Li Name Meaning

Chinese : from a character meaning ‘minister’. This was part of the title of Gao Yao, a great-grandson of the legendary emperor Zhuan Xu, who became famous as a minister under the model emperors Yao and Shun in the 23rd century bc; he was the first to introduce laws for the repression of crime. His descendants adopted this part of his title as their surname. The use of this name continued for over a millennium to the twelfth century bc, down to the rule of the last king of the Shang dynasty, the despotic Zhou Xin. Li Zhi, the head of the Li clan at that time, displeased Zhou Xin and was executed, leaving the rest of the clan facing imminent disaster. They fled, and nearly starved to death, surviving only by eating a fruit called mu zi. When the characters for mu and zi are combined, they form the character for plum, pronounced Li. In token of this salvation, the clan changed their name to the current character for li ‘plum’. Li is now the most common surname in China. Among the many famous bearers are Lee Kwan Yew, prime minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990; Lee Teng-hui, president of Taiwan from 1988; Li Peng, prime minister of China from 1988; and Bruce Lee (1941–73), movie actor. Chinese : from the name of a state of Li (in present-day Shanxi province), which existed during the Shang dynasty (1766–1122 bc). Descendants of the state’s rulers adopted the name of the state as their surname. Chinese : this character for Li is an altered form of 1 above. Norwegian: habitational name from any of numerous farmsteads named Li, from Old Norse hlíð ‘mountain slope’, ‘hillside’.

Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press

Similar surnames: Ji, Lu, Qi, Liu, Pi, Ni, Lai, Lin, Yi, Sui

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Li Family Origin

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Li Family Occupations

What did your Li ancestors do for a living?

In 1921, Labourer was the top reported job for people in the CA named Li. 50% of Li men worked as a Labourer

View Census data for Li | Data not to scale

Top Male Occupations in 1921

  • Labourer
  • Partner

*We display top occupations by gender to maintain their historical accuracy during times when men and women often performed different jobs.

Li Historical Records

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Census Record

There are 48,000 census records available for the last name Li. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Li census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

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Passenger List

There are 69,000 immigration records available for the last name Li. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in Canada, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

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Draft Card

There are 78,000 military records available for the last name Li. For the veterans among your Li ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

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Li Life Expectancy

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Between 1958 and 2004, in the United States, Li life expectancy was at its lowest point in 1960, and highest in 1980. The average life expectancy for Li in 1958 was 71, and 69 in 2004.

View Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for Li

Famous Li Family Ancestors

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