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 Ethnicity Estimate

What are the common regions with the Li name?

These results combine data from everyone in the AncestryDNA® database with the last name Li. The Ancestry® ethnicity regions shown are top five most common on average for these people.

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  • China

    60%

  • Korea & Northern China

    22%

  • England & Wales

    5%

  • Southeast Asia—Dai (Tai)

    2%

  • Ireland & Scotland

    2%

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Li Family Origin

Where is the Li family from?

Li Family Occupations

What did your Li ancestors do for a living?

In 1880, Laborer and Cigar Maker were the top 2 reported jobs worked by Li. The most common Li occupation in the USA was Laborer. 67% of Li's were Laborers.

View Census data for Li | Data not to scale

  • Laborer

    67%
  • Cigar Maker

    33%

United States shown, Canada data unavailable

Census records can tell you a lot of little known facts about your Li ancestors, such as occupation. Occupation can tell you about your ancestor's social and economic status.

Li Historical Records

What Li family records will you find?

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.

Search 1881 Canadian census records for Li

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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You've only scratched the surface of Li family history.

Li Life Expectancy

What is the average Li lifespan?

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

An unusually short lifespan might indicate that your Li ancestors lived in harsh conditions. A short lifespan might also indicate health problems that were once prevalent in your family. The SSDI is a searchable database of more than 70 million names. You can find birthdates, death dates, addresses and more.

Famous Li Family Ancestors

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