Cook Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Cook Meaning
The Old English coc, meaning cook, gives the occupational name of Cook (and also, with the same pronunciation, Coke and Cooke). Cook in medieval times could also have been a seller of cooked meats or a keeper of an eating house.

Cook Resources on

Select Cook Ancestry

England. Coc was recorded as a name as early as 950. The name Cocus appeared in the Domesday Book and Ralph le Cook was recorded in 1296. Early surname spellings were Coke and Cooke.

East Anglia. The first recorded Coke in Norfolk was William Coke in the town of Swaffham around 1150. This family became prosperous in the 14th century, but it was not until the time of Sir Edward Coke – considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean era – that the Cokes rose to fame and fortune. Sir Edward purchased the Holkham estate in Norfolk in 1609. In 1764 his descendant Thomas Coke, who had been created the Earl of Leicester, built the grand Holkham Hall that
can be seen today. It nearly bankrupted the family.

Cookes at Lavenham in Suffolk date from the 14th century.
Sir Thomas Cooke was a wealthy draper in
London and its Lord Mayor in 1462. He
built his home at Gidea Hall near Romford in Essex.
However, he was not long to enjoy it as he
was accused and tried for treason. He
narrowly escaped with his lands and his life. His
great grandson was Anthony Cooke, tutor
to Edward VI. A branch of the family
resided at Highnam Court in Gloucestershire.

Meanwhile a Cooke family in Buckinghamshire led a Quaker group at their Bow Brickhill home in the mid 1600’s.

Yorkshire. The Cookes of Doncaster in
Yorkshire had their beginnings with Robert Cooke of Almholme in the 15th century. His grandson Edward became mayor
of Doncaster in 1504. These Cookes were Royalist during
the Civil War. Sir George Cooke was
rewarded with a baronetage and built Wheatley Hall.
Henry Cooke acquired the nearby Owston estate
in 1698 and his line later became the Davies-Cookes of north Wales. Wheatley remained with the family until 1933,
Owston until 1980

Cooke and Cook The main surname spellings have been Cooke and Cook. At first the spelling was Cooke. But in the 1881 census, the Cookes were being outnumbered almost four to one by the Cooks. The name Cooke, where it appeared,
was more in the north. The southeast by then had become Cook

Scotland. The Cook name extended into Lowland Scotland and had cropped up in Dunfermline and
Edinburgh by the year 1400. Cook family
histories have begun in Clackmannan with the birth of John Cook in 1691 and in the
Isle of Bute (Argyllshire) with the marriage of Ebenezer and Margaret Cook in 1766.

One famous Cook, Captain James Cook the explorer, had Scottish roots. His father James Cook had been born in 1694
in the rural village of Ednam in Roxburghshire on the Scottish borders. Cook was born in a small village in Yorkshire (Cooks’ Cottage) and spent his formative years at the coastal port of Whitby.

Ireland. Cook in Ireland could be an
English or Scottish implant or an anglicization of an Irish name.
Cookstown in county Tyrone took its name from the Anglican church lawyer Dr. Allen Cooke
who had laid out the basis of the town in 1628. The Cook name in
Ulster probably came from the Scottish MacCook or MacCuagh. Cook in Galway was an anglicized
form of the Gaelic MacCug, or “son of Hugo.”

America.  Cookes and Cooks came to America, amongst the earliest in New England being:

  • Francis Cooke, a Leiden Separatist, who came to Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower in 1620.
  • Aaron Cooke from Dorset who arrived on the Mary and John in 1630.  His son Nathaniel was one of the first settlers of Windsor, Connecticut twenty years later.
  • Henry Cook from Kent who came in 1638 and settled in Salem, Massachusetts. A later Henry of this
    family was an early settler in Plymouth, Connecticut.
  • and Ellis Cook who sailed from England in 1640
    and a few years later moved to Southampton out on Long Island. He was one of the first settlers in what was then Dutch territory.

The Rev. Samuel Cooke of
Bridgeport, Connecticut, born in 1687, was the father of Joseph Platt Cooke, a
Revolutionary War officer, and grandfather of Amos Starr Cooke, the man who
sailed out from Boston to Hawaii as a missionary in 1837.
He was a co-founder of Castle &
Cooke, a company that later invested heavily in Hawaii’s sugar and
pineapple plantations.

Kochs started arriving from the Palatinate in Germany in the 1early 1700’s, mainly into Pennsylvania. Many of them became Cooks, for instance:

  • Hans Koch who arrived
    in Pennsylvania from Germany with his family in 1741.
    Their name changed to Cook around 1764.
  • Adam Koch who came in 1751 and changed his name to Cook soon after arrival.
  • and Georg who was born
    Koch in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania in 1751 but his son George was born Cook in 1787.

The Fred Koch who founded Koch Industries in the 1920’s was
the son of a Dutch printer who had settled in Texas.

. Ephraim Cook,
descendant of Mayflower passenger Francis Cook, moved from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia in 1761. He built fishing stands at Yarmouth and was instrumental in starting up its fishing industry. Another Cook – William Cook, Scots Irish from Donegal and his wife Sidney – arrived there from Ireland
at the same time. They made their home at the new township of Londonderry in Colchester county.  Interestingly, the famous Captain Cook spent some time in Nova Scotia at this time and the 1762 map of Halifax harbor was his handiwork

William Cooke came to Canada from London in 1786 in the service of the
Hudson Bay
Company. He was a fur trader and an
early settler in the Red River settlement in 1821.
He died there in 1845 and left a large family
of early colonists in western Canada.

New Zealand.  William Cook, a ship’s carpenter from Plymouth, came to New Zealand on a whaler in 1821, met a local girl on the Bay of Islands in
North Island and stayed. William and
Tiraha raised twelve children there. Grandsons
George and Herbert were whalers in their own right and carried
on whaling almost to the end of their lives, until 1930


Cook Miscellany

The Coke Surname in Norfolk.  The surname Coke in Norfolk has been traced back to
a William Coke in the hundred of South Greenhoe, now the Norfolk town of
Swaffham, around the year 1150.  The name
origin is uncertain, maybe from the occupation of cook or possibly from
coc meaning “leader.”  In
any case it was not a common surname in the area and
there was only one record of this name in the 1400’s.

By that time this family had become a
well-regarded one and included in their number an Under-Sheriff and a
merchant.   Edward Coke, the famous
jurist, was born in 1552, his father Robert being a London barrister
who had
built up a strong practice representing clients such as the Townsends
from his
home area of Norfolk.

The Coke name was
pronounced “kuke” in Elizabethan times, but later came to be
pronounced as “cook.”

Cooke Quakers in Buckinghamshire.  Early Quaker meetings in
Buckinghamshire were held at Hogsty End (now Woburn Sands) around the
1659.  They were also held at the Bow
Brickhill house of Thomas Cooke, born about 1610.  He
was the son of William Cooke, one of the
four Cooke yeoman farmers known to be holding land in Bow Brickhill in
the year

The Quakers were persecuted before
and after the Restoration in 1660 and recorded prosecutions under the
of “sufferings.”  In 1670 the
authorities imposed a fine of £20, to be shared between William Cooke,
Allbright and George Galsey, for illegal meetings at Woburn.  In the 1680’s Cooke father and sons often
appeared before the Quarter Sessions for not attending All Saints

Cooke had five children – Thomas,
John, William, Edward and Joan.  All were
Quakers. The Cooke farmers at Bow Brickhill had prospered, for these
were the
golden years for the yeoman farmer.
Thomas was able to leave land to all his sons and £100 to his

the early 1700’s the Hogsty End
Quaker meetings went into decline and there were few Cooke entries in

Cooks’ Cottage.  James Cook, the famous explorer, was born in the small village of Great Ayton in
north Yorkshire.  Cooks’ Cottage had been
built there in 1755 by his parents James and Grace Cook.

In 1933 the owner of the cottage decided to
sell it with a condition of sale that the building remain in England.  She was persuaded to change
“England” to “the Empire”, and accepted an Australian bid
of £800 by Russell Grimwade, as opposed to the highest local offer of

cottage was deconstructed brick by brick and packed into 253 cases and
barrels, for shipping on board the Port Dunedin from Hull.  Cuttings
from ivy that adorned the house were also taken and planted when the
house was
re-erected in Melbourne.  Grimwade, a local
businessman and philanthropist, donated the house to the people of
Victoria for the centenary anniversary of the
settlement of Melbourne in October 1934.

cottage immediately became a popular tourist attraction.  In
1978 further restoration work was carried
out on the cottage.  An English cottage
has been established around the house, further adding to its period
reconstruction.  Very few of the items in
the house are from the Cook family, but all are representative
furnishings of
the period.

Cook and Cooke Distribution in the 1881 Census.  H..B. Guppy remarked in his 1890 opus Home of
Family Names in Great Britain
that the names Cook and Cooke were
in be
found in southern England and down the east coast from Lincolnshire to
Kent.  The names were comparatively
scarce in the north (which does not seem to be true) and in the
southwest of
England (which does seem to be true).

1881 census showed the following distributions of the Cook and Cooke

County (000’s) Cook Cooke Total Cooke %
Yorkshire  4.7  1.6  6.3   25
Lancashire  4.6  2.3  6.9   33
Cheshire  0.9  1.3  2.0   60
Lincolnshire  8.2  0.4  8.6    5
East Anglia  5.6  0.9  6.5   14
London  9.9  1.8 11.7   15
SE England  6.1  1.2  7.3   16
Elsewhere 16.5  6.0 22.5   25
Total 56.5 15.5 72.0   22

the Cooke spelling had held up to some degree in the north.  An example of the northern Cookes was the Cooke family
of Salford in Lancashire whose son Alistair Cooke, born in
1908, grew up to be the famous radio broadcaster renowned for his Letter from America.

the Cooke name was scarce in the south.

Cook’s Battle Hymn of the Republic.  In the 19th century the Battle Hymn of the Republic was
adapted to fit prominent American surnames
of the time, including Cook.  The Cook
version had three stanzas of specific references.  They
ran as follows:

Cooks of York, Northumberland, Norfolk,
Bedford and Kent,
To deeds of valor and
of missions of import were sent.
when they pledged their honor everything they said they meant.
The clan goes marching on!

Ellis, Gregory were fathers of our
Posterity of Henry and Elijah
never ran.
Modecai was virile, Nathan
was a sturdy man.
The clan goes
marching on!

Samuel was Lord Mayor,
Fred was chaplain to the Queen;
Cook discovered islands which white men had never seen.

Cooks love Old Glory, Union Jack, and
“Wearin’ of the Green.”
The clan goes
marching on!”

Cook version therefore
combines English, Irish, and American Cooks.

early Cook arrivals in America shown here were:

  • Ellis
    Cook on Long Island (Southampton) and Gregory Cooke in
    Massachusetts (Newton).  William Cook’s
    identity is uncertain.
  • Henry
    settled in Massachusetts (Salem); and Elijah Cook came to America with
    Pilgrims and settled in Connecticut.
  • while
    Mordecai Cooke was the forebear of a Cook family in Virginia and Nathan
    Cook was
    one of the first settlers in Windsor, Connecticut.

Ephraim Cook’s Lameness.  In 1755 Ephraim Cook accompanied his father Caleb,
a captain of the local militia, in his duties around Kingston,
Massachusetts.  While they were building
a fort, a log fell and broke his leg, necessitating amputation below

He could no longer farm and became for a time a surveyor.
But he preferred the sea.  After working as a
shoresman and storekeeper in his future father-in law’s fishing vessel,
moved to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1761 and erected fishing stands on

Being lame he required a horse for drawing the fish to and from his
stands; and, as water was somewhat distant from his camping home, he
procured a
stout canoe in which he fixed a barrel.
By these expedients he supplemented the loss of his limb.  He gradually became a man of considerable
influence in the township.

Later he had a 40 ton vessel built for fishing and
can justifiably be called the father of Yarmouth’s fishing industry. He was the first captain of militia for the
area and also served as a Justice of the Peace.
He died in 1821 at the age of 84, leaving behind him “a good
a large family, and a fair fame.”

Amos Cooke’s Correspondence.  Amos Starr
Cooke and his wife Juliette sailed from Boston in 1837 on the Mary Frazier as  missionaries
for Hawaii.  After teaching school for two
years the King
and chiefs of Hawaii requested that they begin a school for their young
The Cookes served with the school for
ten years, educating many of Hawaii’s leaders.
In 1851 Cooke entered a mercantile business with Samuel Castle,
establishing the firm of Castle & Cooke.

are a total of eight volumes of the
Amos Cooke journal.  Volumes One and Two
focused on Cooke’s early life and travels around New England.  Volumes Three to Eight gave an account of the
voyage and the first days in Honolulu and contained informative
material on the
history of the Chief’s Children’s School. Entries
also recorded the arrival of friends
who were entertained by the Cookes, family matters, and other mission
activities. The remaining volumes reported Cooke’s continuing interest
in the mission,
church, and educational affairs of Honolulu, while he was employed in
business with Samuel Castle.

preserved written materials of the Cookes are the letters written to
sister Mary Keeler Seeley in Danbury, Connecticut.  The
letters from Hawaii started on their arrival in 1837.
last one was dated 1854, although Amos himself
did not die until 1871.



Select Cook Names

  • Sir Edward Coke from Norfolk
    was the famous Lord Chief Justice whose writings on the English common
    law were the definitive legal text for the following 150 years.
  • Captain James Cook was the
    famous 18th
    century English explorer of the Pacific.
  • Thomas Cook started the Thomas
    Cook travel agency in the 1860’s.
  • Alistair Cooke was the
    British-born American journalist best known for his weekly radio
    address Letter from America.
  • Sam Cooke from Mississippi was one of the pioneers of soul with his hits of the 1960’s.
  • Peter Cook was the
    leading figure of the British satire boom of the 1960’s.

Select Cook Numbers Today

  • 111,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hertfordshire)
  • 118,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 70,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Cook and Like Surnames   

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.




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