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80s Popular Last Names

by Julie

The 80s were a decade of changing times. It was a time where anything seemed possible and where no one could say what the future would bring. With all these things happening, people became more confident in their own decisions and became more open to change. One way that this played out was the last names of people during this decade.

The 80s were also a period of last name changes for many people as well. There were some last name changes that happened earlier in the past due to marriage, though many changed their last names due to other reasons as well. Here are some of the most popular last names in the 1980s:


Smith is the most popular last name for men and ranks high for both women and men. The name is derived from the Old English word to mean “to hit,” or in other contexts, “to smite.” This could be due to the fact that Smith is also one of the most common adjectives used in names throughout England during past time regions, being used to refer to a blacksmith.

In addition, Smith is often used for those who didn’t want to reveal their real names, as it is thought of as a very plain and often boring name. Names such as “John Smith” and “Jane Smith” were often found alongside the more classic “Jane Doe” and John Doe.”

80s Popular Last Names


Johnson is the second most common last name for men and women, and it flourished in the 80s, as well. It is also still often used today. It has roots in Christianity, as it means “son of John.” Many think of it as a fairly plain and Anglo-Saxon last name.

Famous figures that sport this last name include the former US president Lyndon B. Johnson, whose presidency lasted in the early 70s. Perhaps that is why the name rose in fame throughout the 1980s. Other famous people include the actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson and yet another former US president, Andrew Johnson.


Williams is the third most popular last name for both men and women in the 1980s. It originally comes from the similar William, so the surname Williams often means “son of William.” This name has roots in Irish and Scottish culture, alongside others.

Famous people that bore this name included the beloved late actor Robin Williams, as well as Michelle Williams (who was most known for starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2013 The Great Gatsby) and Maisie Williams (known for her role as Arya on the TV series Game of Thrones.)


Brown is fourth place on both counts, with men and women each taking turns as most popular for this last name over the 80s and 90s as well. It originally was simply used to refer to those who had tanner or darker skin tones. It is possible that this connection to darker skin tones may be why it ranks high among those who are of a darker complexion.

This name was perhaps popularized in part by the iconic cartoon character Charlie Brown, who starred in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz. It first ran in the 1950s, but continues to be well-known today. Brown is also the surname for the popular African-American artist Chris Brown.

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