The surname Watkins is originally English, and has undergone many changes in past centuries depending on where in the United Kingdom those families were located. It is derived from the early Germanic and Anglo-Saxon name "Walter" which meant "people-rule."
The name was brought over to the present-day United Kingdom by the Normans in 1066 during the Conquest of England. It was first recorded as a surname in the 1300s in Suffolk and Yorkshire and was found in church recordings in the 1500s in Herefordshire. Throughout history, it has undergone many changes all deriving from "Watkins," including Watkyns, Wattkyns, Gwatkin, Watkinson and Wattin.