What’s in the England team’s names? English Heritage explains all

By Mark Brown

Harry Kane can trace his surname back to a word for “warrior”. Declan Rice to “impetuous”. Kieran Trippier to “dance”. Kyle Walker will have to make do with “trampler of cloth in a bath of lye” which, to be fair, was once a very important job.

English Heritage is getting in the football spirit by revealing the origins of the names of the England players. It will also fly a St George’s flag featuring the surname of almost every person living in England at its properties to help cheer on the team before Sunday’s Euro 2020 final against Italy.

More than 32,000 surnames, from Aamir to Zyla, will fly on a flag at sites including Stonehenge, Osborne on the Isle of Wight and Carlisle Castle, which, English Heritage points out, “has endured more sieges than any other place in the British isles”.

Raheem Sterling.
Raheem Sterling. The footballer is one of 1,972 adult Sterlings and they most commonly live in Durham. Photograph: Carl Recine/EPA

The charity is using the patriotic outpouring created by England’s success so far to launch a project it has been working on for some time. From Friday people will be able to go to a “names of England” website and tap in their surname to discover its origins and prevalence.

Raheem Sterling would discover his name has Scottish origins, that he’s one of 1,972 adult Sterlings and they most commonly live in Durham. Sunderland-born Jordan Henderson will find there are more Hendersons in Newcastle than anywhere else. The name derives from “Henry’s son” and he is one of 29,309 Hendersons.

More than 32,000 names, including Kane, which means ‘warrior, will feature in either red or white on the flags.
More than 32,000 names, including Kane, which means ‘warrior, will feature in either red or white on the flags. Photograph: English Heritage/PA

Some names could be from a number of sources. Atlético Madrid’s Trippier’s name is probably derived from tripper, to dance, and also an old French word for tripe seller.

It is a fun project but also, said Matt Thompson (“son of Tom”), English Heritage’s head collections curator, one with a deeper intent. “We wanted to get behind that whole sense of togetherness that is here right now to think about the idea of the English flag, but also the English people.

“We are a nation made up of people from lots of backgrounds and surnames are all round us and often we overlook them. They are a beautiful way into thinking about how a nation is made up.”

With England’s victory against Denmark, Thompson said it felt there was no better time to launch the project. “The England team are bringing the nation together and this is a way of adding to that.”

Kieran Trippier
Kieran Trippier’s name could be derived from tripper, to dance, and an old French word for tripe seller. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

The idea was suggested to English Heritage by Prof John Denham, a former Labour cabinet minister and director of the Centre for English Identity and Politics at the University of Southampton.

He said: “At a time when the telling of history can spark controversy, this flag symbolises an essential truth: England and its people have been shaped by our shared histories and England’s future story on and off the pitch will be told by all the people who are making their lives here today.”

Anyone who cannot find their surname – Rishi Sunak, for example, will not find his – will be invited to submit it for inclusion on the “digital flag of names” also being created from Friday. Some names will be met with no information because it is “an uncommon surname” – Marcus Rashford, for another example.

“I guess he’s going to be busy,” said Thompson, “but if Marcus Rashford wants to get in touch and tell us what he knows about his surname and where it might come from, that’s great, it could really help to fill in gaps.”