1 Chinese 马: from an honorific title borne by a prince of the state of Zhao during the Warring States period ( 403–221 bc ). He was awarded the title Noble Ma Fu after repeatedly distinguishing himself as a general, and subsequently, his descendants adopted part of the honorific title, Ma, as their surname.2 Korean: there are two Chinese characters for the surname Ma, only one of which is frequent enough to be treated here. Two clans use this character: the Mokch'ŏn clan and the Changhŭng clan. The founding ancestor of the Korean Mokch'ŏn Ma clan migrated to Korea from China during the Han Commanderies period (1st century bc ). The Ma clans played fairly important roles in the formation of the pre-Shilla Paekche kingdom. The records are not consistent, but it seems that originally the Ma surname was Yŏng and that either the Koryŏking T'aejo ( 941–943 ) or the Shilla king Kyŏngsun ( 927–935 ) changed the name to Ma.3 Cambodian: unexplained.
Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.