What is the origin of the last name Knox?

The last name Knox originates from the Old Scots word "knocks", meaning "hillocks" or small hills. This surname likely originated as a locational name for someone who lived near or on a hill, often used to describe the rough terrain and topography of Scotland. The name Knox also holds significance in Scottish history due to association with the Protestant reformer, John Knox, who played a crucial role in the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century.

Countries of origin for the last name Knox

The last name Knox has a rich history and carries various meanings and associations. It is primarily associated with Scotland and has its roots in the ancient Gaelic language. The name is classified as a habitational surname, indicating that it derived from a place name or location. In this case, Knox originates from the village of Knock in Roxburghshire, Scotland.

As a habitational name, the surname Knox signifies that the family or individual who bore the name originally lived in or near the village of Knock. The Gaelic word “cnoc” is the basis for the name, which translates to “hill” or “round hill.” This suggests that the geographical characteristics of the ancestral village included prominent hills or elevated terrain.

The prominence of the surname Knox in Scottish history can be attributed to the influential figure John Knox. He was a leading figure in the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century and played a significant role in establishing the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. John Knox’s involvement in religious and political affairs left an indelible mark on Scottish society, and his name became associated with Protestantism and Scottish nationalism.

The surname Knox, therefore, often evokes connotations of religious fervor, strong moral convictions, and profound cultural significance. It is not uncommon to find individuals with the last name Knox who identify strongly with their Scottish heritage, as well as their Protestant faith.

Over time, the surname Knox has spread beyond Scotland and can be found in various parts of the world. Scottish emigration to other countries, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries, contributed to the global dispersal of the name. As a result, the name Knox became established in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

In the United States, the surname Knox has had notable associations with individuals who have achieved prominence in various fields. For instance, General Henry Knox played a crucial role in the American Revolutionary War and later served as the first U.S. Secretary of War. His achievements and contributions in military and political arenas have cemented the surname’s place in American history.

Another notable figure bearing the last name Knox is Philander Chase Knox, who served as the U.S. Attorney General and later as Secretary of State under President William Howard Taft. His career in American politics further elevated the name’s recognition and influence in the United States.

The surname Knox carries a sense of history, tradition, and identity. Its associations with Scotland, John Knox, Protestantism, and distinguished individuals contribute to its significance and allure. While a person’s last name does not determine their identity or character, the surname Knox undoubtedly invites curiosity about one’s heritage and potential connections to a vibrant past.

Interesting facts about the last name Knox

  • The surname Knox is of Scottish origin.
  • It is derived from the Old English word “cnocc,” which means “round hill” or “small hilltop.”
  • The name first appeared in written records in the 13th century in Scotland.
  • The Knox family played a prominent role in Scottish history, particularly during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.
  • John Knox, a 16th-century religious reformer and founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, is one of the most famous bearers of the surname.
  • The surname Knox has spread beyond Scotland and can be found in various English-speaking countries around the world, including the United States.
  • Notable individuals with the surname Knox include U.S. Army General Henry Knox, who served as the first Secretary of War under President George Washington, and actress Angelina Jolie (born Angelina Jolie Voight, she dropped her middle name and used her middle name as her surname).
  • The surname Knox is relatively uncommon compared to other Scottish surnames.
  • There are different variations of the surname including Knoke, Knoks, Knock, and Knoocks.

Name Rank


There are around 44742 people with the last name Knox in the US

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