Cox Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Cox Meaning
male bird, the cock,
was often
used as a nickname to describe the natural pertness of boys, like the
habits of a strutting fowl.  Both swaggered and both could crow.
  Thus cock became
the general sobriquet for a sharp and forward lad.   Its use
was Anglo-Saxon, predating the Norman arrival.  Alvin Coc was
recorded as a dispossessed Saxon in the 1086 Domesday Book.
As time went on it was used more and more for boys and servants until
it was firmly established as a surname.  As with most Christian
names, a final “s” was frequently added and quite often this was
combined with a “ck” and spelt with an “x” and the word was sometimes
attached to the Christian name, such as Han-cock and
Will-cox.   Spellings such as Cock and Cocke continued.
But the Cox spelling
of the surname had begun to establish itself by the 15th century.
Other origins for the Cox surname have been suggested and these may
have been
applicable in certain geographic areas.

Cox Resources on

England.   An early Cockes
line began with Walter de Chelworth in Kent in the 13th century.
He was said to have been a strutting Norman soldier in England who was
nicknamed ‘”le coq” and his children “little cockes.”

Cox-like surnames initially were more to be found further west in

  • in the
    southwest of the country in Wiltshire, Dorset, and Somerset
  • and in the
    middle of the country in Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.

The Cox name was concentrated
later around Wiltshire and Dorset and around Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

Kockes and variants of
that name had appeared in the records of Bridgewater, Somerset in the
century.  Many Coxes in Somerset were rounded up after the failure of
Monmouth’s Rebellion in 1685
.  Tom Cox was a famous highwayman
from Somerset who was eventually caught and hanged in 1689.

Meanwhile Daniel Coxe, physician to Queen Anne in the early 18th
century, was descended from a prominent Somerset line of Coxes.
Samuel Cox was a Beaminster merchant in Dorset.  Coxes from
Wimborne were
shipowners and William Cox of this family was an early settler in
Australia (he arrived in 1800).

While the Cox name above may appear a west country name, large
numbers by the 19th century were in fact in and around London.
Earlier Coxes here were:

  • Richard Cox, Bishop of Ely, who was born in Buckinghamshire in
    1500.  A later Cox family was to be found at Dorney in
    Buckinghamshire from the 1630’s.
  • and John Cox who in the 1530’s had acquired the manor of St.
    Albans in Hertfordshire at the time of the dissolution of the
    monasteries.  Colonel Alban Cox of St. Albans was a
    Parliamentarian at the time of the Civil War.

Thomas Cox, father
and son, were Quaker vintners in London during the 17th century.

  There was a Cox line
in Scotland that came came a Dutch Cock family that settled near
Dumfries.  This line apparently died out with Annie Cox in the
late 19th century.

Ireland.   Captain Richard
Cox had arrived from Wiltshire around 1600 and settled in Brandon,
Cork.  His grandson served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1703
to 1707.  A later Richard Cox began a linen industry
the 1730’s
around Dunmanway.  Other descendants
moved to Ulster and some
migrated to America.

Cox name in
Ireland was also derived from the Gaelic Mac an Choiligh,
mainly to be found in county Roscommon
where they had been corabs of St. Barry at Kilbarry.  Denis Cox
(Donnchadh MacCoiligh), born in Meath in 1882, was a popular singer of
traditional Irish ballads.

America.  Richard Cocke arrived
in Virginia from Shropshire and acquired large land holdings in Henrico
county during the 1630’s.  One line of his family later extended
to Tennessee.

Coxe was a member
of the Continental Congress of 1788 and a well-known political
economist and merchant of his day.  
His contemporary William
Coxe was one of the
foremost American fruit growers of his time from his home in
Burlington, New
Jersey.  They were
descendants of
the London
physician Daniel
Coxe and his son Daniel
who had arrived in New Jersey
in 1702.

spelling of other 17th century immigrants, such as William Cox from
Bristol who settled in Pemaquid, Maine, was generally Cox.  Some
of William Cox’s descendants were Loyalists who later decamped to
Canada.  John Cox of this family operated an extensive shipping
business out of Portland, Maine during the 19th century.

was a  prominent Cox Quaker family in Philadelphia from the early
1700’s.  Rowland Cox of this family became a leading Manhattan
lawyer after the Civil War.  His grandson Archibald Cox was the
Special Prosecutor at the time of the Watergate scandal.  Another
Cox Quaker family in
Pennsylvania migrated to North
Carolina and in 1806, with Jeremiah Cox, to Wayne county, Ohio.

Cox arrived in Onslow county, North Carolina in 1741.  The Coxes of Onslow
have remained on the same farm to this day.

Australia.  William Cox from
Dorset who arrived in
Australia in 1799 is best-known for the road he built across the Blue
from Sydney to Bathurst in 1814. 

was given 30 convict laborers and
a guard of eight soldiers and he completed the road in just six months.It was not
metalled, being merely a dirt
track twelve feet wide, but it was nevertheless an amazing feat to have
the trees, filled in the holes, levelled the track, and built bridges
in so
short a time.” 

Cox has many descendants in
Australia.  Three of his sons and a
number of his grandsons were sheep farmers in the Mudgee district that
had become accessible by Cox’s road and they were
well known for the quality of their wool.
Another son Alfred moved to New Zealand in the 1850’s as a sheep
in South Canterbury.

Select Cox Miscellany

Concentrations of the Cox Name.  Most
of the people named Cox have been found in
southern England during both the 1881 census and the more recent 1998

This leads us to believe
that the name evolved in this area, probably in one of the two most highly
concentrated areas of Dorset/Wiltshire or Oxfordshire/Berkshire.  The area with the highest concentration of people named Cox today is Oxfordshire, with the town of Abingdon being
the most
popular place for them to live.

Cox and the Monmouth Rebels.  There were 20 Coxes who took part in the West Country Monmouth
uprising of 1685 and were later rounded up.  The
largest numbers came from Taunton St.
Mary, Axmouth and Musbury.

These Coxes
fared better perhaps than some others.
Only two of the twenty were hanged and only two were transported
to the
Caribbean.  William Cox, a sergemaker at
Taunton St. Mary, escaped to Holland where he helped to manufacture
cloth.  He was pardoned in 1686 “if he
should return with his goods and effects within two calendar months.”

Tom Cox, Highwayman.  Born in Somerset sometime around 1666, Tom Cox was the younger son of a west country gentleman who grew up into a startlingly
youth with a penchant for women and gambling, passions which soon
swallowed up
his meager inheritance.  Egged on by the
shady characters with whom he spent his time, it was not long before he
persuaded to look to the highways to supplement his losses by relieving
more endowed of their guineas.

Tom was
just 25 years old when he met his Maker in 1691 on the gallows near
Newgate in
London.  He had been caught robbing a
farmer on Hounslow Heath.  The crowd
which gathered to witness his execution cheered this handsome
highwayman, still
immaculately dressed in his favorite white waistcoat and breeches and
a hat adorned with cherry-colored ribbons.

Jonathan Swift wrote the following verse on his hanging:

when his last speech the loud hawkers
did cry
He swore from his cart ‘It was
all a damned lie.’
hangman for
pardon fell down on his knee;
him a kick in the guts for his fee.”

Sir Richard Cox and His Linen Venture in Ireland.  The Gentleman’s Magazine of October 1749 had the following laudatory account of the activities of Sir Richard Cox:  

the year 1733 Sir Richard Cox came into the possession of a large,
fruitful, but uncultivated tract of land, inhabited by a race of
beggars, grown
by habitual wretchedness so hardened that, though sensible of the
smart, they
were not ashamed to prefer hunger and idleness to labor and competency.

therefore directed his thoughts to remedy
this evil; and wisely concluded that nothing but the establishment of a
manufacture on the premises would answer the purpose.

chose linen.  Having procured a quantity of
flax seed in
1735, he prevailed upon them to sow it.
By the dint of perseverance, and a series of admirable
expedients to
rectify his own mistakes, to render sloth infamous, to excite
emulation, and to
increase his colony, he has at last fixed on such an establishment that
fair to be perpetual.

little town has undergone a wonderful change.
In 1735 it contained at most but 50 houses, many of them fit
only for
beggars.  It now contains 117 houses,
whose inhabitants are fully employed.”

was in fact much praised for developing this linen industry around
Dunmanway in
county Cork.

Daniel Coxe in New Jersey.  Daniel Coxe was an eminent London physician who claimed
an earlier descent from Daniel Coxe of Somerset in the 13th century.  He purchased land in New Jersey in the 1680’s
but never went there.  He even later
served nominally as the colonial Governor of New Jersey.

son Daniel did visit his father’s North
American lands in 1702 and after returning to England twenty years
published an account of his travels and a description of the lands that
father had claimed.

claim was in
fact upheld in court in 1731 and hundreds of families were forced to
their own property from Colonel Coxe or be forcibly evicted.  The ensuing scandal was one of many injustices
that inflamed American anger against the British during the years
leading up
the Revolutionary War. There were lawsuits and riots.
Colonel Coxe was burned in effigy; but to no
avail.  As a result, many Hopewell residents left New Jersey
disgusted at what they perceived to be the colony’s rampant political

The Coxes of Onslow County.  Charles Cox arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1741 from either the Bahamas or Charleston, South
Carolina.  He was soon granted by the
English Crown 640
acres in the wilderness that was then Onslow county.
consideration of this land grant was that he should clear eighteen
acres within
three years and make the property his home.   He
met all of these conditions.

records show that Charles Cox began
to operate a grist mill there in 1745.
This mill operated continuously until 1931 and the nearby
mill-pond was
a familiar sight for later Coxes on the property.
These Coxes were Loyalists during the
Revolutionary War, as were most of their neighbors.  They
did not fight in the conflict.  However,
neither did they have to leave their
home after it was over.

Cox family
has lived continuously on the same farm in Onslow county through today.


Cox Names

was an early English trader for the East India Company in
William Cox was a pioneer
settler  and road-builder in Australia.
Richard Cox
was the originator of the “Cox’s Orange Pippin”
apple in Berkshire in 1825.
James Cox was Governor
of Ohio and campaigned on the Democratic ticket for the Presidency in
was US Solicitor General and later Special Prosecutor to
investigate the Watergate scandal.

Select Cox Numbers Today

  • 93,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Oxfordshire)
  • 108,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 55,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


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