The Brooks surname name is generally thought to have derived from "residing near a stream or brook".

The Brooks surname is of English origin and is thought to have been given to, or adopted by people residing near a stream (or brook). The Hundred Rolls, a late thirteenth century census of England and part of Wales, contains many uses of "Broke" and variants "Brock" and "Brok" as a surname. The word "brook" derives from the Old English "broc" and appears in the Medieval predecessors of "Brooks" such as "Ate-Broc" and "Atte-Broc".

The term used for a small river varies according to region:

Beck is used in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Dumfriesshire and Cumbria.

Bourne is used in the chalk downland of southern England (although strictly a bourne is wet in summer and dry in winter).

Brook is used in the Midlands, Lancashire and Cheshire.

Burn is used in Scotland and North East England.

Nantis used in Wales.

Stream is used in Southern England.

Skye is used in lowland Scotland and Cumbria.

Allt is used in Highland Scotland.

Interestingly, (considering the prevelance of the 'E1b1b1b' DNA amongst Sephardic Jews), the surname is also found among English-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, deriving from the male Hebrew given name Boruch, meaning "blessed", a derivation that may also have contributed to its origins in medieval England and Wales. The surname arrived in North America from England in the mid-seventeenth century.

Another sources suggests that the name Brooks is an ancient surname of Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) with Olde English pre 7th century origins. Widely recorded in Germany (where it is sometimes found with the aristocratic "von") and in England, Scotland and Ireland, it has several possible origins. The name can be residential, from one of the many places called Brook or Broke both in England and Germany, or it can be a topographical for somebody who lived by a 'broc'.

In Germany this appears to refer to a rocky area but in Britain, it is clearly associated with water, being either a stream or an area of land which flooded in winter time. The very earliest surviving registers are English, and examples from these include what are clearly residential names, William de la Broke of the county of Surrey in the year 1208; and Emma de Brokes in Suffolk in 1220. The first recording in Germany is probably that of Johann Broker of Kiel in 1367 and in Scotland Thomas Bruke, a burgess of Aberdeen, in 1483, where the name has some popularity.

Other recordings include Johann Brokes of Lubeck, Germany in 1588, and Catherine Brooks, who married Nicholas Thompson by civil licence in London on August 23rd 1594. The surname was one of the first into the New England colonies of America; Cutberd Brooks being recorded as 'dead in Virginea' on February 16th 1623! An interesting recording taken from the Port of New York entry lists, is that of Edward Brooks, aged 18 yrs., a refugee from the 'Potato Famine', who sailed from Ireland on the ship "Ashburton" on March 7th 1846.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Eustace del Broc, which was dated 1130, in the "Pipe Rolls of Northamptonshire", during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135.

In Great Britain: 59 633 people share the surname Brooks according to estimations the surname Brooks is currently the 122nd most common name in Great Britain.

Geographical spread

This map shows the geographical spread by county of the surname Brooks in Great Britain. Unfortunately the colours don't replicate the original but from the table you can calculate that over 5 % people whose name is Brooks live in East Sussex­.
East SussexBrooks is the 7th surname4 865 people
Gloucestershire Brooks is the 11th surname4 873 people
Merthyr TydfilBrooks is the 27th surname1 681 people
BedfordshireBrooks is the 45th surname3 259 people
DevonBrooks is the 60th surname3 317 people
HighlandBrooks is the 68th surname1 745 people
WolverhamptonBrooks is the 75th surname1 665 people
DerbyBrooks is the 79th surname1 701 people
EssexBrooks is the 86th surname4 831 people
Greater ManchesterBrooks is the 91th surname3 303 people
E Riding of YorkshireBrooks is the 126th surname1 737 people
NorthumberlandBrooks is the 127th surname1 657 people
Greater LondonBrooks is the 133rd surname4 937 people
CornwallBrooks is the 156th surname1 689 people
WarwickshireBrooks is the 163rd surname1 641 people
SuffolkBrooks is the 168th surname1 737 people
LancashireBrooks is the 181th surname3 363 people
OxfordshireBrooks is the 224th surname1 675 people
BristolBrooks is the 236th surname1 709 people
BuckinghamshireBrooks is the 240th surname1 699 people
NorfolkBrooks is the 260th surname1 661 people
BerkshireBrooks is the 281th surname1 731 people
CambridgeshireBrooks is the 288th surname1 715 people
NottinghamshireBrooks is the 324th surname1 693 people
HampshireBrooks is the 487th surname1 755 people