Rose Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Rose Surname Meaning

The surname Rose comes from the name of the flower (rosa in Latin) and has English, Scottish, French and German roots. It could be a topographic name for someone who lived in a place where wild roses grew; or it could be a nickname for someone with a “rosy” complexion. 

The Yiddish royz of similar meaning gives the Jewish Rose; or Rose could be an abbreviation of a Jewish ornamental name such as Rosenberg.   

Rose Surname Resources on The Internet

Rose Surname Ancestry

  • from NE Scotland, SE England, Channel Islands, Holland, France and Germany and from Jewish emigrants
  • to Ireland (Limerick), America, Canada and Australia

The Rose surname exists today in Germany and France, as well as in the UK. The German numbers amount to some 20,000 and are mainly to be found in the north of the country. There were a significant number of Rose immigrants to America in the 19th century. French numbers are smaller.

Scotland.  Rose is a Scottish clan to be found in Nairn in the northeast of Scotland. Clan origins are uncertain. The first sighting of the Rose name was about 1220 when Hugh Rose of Geddes was witness to the foundation of Beauly Priory. His son Hugh acquired the lands of Kilravock through marriage. Castle Kilravock, built around 1460 on the banks of the river Nairn, has been the clan home since that time.

There have been twenty five chieftains of the Rose clan, of which nineteen had the name Hugh. Their history was less warlike than that of other Highland clans and the Roses, although entertaining Bonnie Prince Charlie at their castle, supported the British Government during the Jacobite uprisings. Hugh Rose’s 1848 book Family of Rose of Kilravock recounted their history over the centuries.

One junior Rose line led to George Rose, an 18th century English politician, and his grandson Hugh Rose, a British Field Marshal in Victorian times.

England. Roses in England are more numerous than in Scotland, but less conspicuous as a surname. The Rose name was mainly to be found in London and the southeast of England and in East Anglia.

SE England.  Rose appeared in Buckinghamshire village registers such as Waddesden, Haddenham, and Eythorpe in the early 16th century.  Robert Rose, a yeoman, acquired Grenville’s manor in Haddenham in 1569 and it stayed in the family for the next three hundred years.

Another Rose family was prominent in Wycombe in the 18th century, contributing a number of mayors to the town. Sir Philip Rose did well as a lawyer in London and acquired the Rayners estate in Buckinghamshire in the 1850’s. James Rose was a barge owner in Southwark who went bankrupt in 1788. But his son George prospered as a barrister and law reporter in London.

Channel Islands.  Rose, possibly because of French influence, is a Channel Islands name. John Rose, originally from Jersey, was mayor of Lyme Regis in Dorset in 1611 and a descendant, Thomas, was sheriff of the county a century or so later. Roses emigrated from Guernsey to Quebec in the 1840’s.

Jewish.  A Rose in England today may be the descendant of Jewish immigrants. Their numbers include Sir Stuart Rose, the Chairman of the British retailer Marks & Spencer, and two brothers Nikolas and Steven, one a prominent sociologist and the other a neuroscientist.

Ireland. One Rose family from Dorset, said to be Huguenot in origin, emigrated to Ireland in the 17th century and settled at Ahabeg in Limerick. Thomas Rose was mayor of Limerick in 1695 and the family remained important in Limerick life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

America. Early Roses in America were from England and Scotland.

Roses from England and Scotland.  Robert Rose of Wethersfield, Connecticut was an early arrival from England on the Francis in 1634. A later line of these Roses settled in the 1770’s in Rensselaer county in upstate New York. This is probably the largest Rose family, in terms of the number of descendants, in America.

The Rev. Robert Rose, an Anglican clergyman, came to Virginia from Morayshire in Scotland around 1725, having obtained land grants from King George II on the Piney and Tye rivers in Essex county. He was, according to his journals which have been preserved and other accounts, an energetic and very well-respected clergyman and planter. Christina Rose’s 1985 book Ancestors and Descendants of the Rev. Robert Rose covered his family’s story.

James Rose came to Chester county, Pennsylvania from Scotland in the years prior to the Revolutionary War. His son Dr. Robert Rose, who settled in Silver Lake township, has been credited with the early development of Susquehanna county in Pennsylvania. A line via Andrew Rose of Mercer county led to Mary Rose who married David McKinley. Their grandson was President William McKinley.

Another James Rose, from Surrey in England, came to Virginia in the early 1800’s.  His line led first to Ohio and then to Tippecanoe county in Indiana which was where Axl Rose – the lead singer of the rock band Guns ‘N Roses – was born in 1962.

Meanwhile Henderson, North Carolina can boast two famous Rose names. The first is Paul Howard Rose, the son of Thomas Bragg Rose of Seaboard, who started the Rose’s Store chain in Henderson in 1915. Charles Peete Rose was a tobacco farmer and general store owner in Henderson in the 1940’s. His son Charlie Rose became a well-known TV talk-show host.

Roses from Elsewhere.  There were also Roses in America that had come from Holland, Germany, and France:

  • the Dutch Roses were originally Roosa and had come to New Amsterdam on the Bontekoe in 1660. They settled in Ulster county, New York, many of them changing their name to Rose in the 1800’s.
  • German Rose families arrived in the 18th century, primarily into Pennsylvania. Friederich Roose, later Rose, came on the Osgood in 1750 and settled in York county, Pennsylvania. William Roos, later Rose, was in Albany county, New York by 1760. Descendants of William and his wife Elizabeth spread to other New York counties and westward to Ohio.
  • and Moses Rose was a Frenchman who had arrived in Louisiana in 1826 and got involved in the war with Mexico. This led him to Texas and the Alamo in 1836.

Jewish Roses.  If you are in New York and your name is Rose, the probability is that you are Jewish. Rose was a convenient abbreviation of one of the many Rose ornamental names such as Rosenberg that were born by Jewish immigrants. Notable among these Roses have been:

  • Baldy Jack Rose, a shady underworld figure in the 1910’s who ran the Rosebud gambling den in New York and after whom, it is believed, the Jack Rose cocktail was named.
  • Billy Rose, born in 1910 in New York, who was a prominent songwriter, showman, and impresario of the 1930’s and 1940’s; and David Rose, who arrived in New York in the 1930’s and made his name also as a songwriter and composer.
  • Alex Rose, who was active in New York labor unions and helped found the Liberal Party in the city in 1936. He led the party until his death in 1976. His son Herbert served as legal counsel to many of the Jewish organizations in the city.
  • and, most formidably, the Rose real estate empire founded by Samuel and David Rose in the Bronx in the 1920’s. Today their company Rose Associates manages more than 31,000 apartments in New York. The Rose family is a major benefactor to the city.  Marshall Rose, in real estate but apparently unrelated, made the headlines in 2000 when he married the actress Candice Bergen.

Ernestine Rose, born in Poland, had in fact arrived in New York with her British-born husband as early as 1836. She was, with Susan B. Anthony, one of the early proponents of women’s rights.

Canada. There were early Rose settlers from France in Quebec. Nicholas Rose arrived there from Paris in 1666.

Another Nicholas Rose, from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, came to Gaspe, Quebec in the 1840’s.  Scottish Highland incomers were:

  • John and Isabella Rose from Invergordon who reached Nova Scotia in 1818. They settled in New Glasgow.
  • and John Rose who came to Quebec with his parents in 1836. He prospered as a lawyer in Montreal and entered politics. He figured prominently at the time of Canadian federation in 1867.

Australia. Thomas Rose and his family from Dorset were among the group that had sailed from England in the Bellona and disembarked at Port Jackson in January 1793. These were the first families of free settlers to arrive in the colony. Hence the area where their land grants were made became known as Liberty Plains.  

“Quite homely, unassuming and industrious, Thomas Rose belonged to that humble band of men who, in a rough and licentious age, helped to lay the foundations of an ordered social life in a new country.”

Another Thomas Rose – this time from Shropshire and sentenced to transportation for house-breaking – arrived in Sydney on the Barwell in 1798. He prospered there, setting up a bakery in 1804 and later the Rose and Crown Inn. At Mount Gilead where he lived from 1827 until 1837, he won fame for his building of a giant windmill to ground flour.

“Possessed of great drive, energy and an excellent business sense, Thomas Rose was one of those enterprising men who arrived in the colony as convicts and went on to win wealth and respectability in the tough economic society of their new land. He was remembered as a colorful figure in the early commercial and sporting life of Sydney.”

Colorful probably meant two marriages and relations with two other women that produced children.

Rose Surname Miscellany

Rose Clan Origins.  Rose clan origins are uncertain.  There are two main theories.

One theory has it that Hugh Rose of Geddes came over from Ireland to Scotland in the 12th century and that the Roses were originally vassals of the old Earls of Ross.

The other theory, which the Rose chiefs tend to believe, is that they were English or rather Norman in origin.  The name derived from Ros, near Caen in Normandy, a fiefdom of Bishop Odo de Ros who was the brother of William of Normandy.  The Norman descent comes from the notion that the first clan Chief Hugh Rose was a protege of this Bishop Odo.

The Rose clan is unique in one way among Scottish clans. Since its formation the Chief has always been passed down in succession from father to son.  And the name of the first born is normally Hugh Rose.  Only twice in its history, as at present, has there been no male heir and it was passed down to the oldest daughter who has always been named Elizabeth.

An Epitaph for Miss Rose.  In the 18th century London’s Gentleman’s Magazine printed an epitaph on Miss Rose, the niece of Hugh Rose of Kilravock, which ran as follows:

  • “Here lies a Rose, a budding
  • Rose Blasted before her bloom
  • Whose innocence did sweets disclose
  • Beyond that flower’s perfume.
  • To those who by her death are grieved
  • This consolation’s given:
  • She’s from a world of woe relieved
  • And blooms a Rose in Heaven.”

Sir Philip Rose of Wycombe and Rayners.  Philip Rose was born into a leading Wycombe family in 1816. When only 25, as a junior partner in a firm of London solicitors, he was dismayed to discover that no hospital would treat one of his clerks for consumption.  Undeterred, he used his formidable drive and energy to establish the now world-famous Brompton Hospital, with Queen Victoria as patron and Prince Albert laying the foundation stone.

He earned his fortune as a solicitor during a time of rapid expansion of the railway system.  Benjamin Disraeli was a close friend and he managed his legal and financial affairs, as well as acting as national agent for the Conservative Party.  He and Disraeli bought their local estates at the same time, Disraeli at Hughenden and Philip Rose at Rayners.

He took on the role of squire and Rayners became the focus of all village celebrations, employing two thirds of the adult population as estate workers or tenants.  In 1854, using largely his own money, he built St. Margaret’s church there.   He also built St. Margaret’s Institute in order to try and keep working men out of pubs.  In 1875 he laid the foundation stone of the school which was completed 10 months later.  He was also five times mayor of Wycombe and the first man in 1896 to own a car in Wycombe.

Sir Philip’s legacy was continued by his son who hosted a grand firework display in “Celebration of Victory and Peace” at Rayners in July 1919.

Rev. Robert Rose in Virginia.  The following was one story about the Rev. Robert Rose, or Parson Rose as he was called:

“Parson Rose, hearing of the distress of the people, gave information by advertising that he had a quantity of corn which he could spare and that all those wishing to get a share should come to his house on a certain day.

When they had all arrived, he asked that they should form a line.  When the line was formed he asked the applicants whether they had the money to buy the corn.  Many rejoiced and cried out: ‘We have the money,’ while the greater portion, with looks and eyes cast down, said: ‘We have no money.’

The parson said with good humor to those with money: ‘As you have money, you are able to get corn anywhere.  But as to these poor people who have no money, they are to get my corn.’  And it was so done.”

When the city of Richmond was about to be laid out, he was invited, by those to whom the duty was entrusted, to meet with them and thus be aided by his counsel.  It was while thus engaged that he sickened and died.   He was buried in the graveyard of the old church on Richmond Hill, with the following inscription:

“Here lyeth the body of Robert Rose, the rector of Albemarle parish.  His extraordinary genius and capacity in all the polite and useful arts of life, though equalled by few, were yet exceeded by the great goodness of his heart.  Humanity, benevolence, and charity ran through the whole course of his life, and were exerted with uncommon penetration.

In his friendship he was warm and steady; in his manners gentle and easy; in his conversation entertaining and instructive.  With the most tender piety he discharged all the domestic duties of husband, father, son and brother.

In short, he was a friend of the whole human race, and upon that principle a strenuous asserter and defender of liberty.  He died on the 30th day of June, 1751 in the 47th year of his age.”

Moses Rose at the Alamo.  Moses Rose, born in France, had served in Napoleon’s army, and was later involved in a plot to restore Napoleon. The plot having failed, he was expelled from France and left for America.  He made his way to Texas and in 1826 was a part of a company which wrested the town of Nacogdoches from Mexican control.

Being an adventurous soul, he later joined another Texas revolutionary army under the command of Jim Bowie. He again marched to capture Nacogdoches from the Mexicans.  After the victory, the town was wild with joy and admiration and Moses Rose found himself now a prominent citizen of the town, as well as a close friend of Jim Bowie.  This friendship is what would later bring him to the Alamo.

Rose survived the Alamo and later returned to Nacogdoches.  He found he was not welcome.  “Remember the Alamo” rung in everyone’s ears.  When they recalled their dead, Rose was remembered as a betrayer for not sticking with those brave men during their final days.  The last few years of his life were spent with the lingering contempt of those that knew him.

It was only much later that the truth started to get out. Moses did witness the last days of the Alamo.  Escape at that time might have appeared impossible.  But escape he did under the cover of darkness and he was able to get through the Mexican lines.  

The Rose Family Reunion in Nova Scotia.  In 1888 the descendants of John Rose celebrated the 70th year of the landing of the Rose family in Pictou by holding a picnic on the grounds of David Sinclair in Chance Harbor.   David was a descendant of the Rose family on his mother’s side.

At about 11 am the gathering commenced.  Between 80 and 90 partook of the bounties of a well supplied table. At the head of the table was seated Alex. Garvin of Pictou, the husband of her who in her youthful days was Alexandrena Rose and who was the only one of the family that had crossed the Atlantic of those present.

After tea, Mr. D. C. Rose made a few remarks in which he said:

“We meet today to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the landing of the Rose family in the county of Pictou. We meet to honor the memory of our parents.

To Alexander Rose of Invergordon, Scotland, as far back as I can trace the family, on the parental side.  He was a kind and well to do ferryman between Invergordon and Cromarty.

Isabella Calder was married to John Rose, son of Alexander, and they emigrated to Nova Scotia with a family of three boys and five girls in 1818 on board the Rowena of Aberdeen.  Their old motto Ever Constant has been the history of the descendants of the family, as farmers, sailors, miners or merchants.  May the latter motto, “I dare” be ever yours to do the right.”

The gathering was a very pleasant one.

The Jack Rose Cocktail.  Jack Rose is the name of a classic cocktail that was popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  It contains applejack, grenadine, and lemon or lime juice.  The cocktail appeared in a scene in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises when Jake Barnes, the narrator, drinks a Jack Rose in the Paris Crillon hotel bar while awaiting the arrival of Lady Brett Ashley.

The origin of the cocktail is uncertain.  Some think it was named after or even invented by the gambler Baldy Jack Rose.   A New York underworld figure, he had opened a gambling den on Second Avenue known as The Rosebud.  He was such a popular figure there that the legend of the Jack Rose began.

Harvey’s Famous Restaurant in Washington, DC claimed to be its originator.  In 2003 the Washington Post published an article that chronicled two writers’ quest to find a Jack Rose in a Washington DC bar.  After visiting seemingly countless bars, they were unsuccessful in finding one.

The Rose Family in New York.  The Rose family has made a lot of money in New York real estate and given a lot away – quietly, but not entirely anonymously.

There are the Roses of the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the Natural History Museum; of Rose Hall and the Rose Building and Rose Rehearsal Studio at Lincoln Center; of the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library. Current or past generations of the dynasty have sat on many of the city’s most exclusive boards, from the Philharmonic to the Botanical Garden.  At Yale, from which nearly every family member graduated, they built the Rose Alumni House.

“It has been long inculcated in the third generation of the Rose family, which is my generation, that we have a deep obligation to give back to the place from which we have gained so much,” said Adam R. Rose, the current President of Rose Associates, “and that place is New York City.”

Adam Rose is in fact one of the few Roses of the family who still work at Rose Associates.  His sister Isabel remarked:

“I’m very interested in the trajectory of ambition over the course of generations, and what success does to people.  It usually starts in the first, hits biggest in the second, and by the time the third gets to it, they are the writers and the poets and the intellectuals because they could.”

Gideon Rose of his generation is the managing editor of Foreign Affairs magazine; while Jonathan Rose started his own real-estate enterprise, Rose Companies.

Rose Names

  • Hugh Rose acquired the barony of Kilravock through marriage around 1280 and is the forebear of the Scots Rose clan.
  • Ernestine Rose was, with Susan B. Anthony, one of the early proponents of women’s rights in America.
  • Billy Rose, born Billy Rosenberg, was an American showman and impresario of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
  • Pete Rose was an outstanding baseball switch-hitter whose reputation was tarnished by his addiction to gambling.
  • Sir Stuart Rose has been the Chairman of the British retailer Marks & Spencer.
  • Axl Rose is the lead singer of the rock band Guns ‘N Roses.

Rose Numbers Today

  • 48,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 57,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 31,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Rose and Like Jewish Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.



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Written by Colin Shelley