Short Last Names Beginning With A

We figure that short last names that begin with A are any names with under five letters.

This article looks at the shortest names possible and investigates whether anybody in the United States is called simply “A”.

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

How Short Can Last Names Be?

There is no legal barrier in the United States to having a short last name.

The U.S. National Archives only publishes details of surnames that have at least one hundred bearers. This is to avoid providing identifying details about a small number of people.

The 2010 census didn’t have any single-letter name of “A”, which means that there weren’t a minimum of one hundred people with that name.

However, that doesn’t mean that such names don’t exist. But do any exist for the letter A?

Short names starting with A

Does Anyone Have “A” As Their One-Letter Last Name?

The late mathematician A. Ross Eckler also studied words and genealogy. He studied telephone directories in the 1970s to look for one-letter surnames.

Eckler pointed out that many examples were errors from reversing initials, first, and last names.

So, there are telephone entries for “Geraldo A” and “Tony Kobe A”. But Eckler suspects these are really “A Geraldo” and “A Tony Kobe”.

He was satisfied that there were genuine one-letter entries for the letters O, U, I, and E.

But the six entries he found that had the surname “A” looked like mistakes. 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 “A”:

  • Del Castillo
  • Geraldo
  • Harris Ella
  • Tony Kobe
  • E Miller
  • L Williams

Two Letter Last Names Starting With A

Most two-letter surnames starting with A in America belong to people with Asian or Pacific Island heritage.

Last NameNumberMostly
Ai615Asian (& PI)
Al532White *
Am343Asian (& PI)
An8,160Asian (& PI)
Ao524Asian (& PI)
Au7,148Asian (& PI)
Av247Asian (& PI)
Aw315Asian (& PI)

An and Au are the most common two-letter last names in the 2010 U.S. census.

93% of people named An in the census reported that their ethnicity was Asian or PI. 83% named Au reported the same.

The last name Al has an interesting spread across ethnicities. Although the highest ethnicity reported was white, that was only 45% of holders of the name. The breakdown for Al was like this:

  • White: 45%
  • Hispanic: 25%
  • Black: 13%
  • Asian & PI: 13%

92% of people named Ax reported as white, while 62% named Ay did so.

The two-letter name with the highest percentage that reported as black was Aw with 29%.

Origins and meanings

Ax can be of Germanic origin. Some early bearers of the name were woodcutters who used an axe in their profession.

Ay can have Turkish origins from the Turkish word for the moon.

Aw can be of West African origins from areas covering Senegal and Mauritania.

Three Letter Last Names Beginning With A

When we look at three-letter last names beginning with A in America, there are three in the top ten that are mostly Asian in heritage.

However, the most common three-letter last name here is Ali which has a mix of origins in the United States.

Last NameNumberMostly
Abe2,938Asian (& PI)
Ahn10,567Asian (& PI)
Ali60,002Asian (& PI) *
Ang3,413Asian (& PI)

I’ve asterisked Ali in the table above because under fifty percent reported to the census as Asian. This was the breakdown for Ali:

  • Asian & PI: 43%
  • Black: 31%
  • White: 17%

Origins and meanings

Ash Tree

Ash has several meanings from differing geographic regions. The English origins come from the type of tree. Early bearers likely came from areas with a prominent ash tree.

Ali has Arabic origins and the meaning comes from the word for “sublime” and “high”.

The Germanic origins of Ash come from either the word for the tree or for the bearer of a spear i.e. a warrior.

Four Letter Last Names Beginning With A

When we move up to four-letter surnames for “A”, we are dealing with more names of European heritage.

Amos is the most common name in this section, followed closely by Ames.

Last NameNumberMostly
Alam7,932Asian (& PI)
Amin11,137Asian (& PI)

Origins and meanings

The surname Abel has biblical origins from the personal name of one of the sons of Adam. It can also have Germanic origins as a diminutive of the German form of Albert (Albrecht).

Having mentioned Adam, we now come to the name itself. Adam spread through Europe in the Middle Ages. The Hebrew origins are from the word for “earth” (adama).

Other Surnames Starting With A

If you want to check out 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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