Short Last Names Beginning With R

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

We look at the most common four-letter, three-letter, and two-letter R surnames in America in recent years.

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

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 R

Reed is the most common four-letter surname starting with R in America.

There were over 277 thousand people named Reed in the USA in 2010. Reid is also in the top ten list below, and it is a variant of the more common name.

Last NameNumberMostly
Reed277,030White, Black
Reid111,360White, Black
Rice149,500White, Black
Rose153,397White, Black
Ross229,368White, Black
Roth58,278White, Black
Rowe69,879White, Black
Ryan143,452White, Black

The name of Reed was represented by several heritages in the census:

  • White: 71%
  • Black: 23%
  • Hispanic: 2%
  • American Indian: 1%

The European origins may come from the old English word for the color red (rede). Early bearers may have had red hair or a red beard.

Ross and Ruiz are the other two surnames that had over two hundred thousand bearers.

Ruiz was predominantly of one heritage with 93% of people reporting as Hispanic in the census.

There was more of a spread for the name of Ross.

  • White: 69%
  • Black: 24%
  • Hispanic: 3%
  • American Indian: 1%

The European origins are from Scotland. The meaning comes from the Gaelic word for a cliff or headland.

Most Common Three Letter Last Names Starting With R

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

By the way, the initials PI stand for “Pacific Islander”.

Last NameNumberMostly
Rai5,295Asian & PI
Rao11,672Asian & PI
Rea14,819White, Hispanic
Rey8,074Hispanic, White

Ray is the most common three-letter surname starting with R in the United States. It had over 133 thousand bearers in 2010.

This was the heritage breakdown:

  • White: 75%
  • Black: 18%
  • Hispanic: 3%
  • Asian & PI: 2%
  • American Indian: 1%

There may be several origins for people with English heritage.

One is as a shortened form of Raymond, which was brought into England by the Normans.

Norman knight

Two Letter Last Names Starting With R

I can’t give you the top ten two-letter names starting with R.

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

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few more two-letter R family names in America. 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 six names from the census:

Last NameNumberMostly
Ra1,458Asian & PI
Ri348Asian & PI, White
Ro2,455Asian & PI
Ru431Asian & PI
Ry222Asian & PI

Ro is the most common two-letter name starting with R in the United States. This was the heritage breakdown:

  • Asian & PI: 78%
  • White: 12%
  • Hispanic: 5%

Many holders of these names declared as Asian or Pacific Islander in the census. The name of Ro is predominantly of Korean origin.

Re is the other name with over two thousand bearers. This was the heritage breakdown:

  • White: 83%
  • Hispanic: 9%
  • Black: 5%
  • Asian & PI: 2%

There are likely several European origins.

One is from Italy where the meaning comes from the word for a king. Early Italian bearers may have worked in a royal court or lived near a fortified castle.

R As A One-Letter Last Name

Statistics for the name “R” 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 “R” 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.

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

The entries were formatted as lists under the name. He found these three entries under R:

  • Den
  • Gordon
  • B Kellar
  • Sa
  • Shahpar S Mehdi
  • Tron

Could these be typographic errors for someone with an initial P?

For example, could “B Kellar R” really be “R B Kellar”?

I think so. My guess is that all these names are errors.

Other Surnames That Start With R

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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