According to one theory, the name can be traced back to the West Flemish name Ruddervoorde, a community now part of Oostkamp. Another theory of the origin of the name states that a man by the name Ruther carried an ancient king of Scots over the River Tweed. Eventually, a descendant of the king gave land to the family that carried his forefather over the river and when surnames were adopted, Rutherford came into being.
The motto of the Rutherfords of one of the clans is Nec sorte nec fato, represented as "Nor by fate nor by chance."
Notable people with the name include:
- Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States. (1877-1881)
- Adam Rutherford, British geneticist, author, and broadcaster.
- Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Canadian politician, first Premier of Alberta (1905–1910)
- Ann Rutherford (1917–2012), Canadian-American actress, best known of Polly Benedict of Andy Hardy film series
- Boyd Rutherford (born 1957), Lieutenant Governor of the U.S. state of Maryland
- Clancy Rudeforth, former Australian rules footballer
- Daniel Rutherford, a Scottish chemist and physician who is most famous for the discovery of nitrogen
- Don Rutherford (1937–2016), English international rugby union player
- Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, known as the "father of nuclear physics"
- Frances Rutherford (1912–2006), New Zealand artist and occupational therapist
- Friend Smith Rutherford (1820-1864), United States Army office and lawyer
- Gilbert Rutherford, American politician
- Greg Rutherford (born 1986), British athlete (specifically long jumper)
- Griffith Rutherford (1721-1805) American Revolutionary War General
- Jack Rutherford (cricketer), Australian Test cricketer
- Jack Rutherford (footballer, born 1892) (1892–1930), English footballer for Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol Rovers and Gillingham
- Jack Rutherford (footballer, born 1908), English footballer for Gillingham and Watford
- James Rutherford (disambiguation), several people
- Jim Rutherford, former NHL goaltender and current general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Joe Rutherford, an Aston Villa F.C. goalkeeper of the mid-20th-century
- John Rutherford (disambiguation), multiple people
- Joseph Franklin Rutherford, also known as "Judge Rutherford", 2nd president of the Watch Tower Society corporation
- Kelly Rutherford, American actress, most famous for her role as Lily van der Woodsen in the CW teen drama Gossip Girl
- Ken Rutherford (cricketer), New Zealand batsman and captain
- Margaret Rutherford, British actress
- Mike Rutherford (born 1950), English musician
- Rachel Rutherford, New York City Ballet soloist
- Samuel Rutherford, Scottish theologian, minister and political theorist
- Skip Rutherford (born 1950), academic administrator
- Theodora Fonteneau Rutherford (1904-after 1982), American accountant, clubwoman, and college instructor
- Walter Rutherford (1857–1913), Scottish golfer (Olympic silver medallist)
- Walter Rutherford (footballer) (1891–1944), Scottish footballer with Kilmarnock, Ayr United, Johnstone
- William Rutherford (disambiguation), several people
- Edward Rutherfurd, nom de plume of Francis Edward Wintle, author of historical fiction
- "Rutherford Name Meaning & Rutherford Family History at Ancestry.com". ancestry.com.
- "Flemish Roots". 4t.com. Archived from the original on 2007-03-11.
- "Origin and History of the Name Rutherford". mathoni.com.
- "The History of the Surname". Doug Baldwin. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
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