From an Old French name of Germanic origin, from fred, frid ‘peace’ + rīc ‘power, ruler’. It was adopted by the Normans and introduced into Britain by them, but did not survive long. Modern use in Britain dates from the 17th century, and it became more frequent in the 18th among followers of the Elector of Hanover, who in 1714 became George I of England. It was reinforced by the vogue for Germanic names in Victorian times.
English and Welsh: patronymic from the Middle English personal name Jon(e) (see John). The surname is especially common in Wales and southern central England. In North America this name has absorbed various cognate and like-sounding surnames from other languages. (For forms, see Hanks and Hodges 1988).