6 Unusual Last Names You Won’t Believe Exist

3 March 2023
by Ancestry® Team

Thanks to “Sherlock”, “The Imitation Game,” and many other movies and television shows, the unusual last name Benedict Cumberbatch found its way into our modern pop culture lexicon. Had the rising star been named Benedict Smith or Benedict Miller, would there be as many memes and GIFs?

Unusual last names will set people apart from the pack–here are six of most unique ones out there.

1. Shufflebottom

This last name has nothing to do with…what you might think it has to do with. Deriving from the British geographical locale of Lancashire, the “Shippalbothoms,” and other names with similar endings, belong to a group that found themselves living in valley bottoms. However, Shufflebottom can also be connected to the name Schyppewallebothem, which means “valley of the sheep wash.”

2. Biggerstaff

Originally from the region Bickerstaff in Lancashire county, the Biggerstaffs can count people with the last names Bickerstath, Bickerstathe, Bickersteth, and many more among their distant relatives. The Old English combination of bicere (“beekeeper”) and stæð (“landing place”) created this surname, which now exists mostly in Northern Ireland and belongs to “Harry Potter” actor Sean Biggerstaff, who played Oliver Wood in the film series.

3. Hartshorn

The name’s origin isn’t exactly set in stone. One theory lies in the Old English where hart is “heorot” and means “stag” — thus, stag’s horn. The other possible derivation is similar, but deals more with horticulture than animals. The Middle English plant, the harteshorn, describes a plant with leaves that branch out to resemble a stag’s antlers. Perhaps it’s a case of chicken and the egg: Did the last name or plant name come first?

4. Fullilove

Just when you think all last names need an etymologist to figure out their origins, there’s a unique name that comes along and means almost exactly what you think it does. Fullilove is derived from a nickname for an amorous person and comes from the French “pleyn d’amour.” This is a case where a name doesn’t come from an locational origin, but a nickname. The original Fulliloves actually fit the phrase “living up to their name.”

5. Clampitt

Similar to the last name of the Clampetts in the sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the name Clampitt comes from the the Old English — “clam” meaning “mud” and “pitt” being “pit.” A name that translates to “mud pit” is an apt one for the rags-to-riches family on the popular television show.

6. Shellaberger

Like so many last names, Shellaberger morphed to its current state over many years. When looking at historical documents, the closely related name Schellenberger has 8,468 documents reporting births, marriages, and deaths on Ancestry.com. Meanwhile, Ancestry.com only has 3,760 documents for the Shellabergers.

Given these numbers, and the fact that people with these last names both have the locational ties to Schellerberg, Germany, we can surmise that Shellabergers once had the last name Schellenberger, but eventually the name changed through movement around the world.

Do you have an unusual last name?  Dig deeper with a free trial of Ancestry to find out what your surname means and learn more about the people who bore the name ages before you.