting with B in America are largely of European origins.
Some are predominantly held by white bearers. However, many have between a quarter and a third of African American holders.
|Bass||57,044||White & Black|
|Beil||59,463||White & Black|
|Bell||220,599||White & Black|
|Boyd||153,469||White & Black|
|Byrd||92,904||White & Black|
Origins and meanings
Bell and Byrd are the most common names in this section.
The surname Bell has several origins in Europe. It could be an occupational name for a bell ringer or for someone who lived near a bell tower.
It can also derive from the French word for handsome (bel).
Byrd is a variant of Bird. In England, some early bearers were given the name due to their slight build (bird-like).
Some early families in America used the name as a translation from the word for a bird in their native language.
For example, German immigrants named Vogel may have taken the name.
Three Letter Last Names Starting With B
You can see by the numbers in the table below that three-letter last names are less common than those with four letters.
When we look at the American census, there is more of a spread of different heritages.
Bah is about 93% black, while Bos is 94% white. About 95% of people named Bui ticked the box for “Asian or Pacific Islander”.
|Bae||6,203||Asian & PI|
|Bui||28,919||Asian & PI|
Bui is predominantly a Vietnamese name. It can derive from the Chinese name of Pei.
Bah is a West African name found in Gambia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. It can also be a variant of the shorter name Ba, which is found in Senegal and Mauritania.
Bos is a continental European name with different meanings in different regions. The French origins can derive from the word for wood (bois).
The Germanic origins refer to a wild or angry person (bos).
Two Letter Last Names Starting With B
I can’t give you the top ten two-letter names starting with B because only six are in the 2010 U.S. census.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a smattering of people with other two-letter names that I don’t include here. It’s just that other names didn’t have at least one hundred bearers in 2010.
The U.S. National Archives only publishes details of surnames with one hundred or more bearers. This is to avoid providing identifying details about a small number of people.
Here is a summary of the six names from the census:
|Be||1,146||Asian & PI|
|Bi||1,438||Asian & PI|
|Bo||1,348||Asian & PI, White|
|Bu||989||Asian & PI|
|By||225||Asian & PI|
Although the highest ethnicity reported for the name Bo was Asian, that was about 55% of the holders. The breakdown for Bo was like this:
- Asian & PI: 56%
- White: 34%
- Black: 4%
- Hispanic: 4%
Ba is the most common two-letter name starting with B, with a breakdown like this:
- Black: 65%
- White: 14%
- Asian & PI: 13%
- Hispanic: 5%
Bi is the one name in this list that is predominantly of one heritage. About 91% of people in the U.S. in 2010 reported themselves as Asian or Pacific Islander.
Bo has different origins and meanings from different regions. The European origins are Scandinavian. The meaning comes from the old Norse word for a farm and was given to farmers.
The Asian origins of Bo may come from Chinese places of that name.
Bi is also a predominantly Chinese name.
Ba is a West African name primarily from areas covering Senegal and Mauritania.
B As A One-Letter Last Name?
First of all, I’ll say that “B” isn’t in the published U.S. census of 2010. That means that even if it exists in the country, there weren’t one hundred people with the name.
The only study of one-letter names that I can find is from the 1970s. The late mathematician A. Ross Eckler scoured telephone directories for examples.
Eckler pointed out that many examples across the alphabet were errors from reversing initials, first, and last names.
For example, someone recorded in the directory as “Lorenzo B” was probably a mistake for “B Lorenzo”.
Although Eckler thought some other letters were genuine, he thought that the entries for the name B looked like mistakes.
I’ll show them here so you can judge for yourself.
If you’re too young to remember telephone directories stacked on the hall table, then I’ll tell you that they were formatted as lists under the name.
These were the first names listed under the last name of “B”:
- L Rogers
Other Surnames Starting With B
If you want to check out more names, check out these articles: