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Family spelling variants includes Wrights, Right, Wraight, Wrighte

WRIGHT Family History


Recorded in several spellings including the popular Wright, as well as the much rarer forms of Wrighte, Wraight and patronymics Wrightson and Wrixon, this is an early English surname. It is occupational and was used to describe a maker of machinery or objects, mostly in wood. 


Wright (Variants: Wrighte, Wraight, Right, Wrights) – English, Scottish, and Northern Irish: occupational name for a maker of machinery or ‘craftsman’, mostly in wood especially carpenter or joiner. Similar to Old English - wriht, wright, wricht, writh, write was alike in Middle English and Older Scots as wyrhta or wryhta also interpreted as ‘carpenter, joiner’.

From Old English pre 7th century word 'wyrhta', also meaning ‘craftsman’ - a derivative of the verb wyrcan ‘to work or make’ – usually wheelright, cartwright, millwright, wainwright). When isolated as wyrhta, it generally referred to a builder of windmills and watermills. Perhaps not surprisingly this is one of the first occupational surnames to be recorded, including Robert Wricht of Shropshire in 1274 and Thomas le Wrighte of Derbyshire in 1327. A later occurrence further south to the early bearers, Thomas Wrighte of Hayes, Kent was recorded in 1547.

New England commonly a Americanised form of French ‘Le Droit’, a nickname for an upright person, a man of probity, deriving from Old French ‘droit’ meaning right, in which there has been confusion between the homophones ‘right’ and ‘wright’. In Medieval England - 'He was a well good wright, a carpenter.' Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales.

In 1881, there were a total of 93,895 widespread occurrences in the UK particularly Lancashire and West Yorkshire. In the neighbouring county of Nottinghamshire, the frequency was 2,321 - a similar frequency to the southerly county of Kent, which was recorded as 2,335.

The most occuring occupation for Wright surname in the UK in 1881 was Agricultural Labourer. Farmer and Labourer were also reported as the other two top jobs worked for Wright, with a less commonly found occupation being a Coal Miner.

SOURCES: 1881, 1891 Census The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016.

1881 Cencus in Nottinghamshire and Kent

Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003

Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890

1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain

1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain.

1872 Wareing ,Charles A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames. Endell, Bardsley


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    Orville Wright (August 19, 1871, to January 30, 1948) Wilbur Wright (April 16, 1867, to May 30, 1912)
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    'Wright' is still used in Scottish English in the original meaning of 'skilled woodworker'. The Incorporation of Wrights of the Trades House of Glasgow, and the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons of Edinburgh Trades retain the word in its original meaning in their role of promoting the woodworking trade. Wright is also an anglicised version of the Scots Gaelic clan name "MacIntyre" or "Mac an t-Saoir", meaning "son of the wright" (son of the carpenter). In Ireland, the native Gaelic Mac an Cheairt sept of County Mayo occasionally changed their name to Wright. This is a literal translation meaning, "son of the right or righteous".
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