Cox (surname)

Cox (surname)
Family name
Llyn y Fan Fawr.jpg
The hills found in Carmarthenshire, Wales, where Cox may have been a topographic name for a man "from the red hills.".
Pronunciation /ˈkɒks/ koks
Meaning Possibly derived from cock or coch, and means "from the hills", or from cocc, which means "the little," or derived from coch, meaning "the Red."
Region of origin England or Wales
Language(s) of origin Old English or Welsh

The surname Cox is of English or Welsh origin, and may have originated independently in several locations in Great Britain, with the variations arriving at a standard spelling only later. An early record of the surname dates from 1556 with the marriage of Alicea Cox at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster, London.[1] Cox is the 69th-most common surname in the United Kingdom.[2]



One possibility of the origin is that it is a version of the Old English cocc which means "the little," and was sometimes placed after the name of a leader or chieftain as a term of endearment. Surnames such as Wilcox, Willcocks and Willcox are examples of this practice: all are composed of the name William and the archaic word cocc, coming together to mean "little William." The suggestion is that only the element -cox may have endured as a surname for some families.

Another opinion is that the name is derived from the Old English cock, which means a "heap" or "mound," and was a topographic name for a man living near any heap, hill or other bundle. Names like Haycock or Haycox come from such practice, meaning from "the hay mounds" or "the hay fields." Again, the element -cox may have only been carried on in some families.

The third possibility is that it comes from the Welsh coch, meaning "red." In this opinion, the word could have either been applied to a man with red hair, calling him in essence "the Red," or else served as a topographic name for someone living near the rudy-hued hills found in Wales, implying that the man is "from the red hills." In Cornwall, the surnames Cock and Couch (pronounced 'cooch') also derive from Cornish cogh "red, scarlet". As a Cornish surname, Cock can also derive from 'cok', "fishing boat", the Cornish surname "Cocking" being the diminutive form 'cokyn', "small fishing boat". In these cases, the surname is likely to derive from occupation.

The English word cock is derived from the French coq, and a fourth possibility, though a very limited one (as the surname had already been established in many parts of Great Britain), is that the surname came about as a nickname from the French language.

Noticeably similar surnames include Cock, Cocks, Coxe, Coxen and Coxon. There is no evidence beyond similar spellings and phonetics that these surnames are related. Given that the origins of the Cox surname are uncertain, it is possible that these names developed as spelling variations, or that each of these names has an origin in a separate word and language.

Notable persons

Given name A-L

  • Edward Everett Cox, Indiana publisher and Democrat
  • Edward F. Cox, keyboardist from Scottish band The Hurricanes
  • Edward F. Cox, New York lawyer and potential politician
  • Elbert Frank Cox, American mathematician
  • Emily Cox (puzzle writer), American puzzle writer
  • Emily Cox (conductor), Australian conductor and Choir master
  • Emily Cox (Miss Kentucky), American beauty pageant contestant
  • Eric Cox, Australian rugby league player, coach, referee and administrator
  • Ernest Cox, British engineer
  • Harry Cox, British traditional singer
  • Harvey Cox, American theologian
  • Heather Cox (singer), American Idol contestant
  • H. R. Cox, American bacteriologist
  • Leroy (Roy) M. Cox, American entrepreneur
  • Lionel Cox, Australian track cyclist
  • Lynne Cox, swimmer

Given name M-Z

  • Nicholas Cox (disambiguation)
  • Nikki Cox, American actress
  • Reg Cox, fictional character in East Enders soap opera
  • Renée Cox, American artist and photographer
  • Richard Cox (bishop), Anglican bishop of the sixteenth century
  • Richard Colvin Cox, disappeared American cadet
  • Richard Threlkeld Cox, physicist and statistician (Cox's theorem)
  • Robert E. Cox, American optical engineer and popularizer of amateur telescope making
  • Robert Edward Cox, American Medal of Honor recipient
  • Robert O. Cox, American mayor
  • Robert W. Cox, Canadian international relations academic
  • Ron Cox, American driver
  • Ronny Cox, American actor
  • Roxbee Cox, Baron Kings Norton, British aircraft engineer
  • Russell M. Cox (1919-1942), American navy officer
  • Wally Cox, American actor
  • Wendell Cox, public policy consultant
  • William Cox (athlete) (1904–1996), United States Olympic medallist
  • William Cox (pioneer) (1764–1837), constructor of the road across the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia
  • William Cox (governor) (born 1936), known as Bill Cox, Chief Justice and Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania, Australia
  • William George Cox (19th C.), colonial official and Gold Commissioner for the Boundary Country in British Columbia, Canada during the Rock Creek War
  • William John Cox (1941), also known as Billy Jack, American public interest lawyer, retired prosecutor, author and political activist
  • William Robert Cox (1901–1988), prolific writer of short stories and Western and Mystery novels mainly for the pulp and paperback markets
  • William R. Cox (1832–1919), Confederate general in the United States Civil War, later Secretary of the United States Senate
  • William Sitgreaves Cox (1790–1874), court-martialled acting third lieutenant on the USS Chesapeake (1799)


  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.

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