There are about 45,000 surnames in English alone, but for all those most come from one of seven types, according to ancestry.com. We all know Cooks, Bakers, Weavers, Hunters, Coopers and Gardeners. These are part of “occupational” surnames–assigned back when what you did was literally who you were. Turner, Wright, Potter, Mason–you get the picture. That’s the point.
Other categories include those that describe a identifying characteristic–Little, Long, and Swift are examples. You also might simply have the name of the place your ancestors hailed from–Hamilton, Stamford, Sutton. Or your name may even predate the assigning of town names and harken back to a geographical marker. That’s you, Stone and Lake, Woods and Hill. Got a -son at the end? Then it’s an ancestral nod: Harrison, Richardson, Stephenson are likely offspring of Harris, Richard and Stephen. And then there’s patronage. As ancestry writes: these “honored a patron. Hickman was Hick’s man (Hick being a nickname for Richard). Kilpatrick was a follower of Patrick.