What is the origin of the last name Sterling?

The last name STERLING originates from the Middle English word "sterling," which referred to a type of high-quality silver of British origin. The name later developed into a surname and was likely adopted by individuals associated with the silver trade or those who possessed sterling qualities. Over time, the surname STERLING spread beyond Britain, eventually becoming a relatively common name across the English-speaking world.

Countries of origin for the last name Sterling

The last name Sterling has a long history and is primarily of Scottish origin. It is derived from the Old English word “stierling,” which means “little star” or “of high quality.” The name could also have originated from the Old Norman given name “Sturling,” which translates to “little starling,” a type of bird.

Sterling is a relatively common surname and is ranked as the 356th most popular surname in the United States. It is particularly prevalent in the states of Louisiana, Vermont, and Kentucky.

The Sterling family name can be traced back to Scotland, where it originated in the town of Stirling in Central Scotland. The town itself holds historical significance as a site of numerous battles, including the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, led by William Wallace.

Many individuals with the last name Sterling have made notable contributions in various fields. For instance, the American composer George Sterling, born in 1869, gained recognition for his works during the Symbolist movement. Additionally, the politician Ross Sterling, who served as the governor of Texas from 1931 to 1933, played a significant role during the Great Depression.

Another prominent figure with the last name Sterling is the American businessman and philanthropist Harold Sterling Clark. He inherited a vast fortune in the early 20th century and became well-known for his extensive art collection, which eventually formed the basis of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts.

Given the surname’s connection to high quality, it has also been adopted as a first name in some cases. One notable example is the American actor Sterling K. Brown, known for his award-winning performances in television shows such as “This Is Us.”

The last name Sterling has retained its popularity over centuries, and its rich history and associations make it an intriguing topic for genealogical and etymological research. Despite the existing knowledge, there may still be undiscovered details about this surname. Exploring these possibilities further could offer new insights and contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the name’s origins and significance.

Interesting facts about the last name Sterling

  • The surname Sterling is of Old English origin and is derived from the word “steorra,” which means “star” in English.
  • Sterling is primarily a Scottish surname and is most commonly found in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • The name Sterling might have originally been a personal name before becoming a surname. It could have been used to refer to someone who possessed characteristics associated with a star, such as brightness or prominence.
  • In some instances, the surname Sterling could also refer to someone who lived at a farmstead called Sterling or Stirling, derived from the Old English word “stier” meaning “steer” or “bullock” and “lynn” meaning “pool” or “waterfall” in Scots.
  • Although the surname Sterling is most prevalent in Scotland, it can also be found among English and Irish communities.
  • In the United States, the surname Sterling is more commonly found among African-American communities, indicating its association with the history of slavery and the practice of naming enslaved individuals after their owners or locations.
  • Famous individuals with the surname Sterling include Raheem Sterling, an English professional soccer player, and William Alexander Sterling, an American politician who served as the Governor of Texas.
  • The word “sterling” is also used as an adjective to describe something of high quality or purity, especially when referring to silver or money. This usage of the word might have contributed to its adoption as a surname.
  • The Sterling family motto is “In te, Domine, speravi,” which translates to “In you, Lord, I have hoped” in English.
  • The surname Sterling has several variations, including Stirling, Sterlin, Sterline, and Starling.

Name Rank


There are around 25894 people with the last name Sterling in the US

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