Rich last names: List of popular and historical rich last names

Building your wealth and fortune takes a lot of hard work and determination. You have to be smart and a little bit lucky. And having a rich last name to start with, doesn’t hurt either.

If you’re looking to start over and change your name or you want to build a corporation that sounds and looks rich, you may want to start with some rich sounding last names that have been foundational to American capitalism. Or you can look to history and culture to find and define some rich last names that will give you a boost as you start in the world.

Linguistically speaking

The last name does not make someone wealthy but there are dozens of popular names that are culturally and historically rich surnames or last names.

Some of the most popular in the U.S. are names like Allen which means Harmony, Arnold which means Eagle Power, and Buffett which means stronghold. Each name is derived from a different linguistic background and has different associations within various cultures.

Every culture and background is different and has different definitions of richness or wealth. Some cultures may value peace and peacemakers and see their calling being richer and more valuable than a businessman. Digging into your culture and background can help you define and delineate your rich last name and how it relates to the world.

Historically speaking: Rich last names

Centuries into the growth of the United States, there are now names that ring through time and space as rich last names that made history. The names themselves are now aligned with wealth and power in nearly every sphere of influence in America. But power and wealth are not always synonymous in American society.


The Astors were a wealthy and powerful social family in New York around the turn of the 20th century. The pecking order of a social event hosted by Caroline Astor is infamous: if you didn’t have a rich enough or old enough name in society, you weren’t going to be sitting down at her table for a lavish feast.

The family built their wealth by investing in real estate around New York City. Their name became synonymous with wealth around 1900 when they dominated the social scene on the east coast.


New York City is home to many of the richest last names in the world and Rockefeller was no exception. While building his fortune in oil, Rockefeller set out to put his name all over New York, cementing him as one of the premier wealthy families in the U.S.

In addition to being one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. and being pulled down by newspapers of the time, he gave away much of his fortune to help the city he lived in, investing in outreach and charitable institutions. As a founder of American capitalism in it’s purest sense, Rockefeller lives on as one of the most recognizable rich last names in the U.S.


Warren Buffet is a name that most people know well. He’s built his name up, more than just in the linguistic sense of “a stronghold”, into a titan of the wealthy elite. By investing in and running his hedge fund, Buffet built up his wealth before switching to running small banks and his own insurance company.

While many wealthy last names are based on the east coast, Buffett continues to manage his empire from his home in Omaha, Nebraska. The house he continues to live in was one he bought for only $31,000. In a much more contemporary sense, Buffett has one of the richest last names in the U.S. and only continues to gain more wealth.


And last but not least, a rich last name that is a household moniker these days, Bill Gates. Building his fortune up through the early years of the digital technology boom, Gates has continued to build his wealth through a variety of projects and investments.

As a last name, Gates seems fairly straightforward. But when you put the prestige of a man who built his computer empire behind it, it takes on a life of its own. Much like the Astors and Rockefellers of the earlier years in America, Gates has positioned himself to be a titan of industry although his work is not quite as tangible as real estate or oil.

“Rich”ly speaking

Many last names, rich or poor, famous or infamous, are derived from the culture, position, or job of the person carrying the surname.

The surname Rich is most often traced to German, French, or Old English roots. It’s believed to be a shortened nickname for the full name Richard and was often used as a short way to refer to a wealthy person. In the German background of the name, you can root of the word “ric” which means powerful.

Utilizing the name or title of being rich today harkens back to many of the old names and languages that gave birth to the word itself. By referring to a person who was possibly named Richard, who had accumulated a lot of wealth and power, and marrying that nickname to the German root words for power and power, you find yourself confronted with a “rich” last name that has deep roots.


There are so many different types of “rich” last names in the world.

There are the names that linguistically and historically mean or refer to power or riches. Each culture and language derives a different definition of riches from these names.

Then there are the historically rich last names of the founders and growers of American capitalism. Names that resonate through histories like Astor, Rockefeller, Buffett, and Gates are now synonymous with richness and wealth.

And last but not least, there’s the simple little last name Rich. While seeming unobtrusive and short, it has a long history of being associated with wealth and power. Don’t let something small fool you!

Rich last names echo across centuries for accomplishments great and small. Will yours make the next list?

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