Lee (English surname)

Lee (Korean surname) Li (surname) Lee (Korean name)

Lee is a common surname in English-speaking countries.

In the United States during the year 2000 census, "Lee" was the 22nd-most-common surname.[1]



There are several distinct origins of the Lee surname. The most common is derived from Old English lēah, meaning a meadow or forest clearing.[2][3]

This developed variously into the surnames Lee, Lea, and Leigh. The Lees of Shropshire were notable as the forebears of the colonial American Lee family which produced Richard Henry Lee, Robert Edward Lee, and Zachary Taylor.


The name in Ireland has several diverse origins, resulting in widely dispersed clusters of the name in South Western, Western (Galway) and North Eastern Counties.[4] One recognized root was the anglicization of the Irish surname "Ó Laoidigh" which resulted in a number of variants, such as Lee, Lea, and Leigh.[5] Other Lees have English roots and still others may have derived from the Norman "Du Lea". The 1901 Irish census[6] list 4912 entries primarily in the counties of Galway, Dublin, Cork, Antrim, Limerick and Down.

East Asian

Lee is the anglicized spelling of a number of East Asian surnames used by Chinese or Korean diaspora translating numerous surnames also romanized as Li,[1] particularly the one deriving from the Chinese word for "plum" (, pinyin ; S.Kor. , Lee; N.Kor. , Rhee/Lee; Vietnamese , quốc ngữ or ) which is among the most common surnames in the world. In the United States, Lee is the third most common surname for Chinese and Korean Americans and the second most common surname for Asian and Pacific Islanders, behind the Vietnamese Nguyen.[1] Similarly, Lee is the third-most-common surname among Chinese Singaporeans.


Originating from Norway as "Lie", this surname was altered when it arrived in the Americas in the late 1800s to fit the English language's pronunciation.[citation needed]

People with the surname

Fictional Characters


A number of places in the US have been named for the various famous people named Lee:

See also


  1. ^ a b c United States Census Bureau. "Genealogy Data: Frequently Occurring Surnames from Census 2000 Archived 2009-12-21 at the Wayback Machine". 27 Sept 2011. Accessed 29 Mar 2012.
  2. ^ Edward Neafsey The Surnames of Ireland: Origins and Numbers of Selected Irish .2002 .. – Page 132 "In the English language, Lee, Lea, Leigh and Ley are names derived from nominative or dative cases of the Anglo-Saxon 'leah'. Originally it meant a wood, glade or clearing ...
  3. ^ Michael C. O'Laughlin -The Families of County Limerick, Ireland: Over One Thousand ...1997 – Page 93 "Lee is a common name in England, and some of the name are originally from there, Lee is also an old Irish family name, stemming from families of O'Lee and MacLee, This helps to account for the widespread location of the name in Ireland." The name Lee is a very common English, British, and American surname.
  4. ^ Michael C. O'Laughlin The Book of Irish Families: Great & Small – 2002 reprinted from Michael C. O'Laughlin Families of County Galway, Ireland – 1998 – Page 125 "Lea, Maclee, Macalea, Melee, O'lee, Families of the surname of "Lee" in Ireland may stem from any one of several origins. Lee is an old Irish family name, stemming from families of O'Lee and MacLee. Lee is also a name of English origins ..."
  5. ^ "Irish Genealogical Foundation: Book of Irish Families". 1997. Accessed 4 June 2013.
  6. ^ "1901 Census of Ireland: Surname Lee in All Counties". 27 Sept 1901. Accessed 29 May 2013.
  7. ^ V&A and the National Archives