Show ContentsRao History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The history of the name Rao begins in the Scottish/English Borderlands with a family of Strathclyde-Briton ancestry. It is a name for a person known as a timid or shy person. Further research revealed that the name is derived from the Old English word ray, that referred to a roe or female deer. [1]

Early Origins of the Rao family

The surname Rao was first found in Cumberland at Gill, in the parish of Bromfield which belonged to the family from the time of William the Lion, king of Scotland (died 1214.) "Tradition says, that the original Ray was a faithful adherent of the Scottish monarch, by whom he was greatly esteemed, for his extraordinary swiftness of foot in pursuing the deer and who gave him the estate. The tenure was by a pepper-com rent, with the stipulation, that the name of William should be perpetuated in the family. This was strictly observed from generation to generation, until the latter half of the last [of the 18th] century, when the Mr. William Reay in possession gave to the ' hope of the house ' the name of John. " [1]

Thomas filius Ray witnessed confirmation by Alexander, son of Walter, of his father's gift to the church of Paisley in 1239. [2]

While there is no doubt of the family's origin in the north of England, the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list Reginald le Raye, in Oxfordshire; Nicholas le Ray in Suffolk; and Richard le Ray in Cambridgeshire. [3]

Early History of the Rao family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Rao research. Another 245 words (18 lines of text) covering the years 1350, 1376, 1465, 1487, 1530, 1558, 1612, 1627, 1670, 1671, 1705, 1748 and 1890 are included under the topic Early Rao History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rao Spelling Variations

The variation in the spelling of Medieval names is a result of the lack of spelling rules in the English language prior to the last few hundred years. Before that time, scribes spelled according to sound, often varying the spelling of name within a single document. Rao has appeared as Rae, Rea, Ree, Ray and others.

Early Notables of the Rao family

Notable amongst the family at this time was William Rae (d. 1376) a 14th century Bishop of Glasgow. Centuries later, John Ray (1627-1705) was an English naturalist, who was one of the early botanical and zoological systematists, eponym of the fish named ray.James Rae (1671-1748), was a Scottish mechanic and historian, son of a clockmaker, born at Dumfries. He...
Another 58 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Rao Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rao Ranking

In the United States, the name Rao is the 7,375th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [4]

Ireland Migration of the Rao family to Ireland

Some of the Rao family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 70 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Rao migration to the United States +

As the persecution of Clan families continued, they sailed for North America in increasing numbers. In most cases, they found the freedom and opportunity they sought. Land was often available and the American War of Independence allowed Scots an opportunity to solidify their independence from the English crown. These settlers and their ancestors went on to play essential roles in the forging of the nations of the United States and Canada. Among them:

Rao Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Salvatore Rao, aged 26, originally from Prizzi, Palermo, who arrived in New York in 1919 aboard the ship "Belvedere" from Palermo, Italy [5]
  • Giorgia Rao, aged 8, originally from Piana Greci, Italy, who arrived in New York City, New York in 1919 aboard the ship "Dante Alighieri" from Napoli, Italy [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Rao (post 1700) +

  • B. Prasada Rao (d. 2021), Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, Director General (DGP) of Andhra Pradesh Police
  • Basanthpur Narayan Rao (d. 2020), Indian politician who was Member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly from Basavakalyan for the Indian National Congress since 2018
  • Balli Durga Prasad Rao (1956-2020), Indian politician

The Rao Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: In omnia promptus
Motto Translation: Ready for everything.

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  3. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  5. Ellis Island Search retrieved 15th November 2022. Retrieved from on Facebook