Short Last Names Beginning With I

This article is about short last names beginning with I that are under five letters.

We look at the most common four-letter, three-letter, and two-letter I family names in the United States in recent years.

We also investigate whether anybody in the United States is named simply “I”.

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. Some 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 when the second is above 20%. The first listed ethnicity has the higher percentage.

Most Common Four Letter Last Names Starting With I

Ivey is the most common four-letter surname starting with I in America.

Ivey had more than twice the number of bearers than the next highest of Irby and Isom. These are the only names that had above ten thousand people in the 2010 census.

Last NameNumberMostly
Irby11,506White, Black
Ivey23,263White, Black
Iyer3,956Asian & PI

About 72% of respondents named Ivey declared that they were white, while 23% declared as black.

Irby was almost half and half. 51% declared as white while 44% declared as black.

Isom broke down as 55% white and 38% black.


The name Ivey was introduced into England by the Normans.

Norman knight

Irby is also of English origins. There are several places of the name in England. Early bearers likely came from one of those places.

Interestingly, the meaning comes from an Old Norse word meaning “an Irish settlement”.

Isom is also what’s known as a habitational name. In other words, the origins are from a place. In this case, Isom derives from the town of Isham in Northamptonshire, England.

Most Common Three Letter Last Names Starting With I

You can see in the table below that three-letter last names starting with I are generally less common than in the previous section.

Only one has over ten thousand bearers.

Last NameNumberMostly
Ibe946Black, Asian & PI
Ige780Asian & PI, Black
Ike1,424Black, White
Ing1,814Asian & PI, White
Isa1,055White, Asian & PI
Ito4,344Asian & PI

Ivy is the most common three-letter surname starting with I in the United States. This is a spelling variant of Ivey, which we looked at in the previous section.

So, let’s take a look at a few others.

Nearly 83% of people named Ito in the census ticked the category of Asian or Pacific Islander.

The name Ito is of Japanese origin. It is one of the most common names in Japan.

The name Ice is of Germanic origin. The German surname “Eis” was often Americanized to Ice when immigrating into the U.S.

Two Letter Last Names Starting With I

I have to limit this section to the top nine two-letter names starting with I instead of giving you the top ten.

That’s because there are only a total of nine examples in the 2010 U.S. census.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a tenth person with a different two-letter name that I 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. Here is a summary of the nine names from the census:

Last NameNumberMostly
Ia102Asian & PI, White
Ie155Asian & PI
Ii565White, Black
Im4,887Asian & PI
In1,492Asian & PI
Ip2,057Asian & PI
Iu167Asian & PI
Iv327Asian & PI, White

As you can see, most bearers in the census were predominantly Asian or Pacific Islanders.

Im is the most common two-letter name starting with I with nearly five thousand people.

About 95% of respondents named Im identified as being Asian or Pacific Islander. The name has Korean origins.

The name In is a variant of Yin and is of Chinese origin.

Ix has the highest percentage of Hispanic bearers in this short list. Nineteen percent reported as Hispanic.

Hispanic doesn’t show in the summary table above because I use a cut-off point of 20%.

I As A One-Letter Last Name

Statistics for the name “I” aren’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.

Could there be a few families with “I” as their name in the United States?

The late mathematician A. Ross Eckler conducted a study of one-letter names in the 1970s using telephone directories.

You may be too young to remember telephone directories stacked on the hall table. Here’s a picture:

The entries were formatted as lists under the name.

Eckler pointed out that many examples in the books were errors that came from reversing initials and last names.

However, I was one of the letters that he believed had genuine entries for people of that name.

He gives an example from a book on names published in 1950. The book mentioned a Chinese student with the surname I who graduated from an American medical college in 1925.

Eckler found eleven entries listed in the 1970s telephone directories under the last name of “I”.

Could some of these be typographic errors for someone with an initial I? For example, could the correct name be “I Gabriel” instead of “Gabriel I”?

I think that’s likely for some. But as several of the names point to a Chinese origin, these may well be perfectly accurate.

I’ve highlighted the likely genuine names in bold in the list below.

  • Ted Chih-Fan
  • Chian-Shan
  • Jesse
  • Gabriel
  • Mac Seng
  • Victoria
  • Rex Yuchun
  • Milton
  • David
  • George
  • Violet

Other Surnames That Start With I

If you want to look at more names, check out these articles:

Index Of Other Short Last Names


Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

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