Price Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Price Surname Meaning

Price and Pryce are surnames common among those of Welsh ancestry, as they are an anglicized form of the Welsh patronymic ap Rhys, meaning “son of Rhys.” Rhys also left the surnames Rees, Rice and Preece. Pryce continues to be a variant spelling of Price.

Price Surname Resources on The Internet

Price and Pryce Surname Ancestry

  • from Wales and Western England
  • to America, Caribs (Jamaica), Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Wales.  Two early Pryce/Price lines in Wales each began from the Welsh ap Rhys.

The Prices of Rhiwlas in present day Gwynedd had an ap Rhys lineage that went back to the 11th century. Rhys ap Meredydd (Rhys Fawr) fought for Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field in 1485 and was suitably rewarded. The Price spelling was adopted sometime around 1600. This family remained influential in what was then Merionethshire until the 20th century.

The Pryces of Montgomeryshire meanwhile began in the 14th century, followed by Rhys who was slain during the Wars of the Roses in 1469. This line continued with various sheriffs during the 16th and 17th centuries and with Sir John Pryce of Newton Hall, MP and baronet, and ended in 1791.  Matthew Pryce, a Montgomery MP in the late 1600’s, belonged to a cadet branch of the family at Llanwnog.

Montgomeryshire continued to be an outpost for the Pryce name. Curiously. Hugh Price, a draper at Dogellau in Merionethshire, had three sons born in the 1830’s who all had or took the Pryce spelling and became clergymen – the Rev. Hugh, John, and Shadrach Pryce.  Shadrach became Dean of St. Asaph in 1899.  

There were Prices in north Wales.  One line here began with the marriage of William and Ellin Price at Llanhairn in Caernarvonshire in 1775.  Later Prices were master mariners who made their home in Anglesey.  

Glamorgan.  By the 19th century, however, more Welsh Prices were to be found in Glamorgan in south Wales.

Thomas Price was one of the three partners in the Dowlais ironworks in the 1760’s (said to have been the largest in the world at that time).  The Neath Abbey ironworks meanwhile were developed by Peter Price, a Quaker from Cornwall, in the late 1700’s and subsequently expanded by his son Joseph.

William Price, the son of an Anglican minister, was born near Caerphilly in 1800.  He became passionate about Welsh culture and set himself up as a Druid, founding a religious Druidic group at his home at Llantrisant that attracted many followers.  He is commemorated in the town by a statue and memorial garden.

Price gypsies have been present in Glamorgan from the early 1900’s and probably earlier.  They are thought to have descended from Henry Price, a shoemaker, and Elenor Ingram who married in Shrewsbury in 1803.

England. Prices crossed the border into England.

  • Prices from Montgomeryshire settled in Shropshire in the 16th century. Thomas Price was vicar of Shrewsbury and his son, the Rev. Thomas Price, was chaplain to Charles I before he became King.
  • Robert Price from Denbighshire, a prominent lawyer and judge, acquired the Foxley estate in Herefordshire in 1691. His descendant Sir Uvedale Price wrote with some persuasion about architecture and design a hundred years later.  
  • while the Prices of Trengwainton in Cornwall were descended from Welsh plantation owners in Jamaica, Rose Price acquiring the property in 1814. Many of them served in the British army. Dennis Price was a film and TV actor in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

By the time of the 1881 census, the largest number of Prices in England was in Staffordshire and Lancashire.

SE England.  Price also emerged, independently of the Welsh, as a surname in southeast England. It is thought possibly to have derived there from the Old French pris and denoted someone who set prices.

America. John Price came to Jamestown in Virginia either in 1611 or 1620. His descendants were Virginia planters until the time of the Civil War.

Pennsylvania.  Edward ap Rees was a Quaker from Wales who came to Pennsylvania in 1682 and purchased land at Lower Merion in Montgomery county.  Over time Rees became Prees and then Price.   Four generations later, Joseph Price was one of the township’s most important citizens, as the plaque on the house he built in 1803 revealed:

“Quaker farmer, innkeeper, undertaker, militiaman, diarist, saw mill operator, milestone installer, carpenter, turnpike supervisor, patriot, concerned citizen.”

Joseph Price began his diary in 1788 when he was thirty-five and the last entry was three days before his death forty years later.

Rees Prees, also a Quaker, came sometime in the 1680’s.  His Price line is thought to have led to Russell county, Virginia in the 1770’s where the splendidly-named Crabtree Price was born.  In 1836 he emigrated to Greene county, Missouri where he farmed.  One of his sons William became a judge there, another John a Confederate colonel during the Civil War (which he survived despite being captured twice).

Another Prees line in Pennsylvania was in Anson county, North Carolina by 1750.   There followed Alfred Price, who founded in the 1840’s the Wilmington Journal (the first daily newspaper in the state), and Thomas F. Price, a Roman Catholic priest and pioneer missionary.

Elsewhere.  One line under Captain John Price migrated to Kentucky in the 1790’s.  Samuel W. Price, born there, was a Union General during the Civil War. He, however, lost his sight in his later years.

Other Price lines were to be found in Missouri. Sterling Price became Governor of Missouri in 1852.  Known to his troops as “Old Pap,” he ended up a General on the Confederate side in the Civil War. His two sons Edwin and Celsus were both colonels in the Confederate army. 

Caribbean. Francis Price from Wales was an army captain in the English capture of Jamaica in 1655.  He stayed on and his descendants grew wealthy from Worthy Park and their other Jamaican sugar plantations.

Welsh Pryces were reported in Jamaica in the 1850’s. George Pryce left Jamaica for America as a young man in the 1880’s and graduated as a young “black” doctor in Tennessee. He went on to found Pryce’s Pharmacy in Los Angeles, a drugstore on the corner of Pryce Street which is run by his grandson today.

Canada.  Edmund Price, born in Wales, was an early settler in New Brunswick, arriving there with his family from New Jersey in 1767 and making his home along the St. John river.

William Price was a pioneer of the Canadian lumber trade. Coming from an impoverished Welsh family in London, he arrived in Quebec in 1810 as a young man with a mandate to supply lumber for the British navy.

In the succeeding years, his name became synonymous with the development of the Seguenay region as a timber producer. The family pulp and paper empire continued into the 20th century. The old company headquarters, Price House, is today a landmark in Quebec City and the location of the Quebec Premier’s official residence.

Australia.  James Price was convicted of larceny in London in 1832 and transported on the Lotus to Tasmania.  He had left his wife behind in England but was allowed to marry again in Tasmania.  He and his new wife moved to Geelong, Victoria in the 1840’s.

New Zealand.  Several Prices from Hergest Court and environs in Herefordshire came to New Zealand to work at the Hunter family’s sheep station in Hawke’s Bay in the early 1880’s.  First came Edward, then his cousin John, perhaps following Frederick who had already established himself there.

Price Surname Miscellany

The Prices of Rhiwlas.  The Prices of Rhiwlas in north Wales can trace their ancestry back to the early 11th century and Marchwesthian, a prince and chieftain of the House of ap Rhys at Rhiwlas.

Rhys ap Meredydd (Rhys Fawr) fought for Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field in 1485.  He was a huge man and, according to legend, slew the English King Richard III with his own hands.  His son Sir Robert ap Rhys served Henry VII and was a cross-bearer to Cardinal Wolsey in the 1530’s.

The Price name, or initially the Welsh Prys or Pryse version, was adopted sometime in the 1570’s.  William Price was an MP for Merioneth in 1636 and was later a captain in the Royalist army. The Price family remained influential in Merionethshire during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Pryces of Montgomeryshire

Rhys slain in 1469
Thomas Pryce
sheriff of Montgomery in 1548
John Pryce sheriff of Montgomery in 1566-86
Edward Pryce sheriff of Montgomery in 1615
Sir John Pryce baronet and MP in 1640
Sir Matthew Pryce baronet and sheriff in 1659-60

Rhys had been killed fighting in the War of the Roses on King Edward IV’s side at the Battle of Danesmoor in Northamptonshire in 1469.

The Eccentric William Price.  Dr. William Price, widely labelled during his lifetime as radical and eccentric, was later remembered by some as “one of the great Welshman of all time.” There is a permanent exhibition and statue dedicated to him in the town of Llantrisant in Glamorgan where he lived for most of his life.

Born in 1800, he was well-known for his support of Welsh nationalism and Chartism, and for his involvement in the Neo-Druidic sect.  At this phase of his life he began developing an appearance unconventional for his time, wearing a fox fur hat and emerald green clothing and growing his beard long and not cutting his hair.  He also tried holding Druidic events, but nobody turned up.

At a time when burning bodies was considered a sacrilege, this was the man who cremated his own dead son, whom he had named Jesus Christ Price, on Llantrisant Common in 1884 even charging admission to the public.  Price was arrested and put on trial by those who believed cremation was illegal in Britain.  However, he successfully argued that there was no legislation that specifically outlawed it.  Upon his own death in 1893, he was cremated in a ceremony that was watched by 20,000 onlookers.

Price Gypsies in South Wales.  These were some newspaper clippings about the Price gypsies.

1906.  “Josiah Price, a gypsy, was brought up at Merthyr police court today charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Caradog Price, his cousin, who is also a member of the Romany tribe.”

1909.  “Gypsy killed near Garnant, run over on the railway line.  On Saturday night, whilst an old gypsy named Price was walking on the railway line between Brynamman and Garnant, he was knocked down by a. OWR train and killed.  The deceased was aged 92 years.  His forehead and the side of his face were gashed and one leg broken in several places. The body lies at the Brynamman Hotel.”

1919.  “A gypsy woman by the name of Aschella Price, born at Shrewsbury 103 years ago, was seen at Seven Sisters one day this week.”

1923.  “Gypsy centenarian woman who lived for 107 years.  A gypsy woman, Askella Price, who died at the age of 107, was buried at Cardiff on Thursday. She was the widow of Josiah Price, a member a gypsy family, who lived for many years in a caravan.”

The Prices at Foxley.  Robert Price from Giler in Denbighshire, like the Prices of Rhiwlas, had claimed a lineage that went back to the Welsh prince Marchwesthian in the early 11th century.  He was a leading judge and lawyer in the court of Charles II and became Baron of the Court of Exchequer in 1702.

He had, after his marriage, acquired a partial interest in the ancient wooded estate of Foxley in Herefordshire.  This became a full interest when he bought out the other partners in 1714.  He started work on a new Grand House for the estate in 1719.

Robert Baron Price died in 1733 and it was the generations that followed that involved themselves in the beautification of Foxley through landscaping and gardening:

  • Uvedale Tompkins Price (1685-1764)
  • Robert Price (1717-1761)
  • Sir Uvedale Price (1747-1829)
  • and Sir Robert Price (1786-1857).

They were patrons of the arts as well, in particular of the portrait painter Gainsborough.  The best known of these Prices was Uvedale Price, who wrote the Essay on the Picturesque, As Compared with the Sublime and The Beautiful in 1794.  This treatise, much discussed at the time, argued that the preferred mode of landscaping should be to retain old trees, rutted paths and textured slopes, rather than to sweep them all away in the style that had been popularized by Capability Brown.

John Price of Jamestown.  John Price from Montgomeryshire, aged 36, arrived at Jamestown in 1620 (although other reports have him arriving earlier in 1611 on the Starr).  He was one of those who, after the Indian massacre of 1622, assumed a greater importance within the new colony, being one of the eleven counsellors for the provisional government.

John Price died in 1638.  His principal heirs were his sons Mathew and John.  Their descendants lived in Henrico county and, from 1750 to the Civil War, in Prince Edward county where they operated the Weaver tobacco plantation. 

Joseph Price’s Diary.  Joseph Price, born in 1752, was the fourth generation of that Quaker family to live in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. He began his diary when he was 35 and the last entry was made three days before his death at age 75. 

His daily entries were made on odd scraps of paper, over 3,000 of them, that he carried around with him, loosely fastened together with string. This extraordinary forty-year document offers a treasure trove of details of Lower Merion life in that era and a testament to the varied skills and interests of an extraordinary ordinary man. 

He would start every day with a weather report – where the wind was, whether it was cold, hot, wet or dry.  He only mentioned the thermometer once in forty years so he apparently had no access to one.  It was quiet.  It was dark. He mentioned the Northern Lights many times; how they would wait after evenings meetings until the moon came up. 

We find out a lot about money, food, recreation and the position of married women (all property belonged to the husbands). There were detailed reports on weddings, daily work, education, crime and punishment and various social problems. 

Health band mortality fascinated him. He reported treatment methods – bleeding, plasters, laxatives.  Alcoholism was something that carried many men off.  There were many arguments at harvest time and a lot of drinking and fights.  He talked about many suicides and, surprisingly, depression. 

William Price to Quebec.  William Price was born in 1789 into a well off and well-educated Welsh family originally from Glamorgan. However, his father died in 1803, leaving the family with eight children under 21 years of age, a large but old mansion in the outskirts of London, and a crippling debt.  The home was turned into a boarding house to support the family. 

The oldest son Richard, hot headed and quick-tempered, soon left the nest.  His shipping business took him various places but he ended up marrying and staying in Chile.  The next David, also involved in shipping, also travelled widely before returning to England.  Neither of them was that successful in their business lives, although Richard’s son Sam did make a fortune during the California gold rush. 

William was the next son, aged fourteen when his father died.  He too worked for David’s shipping company and in 1810, at the age of twenty one, was sent to Quebec as a clerk.  He saw the new opportunities in timber in Canada and by 1820 had started with three partners his own lumber company. 

Much of this early material comes from The Story of William Price, put together by Alice Sharples Baldwin in 1978 from a box of old letters that was discovered in the Price family home on the banks of the St Lawrence river in Quebec City.


Price Names

  • Richard Price was a Welsh moral and political philosopher of the 18th century.
  • Thomas Price, known by his bardic name Carnhuanawc, was a Welsh historian of the early 19th century.
  • William Price was a pioneer of the Canadian lumber trade in the early 19th century.
  • William Price was a 19th century physician and eccentric, best known today for his promotion of cremation.
  • Vincent Price was an American actor known for his performances in horror movies.
  • Dick Price was co-founder in 1962 of the Esalen Institute in California.
  • Jonathan Pryce is a well-known Welsh stage actor who has made his name in musicals.
  • Nick Price from Zimbabwe is one of the leading golfers of the world.

Price Numbers Today

  • 106,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 88,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 42,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Price and Like Surnames  

Hereditary surnames in Wales were a post-16th century development.   Prior to that time the prototype for the Welsh name was the patronymic, such as “Madog ap Jevan ap Jerwerth” (Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth).  The system worked well in what was still mainly an oral culture.

However, English rule decreed English-style surnames and the English patronymic “-s” for “son of” began first in the English border counties and then in Wales. Welsh “P” surnames came from the “ap” roots, such as Price from “ap Rhys.”

These are some of the present-day Welsh surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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