Green: Origin and meaning of surname

Green is an old Anglo-Saxon surname and very common in England. It is derived from the old English word “grene” that means “green”. The name Green refer to a topographical place like a village or field. The first bearers of the surname most likely lived in a town called Greene or lived in a village near green pastures or near a village greene (grassy plat) which was the centre or main square of that region. Since England is a lush, green country, there are countless villages surrounded by green meadows. It is therefore not surprising that there are many unrelated Green branches. Another possibility is that it might have been the nick-name of a person who just liked dressing in this colour or for someone who was green in the sense of being young or immature. Over time, Green descendants migrated mainly to Australia, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and United States of America.1-4

“The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.” 5

Since spelling in medieval times was a highly imprecise process, and many of the name-bearers were illiterate themselves, numerous variations such as Green, Grene, Greene, Grean, Greun and others appeared over centuries.1,6 During the Middle Ages the English language still incorporated elements of Latin, French and Germanic languages causing variant spelling of names and surnames, even among the literate. Although reforms of English spelling and grammar were promoted from the 16th century onward, Samuel Johnson is broadly credited with the standardisation of English spelling into its pre-contemporary form with the publication of his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755.7


  1. Green family history.
  2. Green surname, family crest and coats of arms.
  3. Green meaning and statistics.
  4. Reaney, P.H. (& Wilson, R.M.) 1961. A dictionary of British surnames. 2nd Ed. Routledge and Kegan Paul: London.
  5. Psalm 23 : 2 & 3, The Bible, Living Bible Translation.
  6. Last name: Green.
  7. English-language spelling reform.