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Harris (name)

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Harris (name)

Family name
Region of origin Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England
Footnotes: Frequency and comparisons:[1]

Harris is a (patronymic or paternal) family name of British origins, and has many different spellings, none of which are definitive or 'correct'. One variation of the word exists in India where word Harish is quite a common first name and is a combination of Hari and Ishwar and means Vishnu God or Lord. These spellings are largely regional which, when combined with the fact that most families only learned to spell in the 19th century, has led to different branches of the same families having different spellings of the name. Harris is the 23rd most common surname in England and 21st most common surname in the United States.[1]

Spellings (in alphabetical order) and their origins


In most cases the Harris surname appears to be British in origin. It was commonly adopted as a surname in south western England, the Midlands, Essex and Wales. As with other similar names it was adopted by most families in England between 1300 and 1400, and later in Wales and Scotland. Very few families used the name prior to 1300.

Some other Harris families originated in Germany, France, etc., and adopted the name Harris upon immigration to Britain or America. Ellis Island is renowned for having Anglicised non-English names in America c1900.

DNA projects

Surname DNA projects have been undertaken in the United States for both Harris[3] and Harrison.[4] These projects help reveal more about the roots of different Harris and Harrison families in America and identify family groups.

The majority of Harrises tested so far[5] belong to R1b1 (Western European) or I1a (Scandinavian) Haplogroups. However, members have also been found who have E3 (African), J (Middle Eastern/Mediterranean) and R1a (Eastern European) Haplogroups.

R1b1 originates from all over Britain, however, I1a tends to be first found in East Anglia and other areas of eastern Britain, which corresponds to areas settled by Anglo-Saxons and Danish Vikings before the Norman conquest of England in 1066.


Irish Harris families probably originate from England, Wales and Scotland and arrived in Ireland during the conquest of Ireland c.1603.

Harrises also began to emigrate to Canada and America in the 17th century, to Australia and New Zealand in the 18th century and to South Africa in the 19th century. Initial numbers of emigrants were small and it was not until the last half of the 19th century that large numbers of Harrises emigrated from Britain.



In 2014 [1] statistics for different spellings of Harris were:-

  • Harris rank = 23 approximate number = 89,698
  • Harries rank = 1,270 approximate number = 4,604
  • Harriss rank = 1,929 approximate number = 990
  • Herries rank = 2,071 approximate number = 226

United States

In 2000 Harris ranked twenty-fourth in the United States Census, down from fifteenth in the 1990 Census.[6][7]

Coats of arms

Very few Harrises have any association with, or the right to bear, coats of arms. Throughout the ages various Harrises have been awarded arms by the College of Arms, London, but very few were hereditary (passed on to successive generations).

As is often the case in heraldry, a tradition has emerged in the design of different Harris coats of arms; one or more hedgehogs are often incorporated into the blazon. The original reason for this has been lost in time, but it is likely that it was originally due to one, or both, of the following explanations:-

  • the French name Herrice sounds similar to herison, which is French for hedgehog. Plays on words like this are fairly common in heraldry.
  • the original bearer had spiky hair, resembling a hedgehog.


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ United States Census Bureau (9 May 1995). s:1990 Census Name Files dist.all.last (1-100). Retrieved on 2008-07-04.

External links

  • - Harris DNA Project homepage
  • - Harris DNA Project results
  • - Harris DNA Project joining page
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