Jamison: Origin and meaning of surname

Jamison is an old English, Scott-Irish and Scottish surname. It literally means “son of James” and is therefore a patronymic family name. Because spelling in medieval times was a highly imprecise process, and many of the name-bearers were illiterate themselves, numerous variations such as Jamison, Jamieson, Jameson, Jamyson, Jemison, and Jimisone appeared over centuries. Since James is a very common name in Great Britain, many unrelated Jameson/Jamieson/Jamison family lines exist. The Jameson-surname is overall more common in England, with a higher incidence in Scotland of the Jamieson-variation.1,2,3

The name ‘James’ is the English version of the ancient Hebrew name Yaakov (Jacob) which means “following after” or “supplanter”. Both meanings are imbedded in the name containing the Hebrew roots עקב ʿqb (“to be behind, to follow the heel”) and עֲקֵב ʿaqeb (“supplant, deceive, circumvent”). The Latin equivalent of James/Jacob is Jacobus.1,2,3

The first known bearer of this name did justice to both these meanings. He was the younger son of the Hebrew patriarch Isaac, son of Abraham who was originally from Ur in Chaldea. At birth coming from the womb, Jacob clutched the heel of his elder twin brother Esau – thus, Jacob followed. As a young man Jacob tricked Esau out of his inheritance with a pot of lentil stew and later stole the traditional blessing-of-the-father reserved for the oldest son, through deceiving acts and lies – thus, Jacob supplanted.1,4

Yet, the descendants of Jacob’s sons became the twelve founding tribes of the nation of Israel (God changed Jacob’s name to Israel which means “God contended”).5 Also, from the Judah tribe came the anticipated Messiah, Jesus Christ, who took away the sins of the world. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.6 The genealogy of Jesus confirms that his parents, Mary and Joseph, both descended from the same tribe of Israel.7


  1. Jamison history. http://www.houseofnames.com/Jamison-history
  2. Yaakov. The etymology and history of first names. http://www.behind the name.com/name/yaakov
  3. Jamison. http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Jamison
  4. Genesis 25:19-34 and 27:1-39, The Bible
  5. Genesis 35:10-11, 23-26; Joshua 13:14, The Bible
  6. John 20:31, The Bible (New International Version)
  7. Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38, The Bible