Anglo-Saxon in origin, the surname Langston is a compound of two medieval English words; “lang” ,which in modern English translates to “tall” or “long and “stan”, which translates to “stone” or “rock”. The name is presumed to be locational, referencing someone who lived near one of the standing stones which are scattered throughout Britain, someone who live near a stone fence, or fortification. The name was most populace in Hampshire and Devon.
Variations in the spelling of the name do exists, besides Langston, the name has also been recorded as Langstone and Langeston among others. The array in variations in the spelling of surnames, as well as many “given” or “bynames” that exists today, can be attributed to a lack of consistency regarding guidelines for spelling in use by the scribes who recorded such information dating back to ancient times. Many of these record keepers were in the habit of spelling phonetically, however, what may have sounded one way to one person may have sounded completely different to another. The issue of multiple spellings of names in records was compounded by the diversity of languages in use in European countries at this time.
The use of surnames did not come into vogue in Britain until after the Norman invasion and conquest. Most residents in the small settlements and villages which existed during earlier periods across most of Britain, found little need for surnames as everyone within these communities knew each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, as communities grew and people began to migrate on a larger scale, along with the need of the government having a reliable way to track people for tax and census purposes, the Norman aristocracy's penchant for using surnames seemed the appropriate evolution to this problem. In most instances to distinguish themselves, one from another, those not of the noble class would often be identified by their given name plus their occupation while others may have been identified by their given name and one of their parent's names. There was a boundless supply from which surnames could be formed, in addition to the use of patriarchal/matriarchal names or reference to the individuals occupation, there were things such as defining physical traits, a familiar geographical location or a topographical landmark found near the individual's home or birthplace, the name of the village in which the person lived, and so much more. Over the course or time, surnames came to represent not just individuals but whole families.
In the earlier days of record keeping in Britain, one of the first appearances of the name can be found in registers from London dated 1555 showing the marriage of John Langston to Joane Hadcop. Other records show Edward Langstone listed in the Yorkshire poll taxes dated 1379. The tax rolls, were a series of census and tax records kept by the English Treasury by order of King Richard II, with the oldest dating back to the 12th century. These documents are considered the oldest concentric set of records documenting English governance in the United Kingdom spanning a period of over seven centuries, these records have proven invaluable to researches over the years.
With the discovery of the Americas and the addition to the British Common Wealth of countries such as New Zealand, immigration to these new worlds was inevitable. One of the first settlers on record to America bearing this surname was John Langston who landed in 1635 and settled in Virginia. Additional immigrants to America include; Ann Langston who arrived in Virginia in 1665, Thomas Langston who landed in 1677 and settled in Maryland, and Mary Langston who arrived and settled in Viginia in 1684. Some of the earliest Langstons on record to New Zealand were William and Martha Langston and their daughters Mary Ann and Alice who arrived in 1865 and settled in Wellington, New Zealand.
Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Langston are found in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. State by state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Langston live in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.
There are a number of persons of note who bear the surname Langston. Wann Langston, Jr. was a noted American paleontologist. Langston was also a professor of paleontology at the University of Texas in Austin. He is credited with the discovery of eight new species of dinosaurs during his career all of which are named for him.