Phillips Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Phillips Meaning
Phillips is patronymic, from the personal name Philip (from the Greek Philipos, a lover of horses). This name was popular probably because there were a number of early saints called Philip. The Philip name came to England from France probably sometime in the 12th century. 
The surname is not only English and Welsh, but also – as Philips – Dutch, Flemish, and north German as well. The numbers here are not large, just 3,000 in Flemish Belgium today and fewer elsewhere.  Anton and Gerard Philips were the Dutch industrialists who co-founded the electronics giant Philips in 1891.

Some Phillips are Jewish. An early example was Jonas Phillips who had arrived in America from Germany in 1756 and settled in Philadelphia. A more recent example is the British journalist Melanie Phillips.

Phillips Resources on

Select Phillips Ancestry

Wales.  Philip arrived as a personal name in Wales in the 14th century, initially as Ffylib or Phelip. Ffylib ap Jevan in Pembrokeshire in the 12th century was also referred to as Jevan Phillips.

It was taken as a surname by Sir Thomas Philipps who came to power and influence in Pembrokeshire in the early 1500’s under Henry VII.  Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries the Philipps – from their base at Picton castle – were the most powerful family in Pembrokeshire, exercising tremendous political, social and economic influence over all aspects of local life.

They adopted the Phillips spelling in the 18th
century and other families followed. The Phillips families of
Cwmgwili in Carmarthenshire and of Treygbi in Cardiganshire are believed to be related.

The Phillips family of Trelewelyn in
Pembrokeshire had assumed the Phillips name in the early 1600’s.  Thomas Phillips of this family was Sheriff of Pembrokeshire in 1667. Meanwhile
Peregrine Phillips, a Puritan preacher, was known as “the apostle of Pembrokeshire” in the mid 1600’s.

England. Phillips in England was to be found in
the west country, mainly in Cornwall (there are Phillip and Phillips records in Redruth dating back to the 1570’s).

Phillips was also to be found from an early time in Lincolnshire
and London. There were two Phillips literary brothers
in London who were friends and associates of the poet John
Milton. One Phillips London line began with the birth of
Thomas Phillips in Southwark around 1720. His son William
had three wives and a mistress and died a wealthy man

Phillips in England may have a connection
with the like-sounding surnames Phelps and Phipps also found in the west country. The Phelps of Tewkesbury in
Gloucestershire date from about 1500 and sometimes became Phillips.

Jacob Phillip arrived in London from Frankfurt in Germany in the early 1700’s. His son Arthur made his name in the British navy and undertook the responsibility for the first convict shipments to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788. He was Governor of the colony until 1792.

Scotland. Phillips travelled to Scotland also,
initially as Philp. Sir James Philp was curate at Abdie in the
late 1400’s. The name has been most
evident in Fife, particularly
around Dunfermline. But there are larger
Phillips numbers today in the Glasgow area.

Ireland. There were Welsh
Phillips who were granted land in the vicinity of Bandon, Cork in the
early 1600’s. Later the Phillips name cropped
up in the Cork parishes of Ballymoney and Kinneagh.

Thomas Phillips (originally Phelps), a Cromwellian soldier from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, was
granted land in Tipperary in the 1660’s and his family later made their home at Mount Phillips. Turn the clock forward two centuries and Francis Phillips of Cashel, Tipperary was first a poet and then a Sinn
Fein activist in the early 1900’s.

William Phillips from England was one of the
first settlers in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1637. He
was killed by Indians in 1671. But his
line continued, first in Rhode Island
and then in upstate New York. As
Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, they later moved north and made their home in Fredericksburg, Ontario.

The early Phillips in Maryland were from SW England. John
Phillips who acquired land in Dorchester
county in 1674 came from Cornwall. And
it is thought that Thomas Phillips, who was there around the same time, originated from Devon.

George Phillips, a Quaker of probable Welsh origin, came to
Bucks county, Pennsylvania in 1713. His descendants ended up in Indiana. A later arrival was the Rev. David Phillips from Pembrokeshire in 1755. He came with his three younger brothers and took
the well-trodden Welsh route to Chester county, Pennsylvania.

Canada.  John and Anne Phillips from New England moved to Quebec in the 1760’s following their son
John who had fought there against the French.
John’s son William became a flour merchant in Quebec. Some of his descendants headed west in the late 1800’s, crossing the border into Minnesota. Wendell Phillips departed for New Zealand in 1919.

John Phillips, a descendant of
William Phillips of Taunton, was a Loyalist who decamped to Canada in 1777
after his farm in New York state had been seized. He
and his family came initially to Missisquoi
Bay before settling in Hastings county, Ontario. Another
Loyalist, Matthew Phillips from New
Jersey, emigrated to New Brunswick in 1783.
His descendants settled in Sunbury county.

Australia. Samuel Phillips from Oxfordshire was an early
settler in Western Australia, arriving there in 1839 and over time becoming known as the “Squire”
of the Toodyay valley. His Culham home
is still held by descendants. Meanwhile
John Phillips from Bristol arrived in Sydney around 1850, married there, and was an early settler in Brisbane, Queensland.


Phillips Miscellany

The Phillips Name in England.  According to Charles Bardsley’s 1901 book Directory of English and Welsh Surnames,
Philip was first seen in France, being a name born by five kings of France, and was brought from France to England sometime in the 12th century.  Henry Phelipe, noted in the 1273 hundred
rolls of Norfolk, was one of the earliest recorded bearers of
the surname in England with a “Ph” spelling.

For patriotic reasons, because of the rivalry
with Spain, Philip ceased to be a popular given name in England at the time of Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada.

Early Phillips in Redruth

Year Event Name Comments
1575 Birth Agnes Philipp daughter of Thomas Philipp
1615 Marriage Michel Philipp married to Katerine Robins
1617 Birth John Philipp son of Michel Philipp
1623 Birth Julian Philip son of Joan Philip
1623 Birth Elizabeth Philip daughter of William Philip
1623 Marriage Jane Philip

The first spelling as Phillips did not appear until 1658.

Sir Thomas Philipps of Picton Castle.  Sir Thomas Philipps was the forebear of the powerful
Philipps family of Picton Castle which held sway over Pembrokeshire during the
16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

His grandfather was said to have been Meredith Philipps of Clisant, his father Phillip Philipps.  This Cilsant family
which had extensive lands in West Carmarthenshire was descended from a late
11th century lord of Blaen Cych named Cadifor Fawr.
Cadifor’s great grandson Aaron ap Rhys took
part in the Third Crusade and became a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher.  He is said to have added the golden collar
and chain to the back of the lion rampart insignia of the Philipps

However, other records have suggested
different ancestors.  Instead these
Philipps may have come from Kent and migrated west to Somerset by the 1460’s.

Thomas Philipp was born around 1465
and in 1491 married Joan Owen, heiress of the Wogan line, and thereby inherited
Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire.  He rose
to power and influence under Henry VII.
He was knighted in 1513 and became Sheriff of Pembrokeshire in 1516.

William Phillips – Three Wives, One Mistress, and A Dog.  His father Thomas Phillips claimed an exotic heritage, the
son of a Gaelic chieftain who had died at Culloden – a tall story
indeed.  He prospered as a gin distiller and pub owner
in London.  William the eldest son, born
in Southwark in 1752, built upon this family inheritance through some shrewd property investments.  He died a rich man.

William had three wives and at
least one mistress.  He married his first
wife Frances at St. Marylebone in 1777.
They had three children, the last of them being born in 1781.  Somewhere along the line he acquired a mistress, either while his first wife was still alive or as a widower.
They had a son named John, born in 1785.
In 1797 William married again to Elizabeth, a widow, but this
marriage proved short-lived as she died within the year.

William remained unmarried until 1815 when he wed Mary
Jane Abbiss, the daughter of a rich widow.  This widow had
died two years earlier, in which she named her brother and William Phillips as
guardians of her two children – including Mary Jane who was just fifteen when the will was written.  Could she ever
have imagined that Mary Jane would have ended up marrying her whose own children were ten to fifteen years older than Mary Jane.  She gave him two children.  And he
was in his sixties then!

A story often told about William was his rescue by a dog when he was about to drown.  One account went as follows:

“While bathing at Portsmouth Mr. William Phillips ventured out too far and was in imminent peril.
Two boatmen, instead of starting off to assist him, selfishly strove to make a hard bargain with some of the bystanders who were urging them. While the parley
was going on a Newfoundland dog, seeing the danger, plunged into the water and
saved the struggling swimmer.

It is pleasantly told that Mr. Phillips, in
gratitude for his deliverance, bought the dog from his owner and
thereafter gave an annual festival at which the dog was assigned the place of honor with a
good ration of beefsteaks. He had a picture of the dog painted by
Morland and engraved by Bartolozzi and the image of the dog put on all his table linen.”

Phillips Farmers in Pennsylvania and Indiana.  The Quaker George Phillips from Cheshire in England was an early arrival in Pennsylvania, disembarking on
the Delaware river from the Endeavor of
in early 1683.  By 1700 he had
made his home near the Welsh Quaker settlement of Gwynedd.
He and his wife Patience later moved to
Richland in Bucks county where they were among the area’s earliest settlers.

These Phillips were farmers
and over time migrated westward.   They
moved to Stokes county, North Carolina around 1790 and then in the 1820’s to
Indiana – first to Wayne county and later to the rolling pastures of Hendricks county in central Indiana.

Jonas Phillips and His Offspring.  Jonas Phillips, the son of Aaron Phillips, was said to
have been born in Frankfort, Germany in 1736.
At the age of twenty, he was on a ship to America, first to the
Jewish community in Charleston, South Carolina and later to Philadelphia where he was
a merchant and fought on the patriot side in the Revolutionary War.  He died in Philadelphia in 1803.

Many of his offspring were to distinguish themselves in 19th century America:

  • from his oldest son Naphtali came Isaac
    Phillips, an influential member of the New York Chamber of Commerce.
  • from his next son Benjamin came the
    playwright Jonas B. Phillips.
  • and from his youngest son Zalegman came the
    financier and congressman Henry Mayer Phillips.  His
    nephew Henry Phillips Jr. was an expert on
    American currency.



Select Phillips Names

  • Sir Thomas Philipps was the forebear of the powerful Philipps family which held Picton castle in Pemrokeshire from the early 16th century.
  • Anton and Gerard Philips co-founded the Dutch electronics company Philips in 1891.
  • Henry Phillips founded the American Screw Company in 1934 and was the man after whom the Phillips screwdriver was named.
  • William Phillips was the English economist after whom the term Phillips curve was named.
  • Frank Phillips, the oilman, founded the Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in the 1920’s.

Select Phillips Numbers Today

  • 122,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Essex)
  • 134,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 77,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Phillips and Like Surnames

Many surnames originated from SW England, the principal counties there being Devon and Cornwall, Somerset and Gloucestershire.  These are some of the prominent and noteworthy surnames that you can check out.



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