People have many different surnames, and the origins of these can be traced back to many different cultures and countries.
In Britain, most people only used their given name (sometimes known as 'first name' or 'Christian name') until the 12th Century. However, there could be confusion between two people of the same name, so different ways of identifying people were needed.
Peter Johnson (the Peter whose father is called John)
Peter Green (the Peter who lives on the village green)
Peter Baker (the Peter who works as a baker)
Peter Little (the smallest of the four Peters)
To begin with, the surnames changed with each generation. Peter Johnson's son would be called Peterson, and if Peter Baker's son became a butcher he would be called Butcher. However, surnames in the UK eventually became fixed.
This worksheet investigates four types of surname that have been common in the UK for hundreds of years.