Recorded in the spellings of Green and Greene, this is one of the most widespread of English, and occasionally Irish, surnames. It is usually of pre 7th century origins, and derives from the word "grene" meaning green. As such it may be topographical for a person resident by a village green or even a place called Green, or as a status name for a young man who played the part of the mystic and fertile "Green Man" sometimes known as "Jack in the Green", in the May Day fertility celebrations. In this context "green" was symbolic of youthful ardour, spring, and the re-growth of nature...
1) From the locative name, Middle English 'grene'- village green; 2) Middle English 'grene' for colour, as a nickname for a young or inexperienced person; 3) From a number of Irish surnames, Ó hUaithnín, containing root 'uaine'- green, Ó Fathaigh by mistranslation, Mac Giolla Ghlais from root 'glas'- grey, green and Ó hUainidhe (same root as first Irish above); later 4) also an anglicisation of German and Ashkenazic Jewish surname Grün & c. with same colour etymology as the English name.
Early forms of 1) are Geoffrey de Grene in Kent, 1181 (Pipe Rolls); Geoffrey atte Grene in Oxfordshire, 1350 (Feet of Fines); 2) Johannes le Grene in Norfolk, 1379 (Poll Tax); 3) Roger Grene, 1569 (Fiants) may be an Anglo-Norman (and thus 1. or 2. rather than 3). but William Greighan, 1601 (Fiants) is most probably native Irish. 4) Levi Ephraim Green, born in Holland, in London in the 1851 Census; Hyman Green, born in Poland, in Middlesex in the 1881 Census.
In the 1881 Census the surname was widespread, but in heavy concentrations (descending order) in London, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, the South-East and Lincolnshire/Norfolk. In 1891 the frequency of Green was 88,772 in England and Wales; and of Greene 917. In the same census the highest frequency of the surname was in London with 12,683 and in Lancashire with 11,984.
To take Kent in the south east of the country, in the 1881 Census the surname Green ranked 28th in the county with a frequency of 2, 297.
In Scotland the frequency in 1891 was 2,136 and the highest numbers found in Lanarkshire.
There were 152 birth entries (105 Green, 47 Greene) on the Register for Ireland in 1890: Ulster 54, Leinster 39, Munster 37, Connacht 22. The main counties were Dublin, Galway, Tipperary and Clare.
The majority of bearers of this surname followed the occupations of agricultural labourer and farmer in the 1891 Census.
Solomon Green from Dorset was transported to Van Diemen's Land, Australia aboard the "Albion" on 17th May, 1823.
1851, 1881, 1891 Census
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
Special Report on Irish Surnames, R.E. Matheson. Dublin 1901/9
Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall, P. Woulfe, Dublin 1913
Dictionary of American Family Names, P. Hanks, OUP 2003/13
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain 7 Ireland, Hanks, Coates, McClure, 2016