Transferred use of the surname, which originated in the Middle Ages as a nickname for someone who was ‘courteous’ (Old French curteis). At an early date, however, it came to be associated with Middle English curt ‘short’ + hose ‘leggings’ compare Courtney.
English and Scottish: patronymic from the personal name John. As an American family name, Johnson has absorbed patronymics and many other derivatives of this name in continental European languages. (For forms, see Hanks and Hodges 1988.)