Lang Surname Meaning, History & Origin
The derivation is the pre-7th century word lang meaning
“tall” found in Old German, Dutch, Danish, English and Scots. Its use as a surname probably followed the
name being used as a nickname for a tall person.
The Lang spelling has
occurred in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary, as well
Scotland (where the spelling can also be Laing); while Lange has been
version in northern Germany and Scandinavia.
Long developed as the surname in England.
place-name Lang City in the ancient state of Lu adopted by the grandson
subsequent descendants of its ruler. Lang was also
adopted as a surname because it was a homophone for the Chinese word
Lang Resources on
- The Otto and Susanna Lange Family
Langes from Russia to America.
- The Lang Family
Langs from Scotland to Australia.
Langs and Langes number some 180,000 in Germany today. There are a further 30,000 Langs in other
German-speaking countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Hungary. Langes meanwhile total around 15,000 in
Scandinavia. There is also a smattering
in Belgium and Poland.
Most of the Langs
and Langes who came to America originated from Germany.
Some were from Scandinavia and a few from
Russia but, like Otto and Susanna
were from a German-speaking part of Russia.
England. There were early evidences of
Lang as a
surname in England. The name Aetheric
Langa appeared in Northamptonshire in 972; while Leofwine Lange
recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles in 1070.
But the pronunciation and spelling soon
became Long in most parts of the country.
The exception has been Devon where Lang as a surname first appeared in
the 14th century and has prevailed.
However, some have suggested that Lang here might have come from
place-name Langdon in south Devon.
Other Langs or Laings in England will generally be of Scots
descent. David Laing, for instance, moved from Scotland to
Cumberland in 1800. His descendants developed the John Laing
construction company in Carlisle. It remains family-held through
six generations before its sale in 2006.
Scotland. Here the pattern was
the other way. Early
documents showed Longus and Long spellings. But then the surnames
became Lang and Laing.
Laings outnumber Langs in Scotland by about
three to two. Laing has been found
along the east coast, from Edinburgh up to the Highlands and Orkney:
- a Laing
family first found near Edinburgh
included John Laing, the Bishop of Glasgow in 1474.
John Laing built Redhouse Castle near
Edinburgh in the 1590’s.
- Laings were also
prominent in the Highlands by this time.
- and the
early 17th century saw many Laings move to Orkney.
Later Laings from here included Malcolm
Laing, a Scottish historian of the early 1800’s, and Alexander Laing,
explorer who discovered Timbuktu in 1826 and then was murdered by his
Lang name has been more concentrated in the
Lowlands in Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire.
Langs have had a long connection with the town of Paisley in
Renfrewshire ever since its founding in 1488.
Ireland. As an Irish surname
Lang is thought to have originated from the Gaelic surname O’Longain. The main numbers
have been in Sligo, notably in Ballysadare parish.
Lang has also cropped up in Armagh and
elsewhere in Ulster.
America. There were some
early Lang and Laing arrivals from England and Scotland:
Lang from Devon was first recorded in Portsmouth in 1673 as a fisherman
Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire. These
Langs were recorded through five generations nearby at
Creek in H.P. Moore’s 1935 book A
Genealogy of the Lang Family.
- while John Laing was a Quaker from Aberdeen who came with
other Scottish Quakers to Plainfield, New Jersey in 1685. The
Laing House of this Plainfield plantation still stands and has been
listed as a historic house.
Langs of Camden county, Georgia descended from the Sagamore Creek Langs. Isaac Lang was the first of the family to
move there, in the early 1790’s, and his descendants remained prominent
county affairs for the next hundred years.
His son William Lang
a plantation there in 1820. David Lang,
son of William’s brother Robert, was a Confederate officer during the
and later a Florida politician.
largest number of Lang immigrants to America was from German-speaking
lands. They began arriving into
Pennsylvania in the early 1700's as religious refugees.
These early Langs, however, generally
anglicized their names to Long:
- this was
the case with Christian Lang who arrived from the Palatine in 1718 and
Lang from Hesse in 1722. Both settled
with their families as Longs in Lancaster county.
- George Lang meanwhile
in Philadelphia in 1751. He settled in
North Carolina in 1765 as George Long.
Some did remain Lang, such as the descendants of the
War veteran George Lang who was born in Bucks county in 1761. A number of his grandchildren fought as Langs
in the Civil War. However, these Langs
were Presbyterian in their religion – suggesting a Scottish ancestry.
Lang had migrated from upstate New York in the 1840’s to Ohio, to
later to Iowa and Nebraska. His son William Lang made his mark in
Colorado where, during a brief career in the 1880’s, he proved himself
one of the best residential architects the city has known.
Captain Oscar Lange was an early immigrant to
the Midwest from Europe. Born in Sweden,
he had first come to Boston in 1824 at the age of 13 to work as a
seaman. He came to Chicago in 1838 and
later was honored there as the oldest living Swedish immigrant in
Wisconsin was a
popular destination for Langes. A family
from Thuringia in Germany first began arriving in 1846.
They made their home in Jamestown township in
SW Wisconsin. Friedrich Lange came from
Posen in Prussia in 1866 and settled in Juneau county seven years later. August
Lange, also from Prussia, came to
Milwaukee in 1882. Meanwhile George
Oscar Lange arrived in Minnesota from Germany around the year 1910. His grand-daughter was the actress Jessica
Caribbean. Laings from Scotland came to Caribbean
plantations in the 18th century. Dr.
James Laing of Haddo, a medical man, acquired three estates in Dominica
1790’s. Malcolm Laing meanwhile had arrived to Jamaica earlier as an
for absentee plantation owners and became a Kingston merchant.
The Laing name remains in Jamaica. Isaiah
Laing has been dubbed “supercop” for
his work in the Jamaican constabulary between 1976 and 1996.
Australia. Australia had
two early Scots-born Lang immigrants:
- the first, Walter Lang, did not last long. He arrived
as a settler on the convict ship Minstrel in 1812 and built a fine
house for himself, Clydesdale House, in Parramatta. But he was
dead in 1816 at the age of 27. His son John became a journalist
in Australia and its first Australian-born novelist.
- the second, George Lang from Renfrewshire, arrived in Sydney
in 1821 and secured land along the Paterson river in Hunter
Valley. He too died young in 1825, at the age of 23. But
his father and brothers were able to establish the Dunmore estate on this
land. Another brother was J.D. Lang, the fiery Presbyterian
minister who became an early advocate for an independent Australia.
Lang, or “the
Big Fella,” as he was later known, became one of the most controversial
politicians in Australian history. Born
in 1876 into an impoverished Scots-Irish immigrant family (his father
Scottish, his mother Irish), he rose in Labor party ranks to be twice
of New South Wales. His second tenure
coincided with the onset of the Great Depression. He
advocated a more expansionary policy than
the Federal Government would contemplate and he was dismissed from his
1932. He was never in power again
although he remained active in politics.
His life was long and he died in 1975 at the age of 98.
Langs and Laings in Scotland. The following were the number of Langs and Laings recorded in the 1901
many sources have assumed that the name ‘Laing’ is
synonymous with the descriptive Old English name Lang, meaning a long
fellow, this may not be correct. The
alternative derivation of this Scottish name that has been suggested is
French Norman de le Ange or l’Ange
which means “angel.”
Meanwhile Lang may also have an alternative
derivation – from the place-name Langbank outside of Paisley in
George Lang’s Early Years in America. George Lang had arrived in Philadelphia from Germany in
1751. He was
bound to a family in Brandywine for whom he
labored the next dozen or so years and who presented him at the end of
servitude with a testimonial letter stating that he was a “quiet,
his younger brother Friedrich
“Since we could not
pay for our freight, we children had to serve with strangers until it
I was bound to the Quaker Richard Dutton in Chester county, whom I
served for ten
and a half years.”
In 1763 George Lang,
free at last, headed southwest along the Appalachian Mountains for the
Carolinas. With the
conclusion of the French and
Indian War, the frontier areas of the colonies were again safe for
settlement. He initially found
work in the Moravian community of Bethabara in
North Carolina and remained there for
over a year as a non-member laborer.
traveling into the area surrounding Bethabara, he especially liked the
along Deep Creek, a tributary of the nearby Yadkin river.
He also liked the 15-year-old Catherine
Miller whom he had met there. In April
1765 George and Catherine were married.
George was then anxious for his parents to join him on Deep
Creek and he
returned to Pennsylvania to fetch them. Once
there these Langs were recorded as Longs.
William Lang of Camden County, Georgia. William
Lang, the oldest son of Isaac and Catherine Lang, was born in Florida
1791, but was brought by his parents as a child to Camden county,
he lived the rest of his days. In 1820 he established his Cambray plantation
on the south side of the Great Satilla river.
The house, still standing in good condition, remains the residence of
one of Lang’s descendants. It is reputed
to be one of the oldest homes in Camden county.
The boards were hand-cut by slave labor and the chimneys made of
When William Lang
died at a young age in 1826, his wife Nancy took charge of the
farming operations with much success until her death in 1877.
The Langs of the Dunmore Estate in Hunter Valley. George Lang, the first of the
family to emigrate, was given a land grant of 1,000 acres and he chose
between the future villages of Largs and Paterson along the Paterson
river. However, George died in 1825 when
he was only 23.
to his father and brother, Andrew, to develop the estate which took his
mother Mary’s maiden name. They built Dunmore House, possibly as
early as 1827, on a hill between Maitland and the Paterson river and
overlooking a lagoon. The house has lasted well and remains one
of Hunter Valley’s finest early houses.
the Paterson district
when the Langs moved into Dunmore was sometimes uncertain.
There were occasional crises in black/white
relations and escaped convicts would range the bush looking for victims
rob. The most famous of these were the
Jewboy gang who raided Dunmore House, holding up the Langs in their
dining room, probably in 1840.
on a portion of the Dunmore
estate, the village of Largs was established when Andrew Lang persuaded
families, 120 people altogether, to become tenants on his property in
1837. They were emigrants from
poverty-ridden islands off the west coast of Scotland and had been
New South Wales by J.D. Lang. They
accepted Andrew Lang’s offer of clearing leases on a rent free basis
William Lang – His Rise and Fall. William Lang has been recognized as one of Denver’s best
residential architects. During a brief career in Denver, from 1885 to
built hundreds of buildings, many of which are still standing. Most of
recognized by the public today as distinguished.
physical appearance was striking. He was
5’8″ tall, weighing 155 pounds
with red hair, red whiskers and blue eyes which had a penetrating
quality. His dental work was gold and his
incisor must have been striking. He
dressed well and wore monogrammed shirts.
Unusual for architects of the time, he was listed in Mrs.
Hill’s Social Register of 1892.
to fame was meteoric as was the slide to personal disaster that ended
management of financial affairs had
been chaotic and by 1893 he was in serious financial trouble. His furniture was repossessed and he could
not even afford groceries. He lost his
affluent home on 1638 Washington two years later and this occasioned a
breakdown. He went to stay with his
brother. However, two years later,
dressed like a tramp, he wandered off and was killed by a passing train.
Otto and Susanna Lange. Otto Lange and Susanna Rode were children of German colonists who lived in Annette, part of the Volhynia German settlement
what was then the Russian Empire and is now Ukraine.
Russian government, not happy with the
German settlement, passed laws that denied educational opportunities,
illegal to sell land to anyone but a Russian, and established
military service. Not wanting to fight
in the Russian army, Otto at the age of 23 decided to emigrate to
arrived in Philadelphia in 1912 and came
to the Laona area of Wisconsin two years later in 1914.
In the early years there he would work 10-12
hour days at the Connor mill in addition to his farming, often walking
future wife Susanna, also
from Annette, had arrived in America earlier with her family. She worked for several years in Oklahoma as a
maid and babysitter for the family of Jim Thorpe, the man who won gold
at the 1912 Olympic Games. Susanna came to the Laona area in 1916 and
married Otto later that year.
addition to raising their nine children, Susanna would help with the
chores while Otto was working long days at the mill. When Susanna
in the United States she was unable to read and write English. But education was important to her. She would continually encourage her children
to get a good education which she herself had been denied.
- Cosmo Lang, the son of a Scots Presbyterian minister, was Archbishop of Canterbury during the time of the
controversial abdication crisis of 1936.
- R.D. Laing was a Scottish
psychiatrist who wrote innovately about issues of mental health. His best known work was the 1960 book The Divided Self.
- David Lange served as New Zealand’s Prime Minister between 1984 and 1989.
- Jessica Lange is a highly acclaimed American actress.
- K.D. Lang is a popular Canadian country singer/songwriter.
Select Lang Numbers Today
- 23,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 37,000 in America (most numerous in California)
- 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Select Lang and Like Surnames
The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland. They were fleeing religious persecution at home. Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them. Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York. Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names. Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.
The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft. They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up. And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.
Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.
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