Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Thompson Name
Surname Name Meaning, Origin, and Etymology
Few surnames are as renowned as Thompson, a patronymic word which comes from the Greek form of the Aramaic name Ta’oma’, meaning “twin,” and adds “son,” yielding “the son of Thom or Thomas.”
Thompson’s roots are primarily Scottish and English in origin, with a variety of spellings. Thom(p)son is the English translation of MacTavish, the Anglicized version of the Gaelic MacTamhais.
In fact, with origins in England, Ireland and Scotland, the name Thompson (pronounced TAHMP-sen) is so storied its roots may predate the very existence of surnames—last names or surnames weren’t widely used until the English introduced personal taxation, known as the Poll Tax, in the 1300s.
Before the Norman Conquest of 1066, the name Thomas was exclusively used by priests, reflecting the Biblical apostle who bore the name. The apostle Thomas, the Biblical story goes, doubted the resurrection of Christ, hence the origin of the modern “Doubting Thomas” label. After the 1100s, as Thomas became a popular male given name, Thomson and Thompson and related surnames became widely disseminated, with the Thompson/Thomson variant particularly common in the British isles and a broad range of similar variations extending to all corners of the continent and beyond.
An alternative origin may be geographical, arising from the place name Thompson.
Common spelling variants, most with origins in Europe, include: Thompson, Thomson, Tompson, Thomsen, Thompsen, Di Tommaso, MacTavish, MacTamhais, Thomason, Thomassen, Thomasson, Tomadze, Tomasevic, Tomashov, Tomashvilli, Tomaszewicz, Tomescu, Tomescu, Tumasian, Tumasyan, Thompsett, Tomov, Tomasson, Thamasana, Thomasena, Thomasana.
Scottish/Irish variations of Thompson
Scottish and Irish clans often separated into septs or branches, which were founded when powerful clansmen established their own families. These variations include Thompsan, Thompsand, Thompsane, Thompsant, Thompsen, Thompsend, Thompsent, Thompsind, Thompsint, Thompson, Thompstolm, Thompstom, Thompstomb, Thompstombe, Thompstome, Thompston, Thompstone, Thompstoom, Thompstoomb, Thompstown, Thompstum, Thompstume, Thompsyn, Thompsynd, Tompsan, Tompsand, Tompsane, Tompsant, Tompsen, Tompsend, Tompsent, Tompsind, Tompsint, Tompson, Tompstolm, Tompstom, Tompstomb, Tompstombe, Tompstome, Tompston, Tompstone, Tompstoom, Tompstoomb, Tompstoombe, Tompstown, Tompstum, Tompstume, Tompsyn, Tompsynd.
Popularity and Geographic Distribution
After the Norman Conquest, the use of the name increased across Europe. By the Plantation period of the 16th and 17th century, settlers carried the name back from England to Ireland. Around that time, the name became somewhat common in Germany, Sweden, Norway and across Europe as well as Australia, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.
Its contemporary occurrence reveals it to be one of the most popular of last names in Anglo-American cultures: Thompson is the 14th most common surname in the United Kingdom and 17th most common in the United States. In the 1990 United States Census, Thompson was the 17th most frequently reported surname, accounting for 0.27% of the population.
Early Bearers of the Surname
Eborard fil. Thome, Cambridgeshire, 1273 appears amongst the Hundred Rolls and is amongst the earliest bearers of the surname. The first recorded spelling of the family name is of John Thomson, dated 1318, in the “Annals of Scotland,” during the reign of King Robert 1 of Scotland, known as “The Bruce,” 1306 – 1329. A John Thompson was also recorded in the Charters of the Abbey of Whitby, Yorkshire, in 1349.
Thomas Tomson married Elizabeth Harris at the church of St. Jon the Evangelist, Dublin, on December 12th, 1631. Others include English politician and Member of Parliament for the City of London Sir William Thompson (1614-1681), English wine merchant, Lord Mayor of York and Member of Parliament for York Sir Henry Thompson (ca. 1625-1683).
Historic Events involving Thompsons
The genealogical and historical arc of the name Thompson is too mammoth to trace here, but many notable historic events have involved the surname Thompson. In particular, the perishing of—and survival of—Thompsons on numerous historic military disasters reflects the lineage of those with this surname involved in military efforts.
- The crash of Arrow Air Flight 1285 on December 12, 1985 involved two Thompsons: Scott Bryan Thompson, an American Specialist 4th Class, and Danny C. Thompson, an American Sergeant, both of whom perished with 248 soldiers.
- The sinking of the Empress of Ireland in World War II on May 29th, 1914 involved Gerrard James Thompson, a plumber who worked aboard the ship, and a passenger, Mrs. T Thompson, a Canadian Third Class passenger. Both died in the sinking.
- In the most devastating man-made explosion of the pre-atomic era, several persons with the surname Thompson died in the Halifax Explosion, in which the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship laden with high explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo. The Canadian deceased included Bernice Ford Thompson; Jean Thompson; Master Robert G. Thompson; Emily Thompson and Master James J. Thompson.
- Thompsons involved in World War II era sinkings included numerous aboard the RMS Lusitania, several who survived and several who died and aboard the HMS Prince of Wales, including British Able Seaman Robson Thompson and British Corporal Marine Charles Thompson among several Thompsons who survived.
- The famous 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic included the survival of English Fireman/Stoker John William Thompson. A Scottish Third Class passenger, Alexander Morrison Thompson died in the sinking.
Early American and New World Settlers
Edward Thompson was among the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620, so the earliest non-native settlers of the Americas included this surname. Another of the very earliest settlers in the New World was William Thompson, recorded as ‘living at Elizabeth Cittie, Virginea’, on February 16th 1623. David Thompson settled in Maine in 1623; Anthony Thompson in Connecticut in 1637, Edmund Thompson in Salem, Mass. also in 1637.
Subsequent decades would find Thompsons settling in Canada and Australia (as convicts, at first): Thomas Thompson arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1756, while Anthony Thompson came to Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia in 1774.
The motto for Thompson is Nosce teipsum, translated as “know thyself.”
Originally it was a war cry or slogan, with early roots in the 14th century. The oldest coats of arms for this ancient and distinguished name do not include a motto, as most coats of arms did not begin using mottoes until the 1600s—and some families have chosen not to include a motto.
The earliest Coat of Arms may have been granted in Yorkshire in 1559, or in Cumberland, where the Thompson family held a seat dating from as far back as the 12th century. As you can see from our various images of Thompson coats of arms, there have been various colors, styles and symbols used in coats of arms, including twin eagles; the lion; a stag and cross; three ravens; three roosters in counterpoint to three ravens and many more.
The use of azure or blue represents loyalty and truth; the fess denotes a military belt or girdle of honor; an indented or sawtooth line represents fire; the estoile is a symbol of God’s goodness; the sun denotes glory and splendor. Among notable early grantees was John Thompson (1756-1829) the son of William Thompson of Dyke House.
There seems to be no limit to the notable people with the last name “Thompson,” as clearly this name has a renowned history especially through many countries in Europe and the Americas.
People with the surname Thompson have been famous musicians, scientists, military leaders, political leaders, union leaders, athletes, fencers, comedians—virtually anything one could imagine.
Edward Thompson was among the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620. Ahmir Khalib Thompson (1971-?), who plays under the name Questlove, is a renowned drummer in hip-hop band The Roots. John T. Thomspon invented the Thompson submachine gun—the “Tommy Gun”—made famous by Prohibition and Depression-era gangsters, as well as by its use during World War II.
Robbin Thompson (1949-2015) was an American singer-songwriter and member of Steel Mill, a Bruce Springsteen band. Klay Thompson, son of Mychal, is an American pro basketball player with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
John Sparrow David Thompson (1845-1894) was a Prime Minister of Canada. Linda Chavez-Thompson was an American union leader. Daley Thompson was a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon. Ben Thompson, an American lawman, gunfighter and gambler. Elaine Thompson is a Jamaican sprinter, Hank Thompson (1925-2007) was an American country music entertainer.
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) was an American journalist and author.
Thompson Family Gift Ideas
Browse Thompson family gift ideas and products below. If there are multiple coats of arms for this surname, you will see them at the top of this page and can click on the various coat of arms designs to apply them to the gift ideas below.
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Thompson Family Crest Corn Hole Game$224.00Purchase »
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Blazons & Genealogy Notes
1) (Baron Haversham., extinct 1745; descended from Maurice Thompson, Esq., of Cheston, co. Herts; Sir John Thompson, Bart., of Haversham, a distinguished member of the House of Commons, was created Baron llaver- sharn in 1696; his son Maurice, second Lord Haversham in 1745, left two daus. his co-heirs; the younger, Hon. Anne m. Richard Reynolds, Esq., d.s.p. 1737; the elder, Hon. Elizabeth, m. 1724, John Carter, Esq., of Weston Coivlle, co. Cambridge; their dau. and eventual heir, Elizabeth, m. General Hall, of Wratting Park, co. Cambridge, and had one son, John Hall, Esq., of Weston Colvile, and one dau., Elizabeth Anne Hall, wife of John Morse, Esq., of Sprowston Hall, co: Norfolk, whose only dau., Elizabeth Anne Ella, m. Simon Digby, Esq.). Or, on a fess dancettée az. three estoiles ar. on a canton of the second tho sun in glory ppr. Crest—An arm erect, vested gu. cuffed ar. holding in the hand ppr. flve cars of wheat or. Supporters—Two falcons, wings expanded ppr. belled gold. Motto—In lumine lucem.
2) (co. Bucks). Or, a lion pass. az.
3) (Broomford Manor, co. Devon). Ar. a buck's head cabossed attired with ten tynes ppr. on a chief az. a cross crosslet fitchee betw. two roses slipped of the first. Crest—A dexter arm in armour couped in fess ppr. the hand holding a cross crosslet fitched erect, as in the arms. Motto—Deus providebit.
4) (Plymouth, co. Devon; borne by Henry Thompson, Esq.). Or, a fess indented betw. three hawks sa. beaked and legged gu. Crest—A hawk, wings expanded ppr. beaked and legged or, betw. two spears erect, staffs gold, headed ar.
5) (Bishopweurmouth, co. Durham). (London, 1609). Quarterly, 1st and 4th, per fess ar. and sa. a fess embattled counterembattled betw. three falcons counterchanged, belled and jessed or, for Thompson; 2nd and 3rd, nr. three cocks’ heads erased sa. combed and wattled gu., for White. Crest—An arm embowed in armour quarterly or and az. holding in the gauntlet ppr. a broken lance gold. Motto—Dum spiro spero.
6) (Colonel Pearson Scott Thompson, C.B., J.P., of Farnley Lodge, Cheltenham, co. Gloucester). Per fess or and sa. a fess embattled betw. four falcons, two and two, all counterchanged, quartering Teshmaker, Az. three bars wavy erm. with ten estoiles, four, three, two, and one, or. Crest—In front of two swords in saltire, points upwards ppr. pommels and hilts gold, a stag trippant per pale or and sa. Motto—Fideliter.
7) (Hurtsbourne, co. Herts, bart.). Per fess ar. and sa. a fess counter-embattled betw. three falcons counterchanged, jessed and belled or, in the chief point an anchor erect az. cable ppr. a border engr. per fess of the second and first. Crest—Out of a naval crown or, an arm in armour embowed ppr. garnished gold, the hand supporting a lance erect also ppr. Supporters, granted to Admiral Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson, first bart., as a G.C.B.—Dexter, an eagle, wings extended ppr. and navally crowned or; sinister, an English sailor ppr. habited in a blue jacket, with white waistcoat and trousers, supporting in his dexter hand a flag ar. charged with a cross gu. and thereon the word “Nile” inscribed. Motto—Non quo sed quomodo.
8) (Kenfield, co. Kent; granted by Dethick, Garter, to Thomas Thompson, 3 Jan. 1600). Gu. two bars ar. a chief erm.
9) (Pelham Raytor, co. Kent). Same Arms. Crest—A greyhound sejant gu. collared and lined or.
10) (Boughton, co. Kent). Per pale ar. and or, an eagle displ. gu. armed sa. Crest—Out of a dacal coronet ar. an ostrich’s head, in the beak a horseshoe all or.
11) (Thingwall Hall, co. Lancaster). Per fess ar. and sa. on a fess nebuly betw. three falcons all counterchanged, a lure fesswise or. Crest—A lion ramp. per fess nebuly ar. and sa. holding betw. the paws a lure or. Motto—Nosce teipsum.
12) (Lord Mayor of London, 1737). Bendy of six ar. and gu. on a canton of the first a lion pass. sa.
13) (William Thompson, Lord Mayor of London, 1828; descended from a family seated at Grey Rigg, near Kendal, for four generations, where he was b. 1792; he d. 1854, leaving an only dau. and heir, who m. the Earl of Bective). Az. a lion pass. or, a bordure ar.
14) (London). Quarterly, per fess wavy az. and or, in the 1st and 4th quarters a lion sejant extending the dexter paw ar.; in the 2nd and 3rd a fox's head erased gu. Crest—A flaming heart betw. two palm branches in orle ppr.
15) (London). Gu. a lion pass. guard. or, a border or. Crest—A lion ramp. gu.
16) (Morpeth, co. Northumberland, originally of co. Cumberland). Or, on a fess dancettée az. three estoiles ar. on a canton of the second the sun in his glory ppr. Crest—An arm erect, vested gu. cuffed ar. holding in the hand ppr. five ears of wheat or. Motto—In lumine lucem.
17) (Newcastle-on-Tyne, co. Northumberland; Benjamin Thompson, Esq., of that place). (London, Little Brand, co. Suffolk, and Marston, co. York, 1634). (Sheriff Hutton Park, co. York). Per fess ar. and sa. a fess embattled counter-embattled betw. three falcons counterchanged, belled and jessed or. Crest—An arm embowed in armour quarterly or and az. holding in the gauntlet ppr. the truncheon of a broken lance gold. Motto—Je veux de bonne guerre.
18) (Landsdown Place, co. Somerset; John Thompson, Esq., of that place). Ar. three estoiles in fess az. betw. two barrulets engr. gu. on a canton of the third the sun in splendour ppr. Crest—A mount vert, therefrom in front of a cubit arm vested az. cuffed ar. the hand holding seven ears of wheat ppr. the sun rising or.
19) (Virhees, co. Sussex, bart., extinct 1808). Ar. a chev. wavy gu. in base a seahorse in sea ppr. supporting a flag az. on a chief of the last a thunderbolt betw. two mullets or, on a canton of the last a saltire engr. sa. betw. four crosses pattée of the second. Crest—On a naval crown az. charged on the rim with three crosses pattée ar. a unicorn pass, of the last gorged with a wreath of laurel ppr. Motto—Dum spiro spero.
20) (Clements, parish of Ilford, co. Sussex; J. S. Thompson, Esq.). Az. a fess nebuly betw. in chief two falcons balled, and in base a ram's head couped or. Crest—Upon a habick sa. a falcon belled or, in the beak a teazle ppr.
21) (Meysey-Thompson, Kirby Hall, co. York, bart.). Per fess ar. and sa. a fess counter-embattled betw. three falcons counterchanged, belled and jessed or, quartering Mawhood. Crest—An arm embowed in armour quarterly or and az. the gauntlet ppr. holding a truncheon of a broken lance gold. Motto—Je veux de bonne guerre.
22) (Esholt, co. York). Per fess ar. and sa. a fess counter-embattled betw. three falcons close, all counterchanged, belled and jessed or, a bend sinister gu.
23) (Cottingham Castle, co. York). Az. a lion pass. guard. or, a border ar. Crest—A lion ramp. az. ducally gorged or. Motto—Go on, and take care.
24) (co. York). Per fess embattled ar. and sa. three falcons counterchanged, belled and jessed or, a canton gu. Crest—A demi ounce erminois, collared, lined, and ringed az.
25) (Hamburgh). Ar. a stag’s head cabossed gu. attired or, on a chief engr. az. a bezant betw. a crescent and a mullet, both of the field. Crest—A branch of palm ppr. Motto—Patientiâ vinco.
26) Gu. a lion’s face ar. betw. three Eastern crowns or, a border of the second. Crest—A buck's head cabossed ppr.
27) Az. a lion pass. guard. or, a border ar. Crest—A lion ramp. ducally gorged or.
28) Sa. fretty ar. on a chief or, three escallops of the field.
29) (granted by Dalton, Norroy, to Henry Thompson, of Eshold, co. York, 1559). Per fess ar. and sa. a fess embattled betw. three falcons counterchanged, belled, beaked, and jessed gold. Crest—An arm quarterly or and az. gauntlet ppr. holding a truncheon gold.
30) (Thorpmarket, co. York). Az. a lion pass. guard. or, a border ar. Crest—A lion ramp. ducally gorged or. Arms confirmed by Camden, Clarenceux, 12 Jun. 1602, to Rowland Thompson, of Thorpmarket, co. Norfolk, but the crest was an armed arm az. holding a broken spear in saltire or.
31) (Richard Thompson, Treasurer of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, 1582; impalement Fun. Ent. Ulster's Office, 1607, of John Sankey, who m. his dau., Anna Thompson). Ar. a lion pass. guard. in fess gu. armed and langued az. betw. three crosses pattée of the second, a border sa.
32) (Fun. Ent. Ulster’s Office, 1660). Ar. a bend gu. on a canton of the second a cross of the first.
33) (confirmed by Roberts, Ulster, 1645, to James Thompson, Lieut.-Col. of Horse in Ireland; descended from co. Kent). Per pale or and ar. an eagle displ. gu. a canton of the last. Crest—An ostrich's head and neck erm. holding In the beak a horseshoe or. Motto—Lucem virtus amat.
"34) (Annaverna, co. Louth; confirmed to Acheson Quintin Dick Thomas Thompson, Esq., of Annavema, and to the descendants of his father, Quintin Dick Thompson, Esq., H.E.I.C.S., by Mary Anne his wife, sister of Sir Thomas Stamford Baffles, Lieut. -Governor of Java). Or, a sword erect ppr. betw. three estoiles az. on a canton of the last the sun in splendour of the first. Crest—A cubit arm erect, vested gu. cuffed erm. and charged with an oriental crown or, the hand grasping five ears of wheat ppr. Motto—In
35) (Clonfin, co. Longford). (Clonskeagh Castle, co. Dublin; confirmed to George Thompson, Esq., of Clonskeagh, and to the other descendants of his grandfather, William Thompson, Esq., of Clonfin, co. Longford). (Stonestown and Park, King’s co.; the present P. Hamlet Thompson, Esq.. of Stonestown, was High Sheriff 1875). Or, on a fess indented az. three estoiles gold, in the centre base point a trefoil vert, on a canton of the second a sun in glory ppr. Crest—An arm embowed in armour holding in the hand ppr. five ears of wheat or, the arm charged with a trefoil vert. Motlo—In lumine lucem.
36) (Borris Castle, Queen's co.; confirmed, 1810, to Frederick Thompson, Esq., of Borris Castle, High Sheriff of the co., and the issue of his grandfather). Or, on a fess indented vert three estoiles of the first, on a canton az. a sun in glory ppr. a border bezants sa. Crest—An armed arm erect holding in the hand five ears of wheat ppr.
38) Irish (Richard Thompson, Treasurer of St. Patrick`s Cathedral, Dublin, 1582; impalement Fun. Ent. Ulster`s Office, 1607, of John Sankey, who m. his dau., Anne Thompson) Ar. a lion pass. guard. in fess gu. armed and langued az. betw. three crosses patte of the second, a border sa.
39) Irish (Fun. Ent. Ulster`s Office, 1660) Ar. a bend gu. on a canton of the second a cross of the first
40) Irish (confirmed by Roberts, Ulster, 1645, to James Thompson, Lieut.-Col. of Horse in Ireland; descended from co. Kent) Per pale or and ar. an eagle displ. gu. a canton of the last. Crest - An ostrich`s head and neck erm. holding in the beak a horseshoe or. Motto - Lucem virtus amat.
41) Irish (Annaverna, co. Louth; confirmed to Acheson Quintin Dick Thomas Thompson, Esq., of Annaverna, and to the descendants of his father, ?? Dick Thompson, Esq., H.E.I.C.S., by Mart Anne his wife, sister of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieut.-Governor of Java) Or, a sword erect ppr. betw. three estoiles az. on a canton of the last the sun in splendour of the first. Crest - A cubit arm erect, vested gu. cuffed erm. and charged with an oriental crown or, the hand grasping five ears of wheat ppr. Motto - In lumine lucem.
42) Irish (Clonfin, co. Longford) Or, on a fess indented az. three estoiles gold, in the centre base point a trefoil vert, on a canton of the second a sun in glory ppr. Crest - An arm embowed in armour holding in the hand ppr. five ears of wheat or, the arm charged with a trefoil vert. Motto - In lumine lucem.
43) Irish (Clonskeagh Castle, co. Dublin; confirmed to George Thompson, Esq., of Clonskeagh, and to the other descendants of his grandfather, William Thompson, Esq., of Clonfin, co. Longford) Or, a fess indented az. charged with three estoiles gold, on a canton of the second a sun in his glory, in the centre base point a trefoil vert. Crest - An arm embowed in armour ppr. holding in the hand also ppr. five ears of wheat or, the arm charged with a trefoil vert. Motto - In lumine lucem
44) Irish (Borris Castle, Queen`s co.; confirmed, 1810, to Frederick Thompson, Esq., of Borris Castle, High Sheriff of the co., and the issue of his grandfather) Or, on a fess indented vert three estoiles of the first, on a canton az. a sun in glory ppr. a border bezante sa. Crest - An armed arm erect holding in the hand five ears of wheat ppr.