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Family name

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Title: Family name  
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Subject: Matriname, Matrilineality, Patrilineality, Family, Patronymic
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Family name

First/given, middle, and last/family/surname diagramwith J. S. Bach as example. J. S. Bach shared his given name with six immediate family members and many extended family members. He shared his family name with most family members.

A family name (in Western contexts often referred to as a surname or last name) is typically a part of a person's personal name which, according to law or custom, is passed or given to children from one or both of their parents' family names. The use of family names is common in most cultures around the world, with each culture having its own rules as to how these names are formed, passed and used. But the practice is not universal, with some cultures not using family names (See mononym). Also, in most Slavic countries and in Greece, for example, there are different family name forms for male and female members of the family. Issues of family name arise especially on the passing of a name to a new-born child, on the adoption of a common family name on marriage, on renouncing of a family name and on changing of a family name.

Most countries have laws requiring its citizens and those resident within its jurisdiction to have a family name. Traditionally in many European countries for the past few hundred years, it was the custom or law that a woman would on marriage use the surname of her husband and that children of a man would have the father's surname. If a child's paternity was not known, or if the putative father denied paternity, the new-born child would have the surname of the mother. That is still the custom and law in many countries.[1] The surname for children of married parents is usually inherited from the father.[2] In recent years there has been a trend towards equality of treatment in relation to family names with women not being automatically required or expected, some places even forbidden, to take the husband's surname on marriage, and children not automatically being given the father's surname. In this article, family name and surname both mean the patrilineal (literally, father-line) surname, handed down from or inherited from the father's line or patriline, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Thus, the term "maternal surname" means the patrilineal surname which one's mother inherited from either or both of her parents. For a discussion of matrilineal ('mother-line') surnames, passing from mothers to daughters, see matrilineal surname.


  • Overview 1
  • Research on individual names 2
  • History 3
    • Modern era 3.1
    • UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 3.2
  • By language 4
    • English-speaking countries 4.1
    • Spanish-speaking countries 4.2
    • French-speaking countries 4.3
    • German-speaking countries 4.4
    • Portuguese-speaking countries 4.5
    • Dutch-speaking countries 4.6
    • Arabic-speaking Countries 4.7
  • By country 5
    • Albanian countries 5.1
    • Armenia 5.2
    • Azerbaijan 5.3
    • Bulgaria 5.4
    • Finland 5.5
    • Georgia 5.6
    • Greece and Cyprus 5.7
    • Hungary 5.8
    • Iceland 5.9
    • India 5.10
    • Indonesia 5.11
    • Ireland, Isle of Man, and Scotland 5.12
      • Surname prefixes 5.12.1
    • Iranian/Persian/Kazan 5.13
    • Italy 5.14
    • Latvia 5.15
    • Libya 5.16
    • Lithuania 5.17
    • Malta 5.18
    • Mongolia 5.19
    • Myanmar (Burma) 5.20
    • Netherlands 5.21
    • Pakistan 5.22
    • The Philippines 5.23
      • Naming customs in the Philippines 5.23.1
    • Poland 5.24
    • Romania 5.25
    • Russia 5.26
    • Sweden 5.27
    • Turkey 5.28
    • Vietnam 5.29
  • By region 6
    • Regions of the Sinosphere 6.1
    • Scandinavia 6.2
    • Basque Country 6.3
    • Slavic surname formation 6.4
      • Use of feminine name form 6.4.1
      • Feminine forms of names without suffix 6.4.2
    • Czech Republic and Slovakia 6.5
    • South Slavs 6.6
      • Endings in -ić and -ič 6.6.1
      • Endings -ov and -ski 6.6.2
      • Slovenian surnames 6.6.3
        • Use of feminine surnames in Slovenia
    • Ukraine and Belarus 6.7
    • Burundi and Rwanda 6.8
    • Horn of Africa 6.9
  • By ethnic group 7
    • Jewish 7.1
    • Assyrian 7.2
    • Kurdish 7.3
    • Tibet 7.4
    • North Caucasian Adyghe family surnames 7.5
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


In many cultures (particularly in European and European-influenced cultures in the Americas, Oceania, etc., as well as the Middle East, South Asia, and most African cultures), the family name is normally the last part of a person's personal name. In some other cultures, the family name comes first. The latter is often called the Eastern order because Europeans are most familiar with the examples from East Asia, specifically Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam. The Eastern order is also used in Hungary, Romania and in parts of Africa. Since family names are normally written last in European societies (except in Hungary), the term last name is commonly used for family name, while in Japan (with vertical writing) the family name may be referred to as upper name (ue-no-namae (上の名前)). Last names are more important in Eastern cultures than the given first name, which is why they usually go first.

In English-speaking cultures, family names are often used by children when referring to adults, but it's also used to refer to someone in authority, the elderly, or in a formal setting, and are often used with a title or honorific such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Dr, and so on. Generally the given name, first name, forename, or personal name is the one used by friends, family, and other intimates to address an individual. It may also be used by someone who is in some way senior to the person being addressed. This practice also differs between cultures; see T-V distinction.

Research on individual names

The study of proper names in family names is called onomastics. A one-name study is a collection of vital and other biographical data about all persons worldwide sharing a particular surname.


While given names have been used from the most distant times to identify individuals, the advent of surnames is a relatively recent phenomenon.[3] In Britain, hereditary surnames were adopted in the 13th and 14th centuries, initially by the aristocracy but eventually by everyone. By 1400, most English and some Scottish people used surnames, but many Scottish and Welsh people did not adopt surnames until the 17th century, or even later. Henry VIII (1491–1547) ordered that marital births be recorded under the surname of the father.[3] In England and cultures derived from there, there has long been a tradition for a woman to change her surname upon marriage from her birth name to her husband's family name. (See Married and maiden names.) The first known instance in the United States of a woman insisting on the use of her birth name was that of Lucy Stone in 1855; and there has been a general increase in the rate of women using their birth name. This has gone through periods of flux, however, and the 1990s saw a decline in the percentage of name retention among women. As of 2006, more than 80% of American women adopted the husband's family name after marriage.[4]

Many cultures have used and continue to use additional descriptive terms in identifying individuals. These terms may indicate personal attributes, location of origin, occupation, parentage, patronage, adoption, or clan affiliation. These descriptors often developed into fixed clan identifications which in turn became family names as we know them today.

In China, according to legend, family names started with Emperor Fu Xi in 2852 BC[5][6] His administration standardised the naming system in order to facilitate census-taking, and the use of census information. For scientific documentation that matrilineal surnames existed in China before the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC) and that "by the time of the Shang Dynasty they (Chinese surnames) had become patrilineal", see Matrilineality in China.

In Japan, family names were uncommon except among the aristocracy until the 19th century.[7]

In Ancient Greece, during some periods, formal identification commonly included place of origin.[8] At other times clan names and patronymics ("son of") were also common, as in Aristides Lysimachu. For example, Alexander the Great was known as Heracleides (as a supposed descendant of Heracles) and by the dynastic name Karanos/Caranus, which referred to the founder of the dynasty to which he belonged. In none of these cases, though, were these names considered essential parts of the person's name, nor were they explicitly inherited in the manner which is common in many cultures today.

In the Roman Empire, the bestowal and use of clan and family names waxed and waned with changes in the various subcultures of the realm. (See Roman naming conventions.) At the outset, they were not strictly inherited in the way that family names are inherited in many cultures today. Eventually, though, family names began to be used in a manner similar to most modern European societies. With the gradual influence of Greek/Christian culture throughout the Empire, the use of formal family names declined.[9] By the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, family names were uncommon in the Eastern Roman Empire. In Western Europe, where Germanic culture dominated the aristocracy, family names were almost non-existent. They would not significantly reappear again in Eastern Roman society until the 10th century, apparently influenced by the familial affiliations of the Armenian military aristocracy.[9] The practice of using family names spread through the Eastern Roman Empire and gradually into Western Europe, although it was not until the modern era that family names came to be explicitly inherited as they are today.

In Ireland, the use of surnames has a very old history. Ireland was the first country in Europe to use fixed surnames. As noted in the Annals, the first recorded fixed surname was Ó Cleirigh which recorded the death of Tigherneach Ua Cleirigh, lord of Aidhne in Co. Galway in the year 916.[10]

In England, the introduction of family names is generally attributed to the preparation of the Domesday Book in 1086, following the Norman conquest. Evidence indicates that surnames were first adopted among the feudal nobility and gentry, and only slowly spread to other parts of society. Some of the early Norman nobility who arrived in England during the Norman conquest differentiated themselves by affixing 'de' (of) before the name of their village in France. This is what is known as a territorial surname, a consequence of feudal landownership. In medieval times in France, such a name indicated lordship, or ownership, of the village. But some early Norman nobles in England chose to drop the French derivations and call themselves instead after their new English holdings.

Modern era

During the modern era, many cultures around the world adopted family names, particularly for administrative reasons, especially during the age of European expansion and particularly since 1600. Notable examples include the Netherlands (1811), Japan (1870s), Thailand (1920), and Turkey (1934). Nonetheless, their use is not universal: Icelanders, Tibetans, Burmese, Javanese, and many people groups in East Africa do not use family names.

Family names sometimes change or are replaced by non-family-name surnames under political pressure to avoid persecution. Examples are the cases with Chinese Indonesians and Chinese Thais after migration there during the 20th century, or the Jews who fled to different European countries to avoid persecution from the Nazis during World War II.

The United States followed the naming customs and practices of English common law and traditions until recent times. Beginning in the latter half of the 20th century, traditional naming practices, writes one commentator, were recognized as "com[ing] into conflict with current sensitivities about children's and women's rights."[11] Those changes accelerated a shift away from the interests of the parents to a focus on the best interests of the child. The law in this area continues to evolve today mainly in the context of paternity and custody actions.[12]

UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

In 1979, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ("CEDAW") which declared in effect that women and men, and specifically wife and husband, shall have the same rights to choose a "family name", as well as a "profession" and an "occupation".[13] For a further description of and treatment of this Convention, see Matriname.

In France, until 1 January 2005, children were required by law to take the surname of their father. Article 311-21 of the French Civil code now permits parents to give their children the family name of either their father, mother, or a hyphenation of both – although no more than two names can be hyphenated. In cases of disagreement, the father's name applies.[14] This brought France into line with a 1978 declaration by the Council of Europe requiring member governments to take measures to adopt equality of rights in the transmission of family names, a measure that was echoed by the United Nations in 1979.[15] Similar measures were adopted by Germany (1976), Sweden (1982), Denmark (1983) and Spain (1999). The European Community has been active in eliminating gender discrimination. Several cases concerning discrimination in family names have reached the courts. Burghartz v. Switzerland challenged the lack of an option for husbands to add the wife’s surname to his surname, which they had chosen as the family name, when this option was available for women.[16] Losonci Rose and Rose v. Switzerland challenged a prohibition on foreign men married to Swiss women keeping their surname if this option was provided in their national law, an option available to women.[17] Unal Tekeli v. Turkey challenged prohibitions on women using their surname as the family name, an option only available to men.[18] The Court found all these laws to be in violation of the Convention.[19]

By language

English-speaking countries

Most surnames of British origin fall into seven types:

The original meaning of the name may no longer be obvious in modern English (e.g., a Cooper is one who makes barrels. In the Americas, the family names of many African-Americans have their origins in slavery (i.e. slave name). Many of them came to bear the surnames of their former owners. Many freed slaves either created family names themselves or adopted the name of their former master.

In the Middle Ages, when a man from a lower-status family married an only daughter from a higher-status family, he would often adopt the wife's family name. In the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain, bequests were sometimes made contingent upon a man's changing (or hyphenating) his family name, so that the name of the testator continued. It is rare but not unknown for an English-speaking man to take his wife family name, whether for personal reasons or as a matter of tradition (such as among matrilineal Canadian aboriginal groups, such as the Haida and Gitxsan); it is increasingly common in the United States, where a married couple may choose an entirely new last name. As an alternative, both spouses may adopt a double-barreled name. For instance, when John Smith and Mary Jones marry each other, they may become known as "John Smith-Jones" and "Mary Smith-Jones." However, some consider the extra length of the hyphenated names undesirable. A spouse may also opt to use his or her birth name as a middle name. An additional option, although rarely practiced, is the adoption of a last name derived from a portmanteau of the prior names, such as "Simones". Some couples keep their own last names but give their children hyphenated or combined surnames.[21]

Upon marriage, men in the United States can easily change their surname with the federal government, through the Social Security Administration, but may face difficulty on the state level in some states. In some places, civil rights lawsuits or constitutional amendments changed the law so that men could also easily change their married names (e.g., in British Columbia and California).[22] Québec law permits neither spouse to change surnames.[23]

Spanish-speaking countries

In medieval times, a patronymic system was used. For example, Álvaro, the son of Rodrigo would be named Álvaro Rodríguez. His son, Juan, would not be named Juan Rodríguez, but Juan Álvarez. Over time, many of these patronymics became family names and are some of the most common names in the Spanish-speaking world. Other sources of surnames are personal appearance or habit, e.g. Delgado ("thin") and Moreno (polysemous word, it can mean "brown skinned", "dark skinned", "tanned skinned", "brunette hair" or "black hair"); occupations, e.g. Molinero ("miller"), Zapatero ("Shoe-maker") and Guerrero ("warrior"); and geographic location or ethnicity, e.g. Alemán ("German").

In Spain and in Spanish-speaking countries (e.g. Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela), people traditionally have two family names: the first family name is the paternal one, inherited from the father's paternal family name, while the second family name is the maternal one, inherited from the mother's paternal family name. When speaking or in informal situations only the first one is used, although both are needed for legal purpose. In some instances, when an individual's given name and first family name are too common (such as in José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mario Vargas Llosa), both family names are used (though not necessarily both given names). Even the person can take the mother surname for informal situation instead of the father surname, for personal preferences or if the mother surname is somehow "special" (José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero is known in Spanish as "José Luis Zapatero" or just as "Zapatero"). In Spain, a new law approved in 1999 allows an adult to change the order of his/her family names, and parents can also change the order of their children's family names if they (and the child, if over 12) agree.[24]

Traditionally in most countries, and currently in some Spanish-speaking countries, women, upon marrying, keep their own family names. It is considered impolite towards her family for a woman to change her name. The higher class women of Cuba and Spain traditionally never change their names. In certain rare situations, a woman may be addressed with her paternal surname followed by her husband's paternal surname linked with de. For example, a woman named Ana García Díaz, upon marrying Juan Guerrero Macías, could be called Ana García de Guerrero. This custom, begun in medieval times, is decaying and only has legal validity in Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, Panama, and to a certain extent in Mexico (where it is optional but becoming obsolete), but is frowned upon by people in Spain, Cuba, and elsewhere.

Depending on the country, the family names may or may not be linked by the conjunction y ("and"), i ("and" in Catalonia), de ("of"), del ("of the", when the following word is masculine) or de la ("of the", when the following word is feminine). Sometimes a father transmits his combined family names, thus creating a new one e.g., the paternal surname of the son of Javier (given name) Reyes (paternal family name) de la Barrera (maternal surname) may become the new paternal surname Reyes de la Barrera. De is also the nobiliary particle used with Spanish surnames. This can not be choose by the person, as it is part of the surname, for example "Puente" and "Del Puente" are not the same surname.

In Hispanic American countries, married women usually keep their first family name followed by "de" (denoting property: "'s" or "of") and then the husband's last name. For example, María Martínez López when married to Josué Vásquez Hernández would then be María Martínez de Vásquez. However, this usage is falling into disuse. In Peru and the Dominican Republic, women normally conserve all family names after getting married. For example, if Rosa María Pérez Martínez marries Juan Martín De la Cruz Gómez, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Martínez de De la Cruz, and if the husband dies, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Martínez Vda. de De la Cruz (Vda. being the abbreviation for viuda, "widow" in Spanish).

The law in Peru changed some years ago, and all married women can keep their maiden last names or if they want, they can use also their husband's last name after their own maiden name, adding the "de" before their husband's last name.

In Uruguay, since 2013, a couple can choose the order of the surnames for their first-born. After the choice has been made all their following children will be registered with the same order. If there's no agreement on the order in the case of heterosexual couples the father's surname will be placed first and the mother's second and in homosexual couples a draw is made to decide the order. Once the order of the surnames has been established it can not be changed.

In Ecuador, a couple can choose the order of their children's surnames. Most choose the traditional order (e.g., Guerrero García in the example above), but some invert the order, putting the mother's paternal surname first and the father's paternal surname last (e.g., García Guerrero from the example above). Such inversion, if chosen, must be consistent for all children of the marriage.

In Argentina, normally only one family name, the father's paternal family name, is used and registered as in English-speaking countries. However, it is possible to use both the paternal and maternal name. For example, if Ana Laura Melachenko and Emanuel Darío Guerrero had a daughter named Adabel Anahí, her full name would be Adabel Anahí Guerrero Melachenko. Women, however, do not change their family names upon marriage and continue to use their birth family names instead of their husband's family names. However, some women do choose to use the old Spanish custom of adjoining "de" and her husband's paternal surname to her own name. For example: if Cristina Fernández marries Felipe Kirchner, she might keep her birth name or become Cristina Fernández de Kirchner or Cristina Kirchner.

In Cuba and in Nicaragua, both men and women carry their two family names (first their father's, and second their mother's). Both are equally important and are mandatory for any official document. Married women never change their original family names for their husband's. Even when they migrate to other countries where this is a common practice, many prefer to adhere to their heritage and keep their maiden name.

In villages in Catalonia, Galicia and Asturias (Spain) and in Cuba, people are often known by the name of their dwelling or collective family nickname rather than by their surnames. For example, Remei Pujol i Serra who lives at Ca l'Elvira would be referred to as "Remei de Ca l'Elvira"; and Adela Barreira López who is part of the "Provisores" family would be known as "Adela dos Provisores".

French-speaking countries

France Belgium Canadian

German-speaking countries

There are about 1,000,000 different family names in German. German family names most often derive from given names, geographical names, occupational designations, bodily attributes or even traits of character. Hyphenations notwithstanding, they mostly consist of a single word; in those rare cases where the family name is linked to the given names by particles such as von or zu, they usually indicate noble ancestry. Not all noble families used these names (see Riedesel), while some farm families, particularly in Westphalia, used the particle von or zu followed by their farm or former farm's name as a family name (see Meyer zu Erpen).

Family names in German-speaking countries are usually positioned last, after all given names. There are exceptions, however: in parts of Austria and Bavaria and the Alemannic-speaking areas, the family name is regularly put in front of the first given name. Also in many – especially rural – parts of Germany, to emphasize family affiliation there is often an inversion in colloquial use, in which the family name becomes a possessive: Rüters Erich, for example, would be Erich of the Rüter family.

In Germany today, upon marriage, both partners can choose to keep their birth name or choose either partner's name as the common name. In the latter case the partner whose name wasn't chosen can keep his birth name hyphenated to the new name (e.g. Schmidt and Meyer choose to marry under the name Meyer. The former Schmidt can choose to be called Meyer, Schmidt-Meyer or Meyer-Schmidt), but any children will only get the single common name. In the case that both partners keep their birth name they must decide on one of the two family names for all their future children. (German name)

Changing one's family name for reasons other than marriage, divorce or adoption is possible only if the application is approved by the responsible government agency. Permission will usually be granted if:

  • the old name is very common and leads to confusion;
  • the old name is overly long or very difficult to spell or pronounce (especially with names of former nobility and of citizens with non-German ancestry); or
  • the old name has negative connotations or is easily ridiculed.

Otherwise, name changes will normally not be granted.

Portuguese-speaking countries

In the case of Portuguese naming customs, the main surname (the one used in alphasorting, indexing, abbreviations, and greetings), appears last.

Each person usually has two family names: though the law specifies no order, the first one is usually the maternal family name, whereas the last one is commonly the paternal family name. In Portugal, a person's full name has a minimum legal length of two names (one given name and one family name from either parent) and a maximum of six names (two first names and four surnames — he or she may have up to four surnames in any order desired picked up from the total of his/her parents and grandparents' surnames). The use of any surname outside this lot, or of more than six names, is legally possible, but it requires dealing with bureaucracy. Parents or the person him/herself must explain the claims they have to bearing that surname (a family nickname, a rare surname lost in past generations, or any other reason one may find suitable). In Brazil there is no limit of surnames used.

In ancient times a patronymic was commonly used — surnames like Gonçalves ("son of Gonçalo"), Fernandes ("son of Fernando"), Nunes ("son of Nuno"), Soares ("son of Soeiro"), Sanches ("son of Sancho"), Henriques ("son of Henrique"), Rodrigues ("son of Rodrigo") which along with many others are still in regular use as very prevalent family names.

In Medieval times, Portuguese nobility started to use one of their estates' names or the name of the town or village they ruled as their surname, just after their patronymic. Soeiro Mendes da Maia bore a name "Soeiro", a patronymic "Mendes" ("son of Hermenegildo – shortened to Mendo") and the name of the town he ruled "Maia". He was often referred to in 12th century documents as "Soeiro Mendes, senhor da Maia", Soeiro Mendes, lord of Maia. Nobelwomen also bore patronymics and surnames in the same manner and never bore their husband's surname. First-born males bore their father's surname, other children bore either both or only one of them at their will.

Only during the Early Modern Age, lower-class males started to use at least one surname; married lower-class women usually took up their spouse's surname, since they rarely ever used one beforehand. After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, Portuguese authorities realized the benefits of enforcing the use and registry of surnames. Henceforth, they became mandatory, although the rules for their use were very liberal.

During the mid-20th century, under French influence and among upper classes, women started to take up their husbands' surname(s). From the 1960s onwards, this usage spread to the common people, again under French influence, this time, however, due to the forceful legal adoption of their husbands' surname which was imposed onto Portuguese immigrant women in France.

From the 1974 Carnation Revolution onwards the adoption of their husbands' surname(s) receded again, and today both the adoption and non-adoption occur, with non-adoption being chosen in the majority of cases in recent years (60%).[25] Also, it is legally possible for the husband to adopt his wife's surname(s), but this practice is rare.

Brazilians usually call people only by their given names, omitting family names, even in many formal situations, as in the press referring to authorities, e.g. "Former President Fernando Henrique", never Former President Cardoso, or even "Former President Lula" ("Lula" was actually his nickname). When formality or a prefix requires a family name, the given name usually precedes the surname, e.g. João Santos, or Sr. João Santos.

Dutch-speaking countries

The Netherlands Belgium

Arabic-speaking Countries

The given name is always followed by the father's first name, then the father's family surname. Some surnames have a prefix of ibn- meaning son of (ould- in Mauritania) The surnames follow similar rules defining a relation to a clan, family, place etc. Some Arab countries have differences due to historic rule by the Ottoman Empire or due to being a different minority.

A large number of Arabic last names start with "Al-" which means "The"

Arab States of the Persian Gulf. Names mainly consist of the person's name followed by the father's first name connected by the word "ibn" or "bin" (meaning "son of"). The last name either refers to the name of the tribe the person belongs to, or to the region, city, or town he/she originates from. In exceptional cases, members of the royal families or ancient tribes mainly, the title (usually H.M./H.E., Prince, or Sheikh) is included in the beginning as a prefix, and the first name can be followed by four names, his father, his grandfather, and great – grandfather, as a representation of the purity of blood and to show the pride one has for his ancestry.

In Arabic-speaking Levantine countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria) it's common to have family names associated with a certain profession or craft, such as "Al-Haddad"/"Haddad" which means "Blacksmith" or "Al-Najjar"/"Najjar" which means "Carpenter".

By country

Albanian countries

A full Albanian name consists of a given name (Albanian: emër), patronymic (Albanian: atësi) and family name (Albanian: mbiemër), for example Agron Mark Gjoni. The patronymic is simply the given name of the individual's father, with no suffix added. The family name is typically a noun in the definite form or at the very least ends with a vowel or -j (an approximant close to -i). Many traditional last names end with -aj (previously -anj), which is more prevalent in certain regions of Albania and Kosovo.

Proper names in Albanian are fully declinable like any noun (e.g. Marinelda, genitive case i/e Marineldës "of Marinelda").


Armenian surnames almost always have the ending () transliterated into English as -yan or -ian (spelled -ean (եան) in Western Armenian and pre-Soviet Eastern Armenian, of Ancient Armenian or Iranian origin, presumably meaning "son of"), though names with that ending can also be found among Persians and a few other nationalities. Armenian surnames can derive from a geographic location, profession, noble rank, personal characteristic or personal name of an ancestor. Armenians in the diaspora sometimes adapt their surnames to help assimilation. In Russia, many have changed -yan to -ov (or -ova for women). In Turkey, many have changed the ending to -oğlu (also meaning "son of"). In English and French-speaking countries, many have shortened their name by removing the ending (for example Charles Aznavour). In ancient Armenia, many noble names ended with the locative -t'si (example, Khorenatsi) or -uni (Bagratuni). Several modern Armenian names also have a Turkish suffix which appears before -ian/-yan: -lian denotes a placename; -djian denotes a profession. Some Western Armenian names have a particle Der, while their Eastern counterparts have Ter. This particle indicates an ancestor who was a priest (Armenian priests can choose to marry or remain celibate, but married priests cannot become a bishop). Thus someone named Der Bedrosian (Western) or Ter Petrosian (Eastern) is a descendent of an Armenian priest. The convention is still in use today: the children of a priest named Hagop Sarkisian would be called Der Sarkisian. Other examples of Armenian surnames: Adonts, Sakunts, Vardanyants, Rshtuni.


Traditional Azeri surnames usually end with "-lı", "-lu", (Turkic for 'with' or 'belonging to'), "-oğlu", "-qızı" (Turkic for 'son of' and 'daughter of'), "-zade" (Persian for 'born of'). Azerbaijanis of Iranian descent traditionally use suffixes such as '-pour' or '-zadeh', meaning 'born of' with their father's name. It is, however, more usual for them to use the name of the city in which their ancestors lived (e.g. Tabrizpour for those from Tabriz) or their occupation (e.g. Damirchizadeh for blacksmiths). Also, due to it being a part of the Russian Empire, many last names carry Slavic endings of "-ov" for men and "-ova" for women.


Bulgarian names usually consist of three components – given name, father's name, family name.

Given names have many variations, but the most common names have Christian/Greek (e.g. Maria, Ivan, Christo, Peter, Pavel), Slavic (Ognyan, Miroslav, Tihomir) or Protobulgarian (Krum, Asparukh) (pre-Christian) origin. Father's names normally consist of the father's first name and the "-ov" (male) or "-ova" (female) or "-ovi" (plural) suffix.

Family names usually also end with the "-ov", "-ev" (male) or "-ova", "-eva" (female) or "-ovi", "-evi" (plural) suffix.

In many cases (depending on the name root) the suffixes can be also "-ski" (male and plural) or "-ska" (female); "-ovski", "-evski" (male and plural) or "-ovska", "-evska" (female); "-in" (male) or "-ina" (female) or "-ini" (plural); etc.

The meaning of the suffixes is similar to the English word "of", expressing membership in/belonging to a family. For example, the family name Ivanova means a person belonging to the Ivanovi family.

A father's name Petr*ov* means son of Peter.

Regarding the different meaning of the suffixes, "-ov", "-ev"/"-ova", "-eva" are used for expressing relationship to the father and "-in"/"-ina" for relationship to the mother (often for orphans whose father is dead).


There are two predominant surname traditions among the Finnish in Finland: the West Finnish and the East Finnish. The surname traditions of Swedish-speaking farmers and fishermen resembles the West Finnish tradition, while Sami and Romani people have traditions of their own.

Until the mid 20th Century, Finland was a predominantly agrarian society, and the names of West Finns were based on their association with a particular area, farm, or homestead, e.g. Jaakko Jussila ("Jaakko from the farm of Jussi"). On the other hand, the East Finnish surname tradition dates back to the 13th century. There, the Savonians pursued slash-and-burn agriculture which necessitated moving several times during a person's lifetime. This in turn required the families to have surnames, which were in wide use among the common folk as early as the 13th century. By the mid-16th century, the East Finnish surnames had become hereditary. Typically, the oldest East Finnish surnames were formed from the first names of the patriarchs of the families, e.g. Ikävalko, Termonen, Pentikäinen. In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, new names were most often formed by adding the name of the former or current place of living (e.g. Puumalainen < Puumala). In the East Finnish tradition, the females carried the family name of their fathers in female form (e.g. Puumalatar < Puumalainen). By the 19th century, this practice fell into disuse due to the influence of the West-European surname tradition.

In Western Finland, agrarian names dominated, and the last name of the person was usually given according to the farm or holding they lived on. In 1921, surnames became compulsory for all Finns. At this point, the agrarian names were usually adopted as surnames. A typical feature of such names is the addition of prefixes Ala- (Sub-) or Ylä- (Up-), giving the location of the holding along a waterway in relation of the main holding. (e.g. Yli-Ojanperä, Ala-Verronen)

A third tradition of surnames was introduced in Finland by the Swedish-speaking upper and middle classes, which used typical German and Swedish surnames. By custom, all Finnish-speaking persons who were able to get a position of some status in urban or learned society, discarded their Finnish name, adopting a Swedish, German or (in the case of clergy) Latin surname. In the case of enlisted soldiers, the new name was given regardless of the wishes of the individual.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the overall modernization process, and especially the political movement of fennicization, caused a movement for adoption of Finnish surnames. At that time, many persons with a Swedish or otherwise foreign surname changed their family name to a Finnish one. The features of nature with endings -o/ö, -nen (Meriö < Meri "sea", Nieminen < Niemi "point") are typical of the names of this era, as well as more or less direct translations of Swedish names (Paasivirta < Hällström).[26]

In 21st-century Finland, the use of surnames follows the German model. Every person is legally obligated to have a first and last name. At most, three first names are allowed. The Finnish married couple may adopt the name of either spouse, or either spouse (or both spouses) may decide to use a double name. The parents may choose either surname or the double surname for their children, but all siblings must share the same surname.[27] All persons have the right to change their surname once without any specific reason. A surname that is un-Finnish, contrary to the usages of the Swedish or Finnish languages, or is in use by any person residing in Finland cannot be accepted as the new name, unless valid family reasons or religious or national customs give a reason for waiving this requirement. However, persons may change their surname to any surname that has ever been used by their ancestors if they can prove such claim.[28] Some immigrants have had difficulty naming their children, as they must choose from an approved list based on the family's household language.

In the Finnish language, both the root of the surname and the first name can be modified by consonant gradation regularly when inflected to a case.


Most eastern

Greece and Cyprus

Greek surnames are most commonly patronymics. Occupation, characteristic, or ethnic background and location/origin-based surnames names also occur; they are sometimes supplemented by nicknames.

Commonly, Greek male surnames end in -s, which is the common ending for Greek masculine proper nouns in the nominative case. Exceptionally, some end in -ou, indicating the genitive case of this proper noun for patronymic reasons.

Although surnames are static today, dynamic and changing patronym usage survives in middle names in Greece where the genitive of the father's first name is commonly the middle name.

Because of their codification in the Modern Greek state, surnames have Katharevousa forms even though Katharevousa is no longer the official standard. Thus, the Ancient Greek name Eleutherios forms the Modern Greek proper name Lefteris, and former vernacular practice (prefixing the surname to the proper name) was to call John Eleutherios Leftero-giannis.

Modern practice is to call the same person Giannis Eleftheriou: the proper name is vernacular (and not Ioannis), but the surname is an archaic genitive. However, children are almost always baptised with the archaic form of the name so in official matters the child will be referred to as Ioannis Eleftheriou and not Giannis Eleftheriou.

Female surnames are most often in the Katharevousa genitive case of a male name. This is an innovation of the Modern Greek state; Byzantine practice was to form a feminine counterpart of the male surname (e.g. masculine Palaiologos, Byzantine feminine Palaiologina, Modern feminine Palaiologou).

In the past, women would change their surname when married to that of their husband (again in genitive case) signifying the transfer of "dependence" from the father to the husband. In earlier Modern Greek society, women were named with -aina as a feminine suffix on the husband's first name: "Giorgaina", "Mrs George", "Wife of George". Nowadays, a woman's legal surname does not change upon marriage, though she can use the husband's surname socially. Children usually receive the paternal surname, though in rare cases, if the bride and groom have agreed before the marriage, the children can receive the maternal surname.

Some surnames are prefixed with Papa-, indicating ancestry from a priest, e.g. Papageorgiou, the "son of a priest named George". Others, like Archi- and Mastro- signify "boss" and "tradesman" respectively.

Prefixes such as Konto-, Makro-, and Chondro- describe body characteristics, such as "short", "tall/long" and "fat". Gero- and Palaio- signify "old" or "wise".

Other prefixes include Hadji- (Χαντζή- or Χαντζι-) which was an honorific deriving from the Arabic Hadj or pilgrimage, and indicate that the person had made a pilgrimage (in the case of Christians, to Jerusalem) and Kara- which is attributed to the Turkish word for "black" deriving from the Ottoman Empire era. The Turkish suffix -oglou (derived from a patronym, -oğlu in Turkish) can also be found. Although they are of course more common among Greece's Muslim minority, they still can be found among the Christian majority, often Greeks who were pressured to leave Turkey after the Turkish Republic was founded (since Turkish surnames only date to the founding of the Republic, when Atatürk made them compulsory).

Arvanitic surnames also exist; an example is Tzanavaras or Tzavaras, from the Arvanitic word çanavar or çavar meaning "brave" (pallikari in Greek).[29]

Most Greek patronymic suffixes are diminutives, which vary by region. The most common Hellenic patronymic suffixes are:

  • -poulos/-poulou, which has a Latin origin (pullus) and means "the little", representing "the son of ...", so if a man's family name is "Christopoulos", it means that his father was named "Christos". This suffix is very widespread throughout Greece and is originally from the Peloponessus in particular.
  • -idis/iadis/antis The suffix -idis (often transliterated -ides in English and French) is the oldest in use. Russian Caucasus region of Kars Oblast e.g. Mikhailidis, the "clan of Michael"
  • -akis/-aki is associated primarily with Crete and the Aegean Islands. It is a patronymic signifying "little" and/or "son"; therefore Theodorakis is "little Theodore".

Others, less common, are:

Either the surname or the given name may come first in different contexts; in newspapers and in informal uses, the order is given name + surname, while in official documents and forums (tax forms, registrations, military service, school forms), the surname is often listed or said first.


In Hungarian, like Asian languages but unlike most other European ones (see French and German above for exceptions), the family name is placed before the given names. This usage does not apply to non-Hungarian names, for example "Tony Blair" will remain "Tony Blair" when written in Hungarian texts.

Names of Hungarian individuals, however, appear in Western order in English writing.


In Iceland, most people have no family name; a person's last name is most commonly a patronymic, i.e. derived from the father's first name. For example, when a man called Karl has a daughter called Anna and a son called Magnús, their full names will typically be Anna Karlsdóttir ("Karl's daughter") and Magnús Karlsson ("Karl's son"). The name is not changed upon marriage.


India is a country with numerous distinct cultural and linguistic groups. Thus, Indian surnames, where formalized, fall into seven general types. Many people from the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala do not use any formal surnames.. In the 19th and early 20th century, caste names were used as surnames in the south Indian states.

Surnames are based on:

  • Patronymics and ancestry, whereby the father's name or an ancestor's given name is used in its original form or in a derived form (e.g. Aggarwal or Agrawal or Agrawala derived from the ancestor Agrasen).
  • Occupations (Chamar, Patel or Patil, meaning Village Headman, Gandhi, Kamath, Kulkarni, who used to maintain the accounts and records and collect taxes, Kapadia, Nadkarni, Patwardhan, Patwari, Shenoy, etc.) and priestly distinctions (Bhat, Bhattar, Sastry, Trivedi, Shukla, Chaturvedi, Twivedi, Purohit, Mukhopadhyay); Business people: Shetty, Rai, Hegde is commonly used in kshatriya castes of the karnataka costal belt. In addition many Parsi, Bohra and Gujarati families have used English trade names as last names since the 18th and 19th centuries (Contractor, Engineer, Builder).
  • Caste or clan names (Pillai, Gounder, Goud, Gowda, Boyar, Parmar, Sindhi, Vaish, Reddy, Meena and Naidu) are not surnames but suffixes to first names to indicate their clan or caste.
  • Place names or names derived from places of ancestral origin (Aluru, Marwari, Gawaskar, Gaonkar, Mangeshkar, Kapoor, Wamankar, Kokradi, Karnad, Medukonduru, Rachapalli).
  • A few last names originate from names (Juthani)
  • The father's first name is used as a surname in certain Southern states, such as Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Spouses and children take on the first name of the father as their last name or 'surname'.
  • Muslim surnames generally follow the same rules used in Pakistan. Khan is among the most popular surnames, often signifying Afghan/Central Asian descent.
  • Bestowed titles or other honorifics: titles bestowed by kings, rajas, nawabs and other nobles before the British Raj (Wali, Rai, Rao, Thakur, Gain/Gayen, Panicker, Vallikappen, Moocken, etc.) and those bestowed by the British (Rai, Bahadur).
  • Names indicating nobility or feudal associations or honorifics.
  • Colonial Surnames based on tax or after religious conversion, particularly in Goa, which was under Portuguese control (D'Cruz, Pinto). Often, surnames of Portuguese noble families who were accepted as godparents were used as the surnames of the converted. Some families still keep their ancestral Hindu surnames along with their given Catholic Surnames e.g., Miranda-Prabhu and Pereira-Shenoy.
  • In Kerala the practice of using the house name before or after the given name is on the rise. For example, Asin Thottumkal – Asin is the given name while Thottumkal is the house name.

The convention is to write the first name followed by middle names and surname. It is common to use the father's first name as the middle name or last name even though it is not universal. In some Indian states like Maharashtra, official documents list the family name first, followed by a comma and the given names.

Traditionally, wives take the surname of their husband after marriage. In modern times, in urban areas at least, this practice is not universal and some wives either suffix their husband's surname or do not alter their surnames at all.. In some rural areas, particularly in North India, wives may also take a new first name after their nuptials. Children inherit their surnames from their father.

Jains generally use Jain, Shah, Firodia, Singhal or Gupta as their last names. Sikhs generally use the words Singh ("lion") and Kaur ("princess") as surnames added to the otherwise unisex first names of men and women, respectively. It is also common to use a different surname after Singh in which case Singh or Kaur are used as middle names (Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Surinder Kaur Badal). The tenth Guru of Sikhism ordered (Hukamnama) that any man who considered himself a Sikh must use Singh in his name and any woman who considered herself a Sikh must use Kaur in her name. Other middle names or honorifics that are sometimes used as surnames include Kumar, Dev, Lal, and Chand.

The modern-day spellings of names originated when families translated their surnames to English, with no standardization across the country. Variations are regional, based on how the name was translated from the local language to English in the 18th, 19th or 20th centuries during British rule. Therefore, it is understood in the local traditions that Agrawal and Aggarwal represent the same name derived from Uttar Pradesh and Punjab respectively. Similarly, Tagore derives from Bengal while Thakur is from Hindi-speaking areas. The officially recorded spellings tended to become the standard for that family. In the modern times, some states have attempted standardization, particularly where the surnames were corrupted because of the early British insistence of shortening them for convenience. Thus Bandopadhyay became Banerji, Mukhopadhay became Mukherji, Chattopadhyay became Chatterji, etc. This coupled with various other spelling variations created several surnames based on the original surnames. The West Bengal Government now insists on re-converting all the variations to their original form when the child is enrolled in school.

Some parts of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, Burma, and Indonesia have similar patronymic customs to those of India.


Indonesians comprise more than 300 ethnic groups. Not all of these groups traditionally have surnames. Nonetheless, Indonesians are well aware of the custom of family names, which is known as marga or fam, and such names have become a specific kind of identifier. People can tell what a person's heritage is by his or her surname or clan name.

  • The various ethnicities of Batak people from North Sumatra are known for their strict tradition of preserving their family names, which are actually clan names. See Marga (Batak) for details.
  • The matrilineal clan names of the Minangkabau people are passed down from mothers to their children. Minangkabau is the largest matrilineal society in the world.
  • The Minahasan people of the North Sulawesi have an extensive list of surnames, such as Toar, Lumimuut, Emor, Muntuan, Nayoan, Wenas and Luntungan.
  • Ambonese people of the Maluku Islands have family names such as Lawalata, Matulessy and Latumahina.
  • The various ethnicities of the Dayak people from the provinces in Kalimantan have names such as Dau and Narang.
  • The Bugis people from South Sulawesi have surnames such as Mappanyukki, Mallarangeng and Matalatta.
  • Among the Toraja people of South Sulawesi, common surname elements include Rante–, Pong–, Allo–, –bua, –linggi. Examples: Rantedatu, Ranteallo, Pongrambu, Pongtiku, Pongrangga, Allodatu, Randebua, Tanabua, Tarukbua, Datubua, Allobua, Senolinggi.

Javanese people are the majority in Indonesia, and most do not have any surname. There are many individuals who have only one name, such as "Suharto" and "Sukarno". These are not only common with the Javanese but also with other Indonesian ethnic groups who do not have the tradition of surnames. If, however, they are Muslims, they might opt to follow Arabic naming customs.

Most Chinese Indonesians substituted their Chinese surnames with Indonesian-sounding surnames due to political pressure from 1965 to 1998 under Suharto's regime.

Ireland, Isle of Man, and Scotland

Many surnames of Gaelic origin in Ireland and the other Celtic nations, derive from ancestors' names, nicknames, or descriptive names. In the first group can be placed surnames such as MacMurrough and MacCarthy, derived from patronymics, or O'Brien and O'Grady, derived from ancestral names.

Gaelic surnames derived from nicknames include Ó Dubhda (from Aedh ua Dubhda—Aedh, the dark one), O'Doherty (from Ó Dochartaigh, "destroyer" or "obtrusive"), Garvery (garbh, "rough" or "nasty"), Manton (mantach, "toothless"), Bane (bán, "white", as in "white hair"), Finn (fionn, "fair", as in "fair hair") and Kennedy ("cennedie", as in "ugly head")

Very few Gaelic surnames are derived from placenames or venerated people/objects. Among those that are included in this small group, several can be shown to be derivations of Gaelic personal names or surnames. One notable exception is Ó Cuilleáin or O'Collins (from cuileann, "holly") as in the Holly Tree, considered one of the most sacred objects of pre-Christian Celtic culture. Another is Walsh (Irish: Breatnach), meaning Welsh.

In areas where certain family names are extremely common, extra names are added that sometimes follow this archaic pattern. In Ireland, for example, where Murphy is an exceedingly common name, particular Murphy families or extended families are nicknamed, so that Denis Murphy's family were called The Weavers and Denis himself was called Denis "The Weaver" Murphy. (See also O'Hay.)

For much the same reason, nicknames (e.g. the Fada Burkes, "the long/tall Burkes"), father's names (e.g. John Morrissey Ned) or mother's maiden name (Kennedy becoming Kennedy-Lydon) can become colloquial or legal surnames. The Irish family of de Courcy descends from Anglo-Normans who came to Ireland following the Norman Conquest. (The name is of French derivation, and indicates that the family once held a manor of that name in Normandy.) The de Courcy family was prominent in County Cork from the earliest days of the Norman occupation and subsequently became prominent in Ireland.[30]

In addition to all this, Irish-speaking areas still follow the old tradition of naming themselves after their father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on. Examples include Mike Bartly Pat Reilly ("Mike, son of Bartholomew, son of Pat Reilly"), John Michel John Oge Pat Breanach ("John, son of Michael, son of young John, son of Pat Breanach"), Tom Paddy-Joe Seoige ("Tom, son of Paddy-Joe Seoige"), and Mary Bartly Mike Walsh ("Mary, daughter of Bartly, son of Mike Walsh"). Sometimes, the female line of the family is used, depending on how well the parent is known in the area the person resides in, e.g. Paddy Mary John ("Paddy, son of Mary, daughter of John"). A similar tradition continues even in English-speaking areas, especially in rural districts.

Surname prefixes

  • Bean: "Wife", pronounced .
  • De: "of the": a Norman-French habitational prefix used by some of the most common Irish surnames among which are De Búrca, Le Brún, De Barra, De Cíosóg, Devane and de Faoite. 'De' historically has signaled ownership of lands and was traditionally therefore a mark of prestige.
  • Mac: for most purposes, taken to mean "son of", as in Mac Néill (son of Neil). However, literally, the "of" part does not come from the "Mac" prefix but from the patronymic that follows it. E.g., in the case of MacNéill, Mac merely means "son"; "Néill" (meaning "of Neil") is the genitive form of Niall ("Neil"). In some cases if the second word begins with a vowel, Mac then becomes Mag, as in Mag Eocháin. Also "Mc, Mc, M'c, and Mic".
  • Mhic: . Compressed form of bean mhic ("wife of the son of") e.g. Máire Mhic Néill (Máire, the wife of Mac Néill). This is the grammatically correct form of the prefix Mac always taken by a woman after marriage (i.e. a woman marrying someone of the surname Mac Néill would become Mhic Néill). Mhig (also pronounced [vɪkʲ]) is used similarly to Mag in some cases (e.g. Mag Shamhráin/Mhig Shamhráin).
  • Maol: In Pagan times this was expressed as Mug, as in the case of Mug Nuadat. The literal expression of this is "slave of Nuada", i.e. "devotee of Nuada". In the Christian era the word Mael was used in its place for given names such as Mael Bridget, Mael Padraig, Mael Lagan, Mael Sechlainn, and Mael Martain. In later times, some of these given names evolved into surnames, e.g. Ó Máel Sechlainn and Mac Mael Martain or Mael Lagan, which became after the 15th Century the name Milligan.
  • Fitz: a Norman-French word derived from the Latin word filius ("son"). It was used in patronymics by thousands of men in the early Norman period in Ireland (e.g. fitz Stephen, fitz Richard, fitz Robert, fitz William) and only on some occasions did it become used as an actual surname, the most famous example being the FitzGerald Earls of Kildare. Yet well into the 17th and 18th century it was used in certain areas dominated by the Hiberno-Norman of Ireland in its original form, as a patronymic. The Tribes of Galway were especially good at conserving this form, with examples such as John fitz John Bodkin and Michael Lynch fitz Arthur, used even as late as the early 19th century. A number of illegitimate descendents of the British royal family were given surnames with this element: some of the illegitimate children of King Charles II were named FitzCharles or FitzRoy ("son of the King"); those of King James II were named FitzJames; those of Prince William, Duke of Clarence and St Andrews (later King William IV) were named FitzClarence. Note that "Fitzpatrick" is not Norman: it is actually a Normanisation of the Gaelic surname Mac Ghiolla Phádraig.
  • Ó: In Old Irish as ua ("grandson", "descendant"). E.g., the ancestor of the O'Brien clan, Brian Boru (937–1014) was known in his lifetime as Brian mac Cennéide mac Lorcán ("Brian, the son of Cennéide, the son of Lorcán "). Not until the time of his grandsons and great-grandsons was the name O'Brien used as a surname, used to denote descent from an illustrious ancestor. It has for some three hundred years been written as O‍ '​, but in recent years the apostrophe is often dropped, bringing it into line with early medieval forms. The apostrophe came into existence as an error by the English, when in the process of anglicizing the surnames in Ireland, mistakenly recognized the accent above the O as an apostrophe.
  • : This is the plural of Ó and is used in reference to a kin-group or clan, e.g. Uí Néill, in reference to the O'Neill clan. It is pronounced [i].
  • : This is used for women instead of Ó before a surname and comes a shortened form of the Irish word for a daughter, e.g. Máire Ní Bhriain ("Mary O'Brien").
  • Nic: This is used for women instead of Mac, but only if this is their maiden name, never their married name. Compressed form of iníon mhic ("daughter of the son of/Mac…"), e.g. Máire Nic Charthaigh ("Mary, daughter of McCarthy"). Nig is used in cases where the surname uses Mag e.g. Nig Shamhráin.


Persian last names may be:

Suffixes include: -an (plural suffix), -i ("of"), -zad/-zadeh ("born of"), -pur ("son of"), -nejad ("from the race of"), -nia ("descendant of"), -mand ("having or pertaining to"), -vand ("succeeding"), -far ("holder of"), -doost ("-phile"), -khah ("seeking of"), -mannesh ("having the manner of"), -ian/-yan, -gar and -chi ("whose vocation pertains").

An example is names of geographical locations plus "-i": Irani ("Iranian"), Gilani ("of Gilan province"), Tabrizi ("of the city of Tabriz").

Another example is last names that indicate relation to religious groups such as Zoroastrian (e.g. Goshtaspi, Namiranian, Azargoshasp), Jewish (e.g. Yaghybian [Jacobean], Hayyem [Life], Shaul [Saul]) or Muslim (e.g. Alavi, Islamnia, Montazeri)

Last names are arbitrary; their holder need not to have any relation with their meaning.

Traditionally in Iran, the wife does not take her husband's surname, although children take the surname of their father. Individual reactions notwithstanding, it is possible to call a married woman may by her husband's surname. This is facilitated by the fact that English words "Mrs.", "Miss", "Woman", "Lady" and "Wife (of)" in a polite context are all translated into "خانم" (Khaanom). Context, however, is important: "خانم گلدوست" (Khaanom Goldust) may, for instance, refer to the daughter of Mr. Goldust instead of his wife. When most of Iranian surnames are used with a name, the name will be ended with a suffix _E or _ie (of) such as Hasan_e roshan (Hasan is name and roshan is surname) that means Hasan of Roshan or Mosa_ie saiidi (Muses of saiidi). The _e is not for surname and it is difficult to say it is a part of surname.


Italy has around 350,000 surnames. Most of them derive from the following sources: patronym or ilk (e.g. Francesco di Marco, "Francis, son of Mark" or Eduardo de Filippo, "Edward belonging to the family of Philip"), occupation (e.g. Enzo Ferrari, "Heinz (of the) Blacksmiths"), personal characteristic (e.g. nicknames or pet names like Dario Forte, "Darius the Strong"), geographic origin (e.g. Elisabetta Romano, "Elisabeth from Rome") and objects (e.g. Carlo Sacchi, "Charles Bags"). The two most common Italian family names, Russo and Rossi, mean the same thing, "Red", possibly referring to a hair color that would have been very distinctive in Italy.

Both Western and Eastern orders are used for full names: the given name usually comes first, but the family name may come first in administrative settings; lists are usually indexed according to the last name.

Since 1975, women have kept their own surname when married, but until recently (2000) they could have added the surname of the husband according to the civil code, although it was a very seldom-used practice. In recent years, the husband's surname cannot be used in any official situation.[31] In some unofficial situations, sometimes both surnames are written (the proper first), sometimes separated by in (e.g. Giuseppina Mauri in Crivelli) or, in case of widows, ved. (vedova).


Latvian male surnames usually end in -s, or -is whereas the female versions of the same names end in -a or -e or s in both unmarried and married women. Before the emancipation from serfdom (1817 in Courland, 1819 in Vidzeme, 1861 in Latgale) only noblemen, free craftsmen or people living in towns had surnames. Therefore, the oldest Latvian surnames originate from German or Low German, reflecting the dominance of German as an official language in Latvia till the 19th century. Examples: Meijers/Meijere (German: Meier, farm administrator; akin to Mayor), Millers/Millere (German: Müller, miller), Šmits/Šmite (German: Schmidt, smith), Šulcs/Šulca (German: Schulze, constable), Ulmanis (German: Ullmann, a person from Ulm), Godmanis (a God-man), Pētersons (son of Peter). Some Latvian surnames, mainly from Latgale are of Polish or Belorussian origin by changing the final -ski/-cki to -skis/-ckis, -czyk to -čiks or -vich/-wicz to -vičs, such as Sokolovkis/Sokolovska, Baldunčiks/Baldunčika or Ratkevičs/Ratkeviča. Most Latvian peasants received their surnames in 1826 (in Vidzeme), in 1835 (in Courland), and in 1866 (in Latgale). Diminutives were the most common form of family names. Examples: Kalniņš/Kalniņa (small hill), Bērziņš/Bērziņa (small birch). Nowadays many Latvians have surnames of Russian or Ukrainian origin, for example Volkovs/Volkova or Antoņenko.


Libya's names and surnames have a strong Islamic/Arab nature, with some Turkish influence from Ottoman Empire rule of nearly 400 years. Amazigh, Touareg and other minorities also have their own name/surname traditions. Due to its location as a trade route and the different cultures that had their impact on Libya throughout history, one can find names that could have originated in neighboring countries, including clan names from the Arabian Peninsula, and Turkish names derived from military rank or status (Basha, Agha).


Lithuanian names follow the Baltic distinction between male and female suffixes of names, although the details are different. Male surnames usually end in -a, -as, -aitis, -ys, -ius, or -us, whereas the female versions change these suffixes to -aitė, -ytė, -iūtė, and -utė respectively (if unmarried) or -ienė (if married). Some Lithuanians have names of Polish or another Slavic origin, which are made to conform to Lithuanian by changing the final -ski to -skas, such as Sadauskas, with the female version being -skienė.


Different cultures have their impact on the demographics of the Maltese islands, and this is evident in the various surnames Maltese citizens bear nowadays.[32] There are very few Maltese surnames per se: the few that originate from Maltese places of origin include Chircop (Kirkop), Lia (Lija), Balzan (Balzan), Valletta (Valletta), and Sciberras (Xebb ir-Ras Hill, on which Valletta was built). The village of Munxar, Gozo is characterised by the majority of its population having one of two surnames, either Curmi or de Brincat. In Gozo, the surnames Bajada and Farrugia are also common.

Sicilian and Italian surnames are common due to the close vicinity to Malta. Sicilian Italians were the first to colonise the Maltese islands. Common examples include Azzopardi, Bonello, Cauchi, Farrugia, Gauci, Rizzo, Schembri, Tabone, Vassallo, Vella.

  • French surnames

Common examples include Depuis, Montfort, Monsenuier.

  • English surnames

English surnames exist for a number of reasons, but mainly due to migration as well as Malta forming a part of the British Empire in the 19th century and most of the 20th. Common examples include Bone, Harding, Atkins, Mattocks, Smith, Jones, Woods, Turner.

Arabic surnames occur in part due to the early presence of the Arabs in Malta. Common examples include Sammut, Camilleri, Zammit, and Xuereb.[33]

  • Spanish surnames

Common surnames of Spanish origin include Abela, Galdes, Herrera, and Guzman.

  • German surnames

Surnames from foreign countries from the Middle Ages include German,
such as von Brockdorff, Hyzler, and Schranz.

  • Greek surnames

Many of the earliest Maltese surnames are Sicilian Greek, e.g. Cilia, Calleia, Brincat, Cauchi. Much less common are recent surnames from Greece; examples include Dacoutros, and Trakosopoulos

  • Jewish surnames

The original Jewish community of Malta and Gozo has left no trace of their presence on the islands since they were expelled in January 1493.

  • Customs

In line with the practice in other Christian, European states, women generally assume their husband's surname after legal marriage, and this is passed on to any children the couple may bear. Some women opt to retain their old name, for professional/personal reasons, or combine their surname with that of their husband.


Mongolians do not use surnames in the way that most Westerners, Chinese or Japanese do. Since the socialist period, patronymics – then called ovog, now called etsgiin ner – are used instead of a surname. If the father's name is unknown, a matronymic is used. The patro- or matronymic is written before the given name. Therefore, if a man with given name Tsakhia has a son, and gives the son the name Elbegdorj, the son's full name is Tsakhia Elbegdorj. Very frequently, the patronymic is given in genitive case, i.e. Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. However, the patronymic is rather insignificant in everyday use and usually just given as an initial – Ts. Elbegdorj. People are normally just referred to and addressed by their given name (Elbegdorj guai – Mr. Elbegdorj), and if two people share a common given name, they are usually just kept apart by their initials, not by the full patronymic.

Since 2000, Mongolians have been officially using clan namesovog, the same word that had been used for the patronymics before – on their IDs. Many people chose the names of the ancient clans and tribes such Borjigin, Besud, Jalair, etc. Also many extended families chose the names of the native places of their ancestors. Some chose the names of their most ancient known ancestor. Some just decided to pass their own given names (or modifications of their given names) to their descendants as clan names. Some chose other attributes of their lives as surnames. Gürragchaa chose Sansar (Cosmos). Clan names precede the patronymics and given names, e.g. Besud Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj.[34] These clan names have a significance and are included in Mongolian passports.

Myanmar (Burma)

People from Myanmar or Burmese, have no family names. This, to some, is the only known Asian people having no family names at all. Some of those from Myanmar or Burma, who are familiar with European or American cultures, began to put to their younger generations with a family name – adopted from the notable ancestors. For example, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of the late Father of Independence General Aung San; Hayma Ne Win, is the daughter of the famous actor Kawleikgyin Ne Win etc.



Pakistani surnames are basically divided in three categories: Arab naming convention, tribal or caste names and ancestral names.

Family names indicating Arab ancestry, e.g. Shaikh, Siddiqui, Abbasi, Syed, Zaidi, Khawaja, Naqvi, Farooqi, Osmani, Alavi, Hassani, and Husseini.

People claiming Afghan ancestry include those with family names ځاځي dzādzi Durrani, Gardezi, Suri, Yousafzai, Afridi, Mullagori, Mohmand, Khattak, Wazir, Mehsud, Niazi.

Family names indicating Turkish heritage include Mughal,(cheema) Baig or Beg, Pasha, Barlas, and Seljuki.

People claiming Indian ancestry include those with family names Barelwi, Lakhnavi, Delhvi, Bilgrami and Rajput.

People claiming Iranian ancestry include those with family names Agha, Bukhari, Firdausi, Ghazali, Gilani, Hamadani, Isfahani, Kashani, Kermani, Khorasani, Farooqui, Mir, Mirza, Montazeri, Nishapuri, Noorani, Kayani, Qizilbash, Saadi, Sabzvari, Shirazi, Sistani, Suhrawardi, Yazdani, Zahedi, and Zand.

Tribal names include Abro Afaqi, Afridi, Khogyani(Khakwani), Amini,[Ansari] Ashrafkhel, Awan, Bajwa, Baloch, Barakzai, Baranzai, Bhatti, Bhutto, Ranjha, Bijarani, Bizenjo, Brohi, Khetran, Bugti, Butt, Detho, Farooqui, Gabol, Ghaznavi, Ghilzai, Gichki, Gujjar, Jakhrani, Jamali, Jamote, Janjua, Jatoi, Jutt Joyo, Junejo, Karmazkhel, Kayani, Khar, Khattak, Khuhro, Lakhani, Leghari, Lodhi, Magsi, Malik, Mandokhel, Mayo, Marwat, Mengal, Mughal, Palijo, Paracha, Panhwar, Phul, Popalzai, Qureshi & qusmani, Rabbani, Raisani, Rakhshani, Sahi, Swati, Soomro, Sulaimankhel, Talpur, Talwar, Thebo, Yousafzai, and Zamani.

Family names indicating Turkish/ Kurd ancestry, Dogar . In Pakistan, the official paperwork format regarding personal identity is as follows:

So and so, son of so and so, of such and such tribe or clan and religion and resident of such and such place. For example, Amir Khan s/o Fakeer Khan, tribe Mughal Kayani or Chauhan Rajput, Follower of religion Islam, resident of Village Anywhere, Tehsil Anywhere, District.

A large number of Muslim Rajputs have retained their surnames such as Chauhan, Rathore, Parmar, Janjua, Bargujar, etc.

The Philippines

Until the middle of the 19th century, there was no standardization of surnames in the Philippines. There were native Filipinos without surnames, others whose surnames deliberately did not match that of their families, as well as those who took certain surnames simply because they had a certain prestige, usually ones dealing with the Roman Catholic religion, such as de los Santos and de la Cruz.

In 1849, Governor-general Narciso Clavería y Zaldúa decreed an end to these arbitrary practices, the result of which was the Catálogo Alfabético de Apellidos ("Alphabetical Inventory of Surnames"). The book contained many words coming from Spanish and the Philippine languages such as Tagalog and many Basque surnames, such as Zuloaga or Aguirre.

In practice, the application of this decree varied from municipality to municipality. Some municipalities received only surnames starting with a particular letter. For example, the majority of residents of the island of Banton in the province of Romblon have surnames starting with F such as Fabicon, Fallarme, Fadrilan, and Ferran. Thus, although perhaps a majority of Filipinos have Spanish surnames, such a surname does not indicate Spanish ancestry. In addition, most Filipinos currently do not use Spanish accented letters in their Spanish derived names. The lack of accents in Filipino Spanish has been attributed to the lack of accents on the predominantly American typewriters after the US gained control of the Philippines.

The vast majority of Filipinos follow a naming system in the American order, which is the reverse of the Spanish naming order. Children take the mother's surname as their middle name, followed by their father's as their surname; for example, a son of Juan de la Cruz and his wife Maria Agbayani may be David Agbayani de la Cruz. Women take the surnames of their husband upon marriage, and consequently lose their maiden middle names; so upon her marriage to David de la Cruz, the full name of Laura Yuchengco Macaraeg would become Laura Macaraeg de la Cruz. Note that their maiden last names automatically become their middle names upon marriage.

There are other sources for surnames. Many Filipinos also have Chinese-derived surnames, which in some cases could indicate Chinese ancestry. Many Hispanicised Chinese numerals and other Hispanicised Chinese words, however, were also among the surnames in the Catálogo Alfabético de Apellidos. For those whose surname may indicate Chinese ancestry, analysis of the surname may help to pinpoint when those ancestors arrived in the Philippines. A hispanicised Chinese surname such as Cojuangco suggests an 18th-century arrival while a Chinese surname such as Lim suggests a relatively recent immigration. Some Chinese surnames such as Tiu-Laurel are composed of the immigrant Chinese ancestor's surname as well as the name of that ancestor's godparent on receiving Christian baptism.

In the predominantly Muslim areas of the southern Philippines, adoption of surnames was influenced by connexions to that religion, its holy places, and prophets. As a result, surnames among Filipino Muslims are largely Arabic-based, and include such surnames as Hassan and Haradji.

There are also Filipinos who, to this day, have no surnames at all, particularly if they come from indigenous cultural communities.

Naming customs in the Philippines

Prior to the establishment of the Philippines as a US territory during the earlier part of the 20th century, Filipinos usually followed Iberian naming customs. However, upon the promulgation of the Family Code of 1987, Filipinos formalized adopting the American system of using their surnames.

A common Filipino name will consist of the given name (mostly 2 given names are given), the initial letter of the mother's maiden name and finally the father's surname (i.e. Lucy Anne C. de Guzman). Also, women are allowed to retain their maiden name or use both her and her husband's surname, separated by a dash. This is common in feminist circles or when the woman holds a prominent office (e.g. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago). In more traditional circles, especially those who belong to the prominent families in the provinces, the custom of the woman being addressed as Mrs. Husband's Full Name is still common.

For widows, who chose to marry again, two norms are in existence. For those who were widowed before the Family Code, the full name of the woman remains while the surname of the deceased husband is attached. That is, Maria Andres, who was widowed by Ignacio Dimaculangan will have the name Maria Andres viuda de Dimaculangan. If she chooses to marry again, this name will still continue to exist while the surname of the new husband is attached. Thus, if Maria marries Rene de los Santos, her new name will be Maria Andres viuda de Dimaculangan de los Santos.

However, a new norm is also in existence. The woman may choose to use her husband's surname to be one of her middle names. Thus, Maria Andres viuda de Dimaculangan de los Santos may also be called Maria A.D. de los Santos.

Children will however automatically inherit their father's surname if they are considered legitimate. If the child is born out of wedlock, the mother will automatically pass her surname to the child, unless the father gives a written acknowledgment of paternity. The father may also choose to give the child both his parents' surnames if he wishes (that is Gustavo Paredes, whose parents are Eulogio Paredes and Juliana Angeles, while having Maria Solis as a wife, may name his child Kevin S. Angeles-Paredes.

In some Tagalog regions, the norm of giving patronyms, or in some cases matronyms, is also accepted. These names are of course not official, since family names in the Philippines are inherited. It is not uncommon to refer to someone as Juan anak ni Pablo (John, the son of Paul) or Juan apo ni Teofilo (John, the grandson of Theophilus).


In Poland and most of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, surnames first appeared during the late Middle Ages. They initially denoted the differences between various people living in the same town or village and bearing the same name. The conventions were similar to those of English surnames, using occupations, patronymic descent, geographic origins, or personal characteristics. Thus, early surnames indicating occupation include Karczmarz ("innkeeper"), Kowal ("blacksmith"), "Złotnik" ("gold smith") and Bednarczyk ("young cooper"), while those indicating patronymic descent include Szczepaniak ("Son of Szczepan), Józefowicz ("Son of Józef), and Kaźmirkiewicz ("Son of Kazimierz"). Similarly, early surnames like Mazur ("the one from Mazury") indicated geographic origin, while ones like Nowak ("the new one"), Biały ("the pale one"), and Wielgus ("the big one") indicated personal characteristics.

In the early 16th century, ( the Polish Renaissance), toponymic names became common, especially among the nobility. Initially, the surnames were in a form of "[first name] z ("de", "of") [location]". Later, most surnames were changed to adjective forms, e.g. Jakub Wiślicki ("James of Wiślica") and Zbigniew Oleśnicki ("Zbigniew of Oleśnica"), with masculine suffixes -ski, -cki, -dzki and -icz or respective feminine suffixes -ska, -cka, -dzka and -icz on the east of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Names formed this way are adjectives grammatically, and therefore change their form depending on sex; for example, Jan Kowalski and Maria Kowalska collectively use the plural Kowalscy.

Names with masculine suffixes -ski, -cki, and -dzki, and corresponding feminine suffixes -ska, -cka, and -dzka became associated with noble origin. Many people from lower classes successively changed their surnames to fit this pattern. This produced many Kowalskis, Bednarskis, Kaczmarskis and so on. Today, although most Polish speakers do not know about noble associations of -ski, -cki, -dzki and -icz endings, such names still somehow sound better to them.

A separate class of surnames derive from the names of war-time pseudonyms as the first part of their surnames. Edward Rydz thus became Marshal of Poland Edward Śmigły-Rydz and Zdzisław Jeziorański became Jan Nowak-Jeziorański.


In Romania, like in most of Europe, a child inherits his father's family name, and a wife takes her husband's last name. There are, however, exceptions.

Until the 19th century, the names were primarily of the form "[given name] [father's name] [grandfather's name]". The few exceptions are usually famous people or the nobility (boyars). The name reform introduced around 1850 had the names changed to a western style, most likely imported from France, consisting of a given name followed by a family name.

As such, the name is called prenume (French prénom), while the family name is called nume or, when otherwise ambiguous, nume de familie ("family name"). Although not mandatory, middle names are common.

Historically, when the family name reform was introduced in the mid-19th century, the default was to use a patronym, or a matronym when the father was dead or unknown. The typical derivation was to append the suffix -escu to the father's name, e.g. Anghelescu ("Anghel's child") and Petrescu ("Petre's child"). (The -escu seems to come from Latin -iscum, thus being cognate with Italian -esco and French -esque.) The other common derivation was to append the suffix -eanu to the name of the place of origin, especially when one came from a different region, e.g. Munteanu ("from the mountains") and Moldoveanu ("from Moldova"). These uniquely Romanian suffixes strongly identify ancestral nationality.

There are also descriptive family names derived from occupations, nicknames, and events, e.g. Botezatu ("baptised"), Barbu ("bushy bearded"), Prodan ("foster"), Bălan ("blond"), Fieraru ("smith"), Croitoru ("tailor"), "Păcuraru" ("shepherd").

Romanian family names remain the same regardless of the sex of the person.

Although given names appear before family names in most Romanian contexts, official documents invert the order, ostensibly for filing purposes. Correspondingly, Romanians occasionally introduce themselves with their family names first, e.g. a student signing a test paper in school.

Romanians bearing names of non-Romanian origin often adopt Romanianised versions of their ancestral surnames, such as Jurovschi for Polish Żurowski, which preserves the original pronunciation of the surname through transliteration. In some cases, these changes were mandated by the state.


A full Russian name consists of personal (given) name, patronymic, and family name (surname).

Most Russian family names originated from patronymics, that is, father's name usually formed by adding the adjective suffix -ov(a) or -ev(a). Contemporary patronymics, however, have a substantive suffix -ich for masculine and the adjective suffix -na for feminine.

For example, the proverbial triad of most common Russian surnames follows:

  • Ivanov (son of Ivan),
  • Petrov (son of Peter),
  • Sidorov (son of Sidor).

Feminine forms of these surnames have the ending -a:

  • Ivanova (daughter of Ivan),
  • Petrova (daughter of Peter),
  • Sidorova (daughter of Sidor).

Such a pattern of name formation is not unique to Russia or even to the Eastern and Southern Slavs in general; quite common are also names derived from professions, places of origin, and personal characteristics, with various suffixes (e.g. -in(a) and -sky (-skaia)).


  • kuznets (smith) → KuznetsovKuznetsova
  • portnoi (tailor) → PortnovPortnova
  • pastukh (shepherd) → PastukhovPastukhova.

Places of origin:

  • Moskva (Moscow) → MoskvinMoskvina, MoskovskyMoskovskaia,
  • SmolenskSmolenskySmolenskaia,
  • RiazanRiazanovRiazanova.

Personal characteristics:

  • tolsty (stout, fat) → TolstovTolstova, TolstoyTolstaya,
  • nos (nose) → NosovNosova,
  • sedoi (grey-haired or -headed) → SedovSedova.

A considerable number of "artificial" names exists, for example, those given to seminary graduates; such names were based on Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church or Christian virtues.

Great Orthodox Feasts:

  • rozhdestvo (Christmas) → RozhdestvenskyRozhdestvenskaia,
  • voskresenie (Resurrection) → VoskresenskyVoskresenskaia,
  • uspenie (Assumption) → UspenskyUspenskaia.

Christian virtues:

  • philagathos (one who loves goodness) → DobrolubovDobrolubova, DobrolubskyDobrolubskaia,
  • philosophos (one who loves wisdom) → LubomudrovLubomudrova,
  • theophilos (one who loves God) → BogolubovBogolubova.

Many freed serfs were given surnames after those of their former owners. For example, a serf of the Demidov family might be named Demidovsky, which translates roughly as "belonging to Demidov" or "one of Demidov's bunch".

Grammatically, Russian family names follow the same rules as other nouns or adjectives (names ending with -oy, -aya are grammatically adjectives), with exceptions: some names do not change in different cases and have the same form in both genders (for example, Sedykh, Lata).


In Scandinavia family names often, but certainly not always, originate from a patronymic. Later on, people from the Scandinavian middle classes, particularly artisans and town dwellers, adopted surnames in a similar fashion to that of the gentry. Family names joining two elements from nature such as the Swedish Bergman ("mountain man"), Holmberg ("island mountain"), Lindgren ("linden branch"), Sandström ("sand stream") and Åkerlund ("field grove") were quite frequent and remain common today.


In Turkey, following the Surname Law imposed in 1934 in the context of Atatürk's Reforms, every family living in Turkey was given a family name. The surname was generally selected by the elderly people of the family and could be any Turkish word (or a permitted word for families belonging to official minority groups).

Some of the most common family names in Turkey are Yılmaz ('undaunted'), Doğan ('falcon'), Şahin ('hawk'), Yıldırım ('thunderbolt'), Şimşek ('lightning'), Öztürk ('purely Turkish').

Patronymic surnames do not necessarily refer to ancestry, or in most cases cannot be traced back historically. The most usual Turkish patronymic suffix is –oğlu; –ov(a), –yev(a) and –zade also occur in the surnames of Azeri or other Turkic descendants.

Official minorities like Armenians, Greeks, and Jews have surnames in their own mother languages. The Armenian families living in Turkey usually have Armenian surnames and generally have the suffix –yan, –ian, or, using Turkish spelling, -can.. Greek descendants usually have Greek surnames which might have Greek suffixes like –ou, –aki(s), –poulos/poulou, –idis/idou, –iadis/iadou or prefixes like papa–. The Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain and settled in Turkey in 1492 have both Jewish/Hebrew surnames, and Spanish surnames, usually indicating their native regions, cities or villages back in Spain, like De Leon or Toledano.

However these minorities increasingly tend to "Turkicize" their surnames or replace their original surnames with Turkish surnames altogether to avoid being recognized and discriminated against.


By region

Regions of the Sinosphere

In modern Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, the family name is placed before the given names, although this order may not be observed in translation. Generally speaking, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese names do not alter their order in English (Mao Zedong, Kim Jong-il, Ho Chi Minh) and Japanese names do (Kenzaburō Ōe).[35] However, numerous exceptions exist, particularly for people born in English-speaking countries such as Yo-Yo Ma. This is sometimes systematized: in all Olympic events, the athletes of the People's Republic of China list their names in the Chinese ordering, while Chinese athletes representing other countries, such as the USA, use the Western ordering. (In Vietnam, the system is further complicated by the cultural tradition of addressing people by their given name, usually with an honorific. For example, Phan Văn Khải is properly addressed as Mr. Khải, even though Phan is his family name.)

Chinese family names have many types of origins, some claiming dates as early as the legendary Yellow Emperor (2nd millennium BC):

In history, some changed their surnames due to a naming taboo (from Zhuang 莊 to Yan 嚴 during the era of Liu Zhuang 劉莊) or as an award by the Emperor (Li was often to senior officers during Tang dynasty).

In modern times, some Chinese adopt an English name in addition to their native given names: e.g., 李柱銘 (Li Zhùmíng) adopted the English name Martin Lee. Particularly in Hong Kong and Singapore, the convention is to write both names together: Martin Lee Chu-ming. Owing to the confusion this can cause, a further convention is sometimes observed of capitalizing the surname: Martin LEE Chu-ming. Sometimes, however, the Chinese given name is forced into the Western system as a middle name ("Martin Chu-ming Lee"); less often, the English given name is forced into the Chinese system ("Lee Chu-ming Martin").

In Japan, the civil law forces a common surname for every married couple, unless in a case of international marriage. In most cases, women surrender their surnames upon marriage, and use the surnames of their husbands. However, a convention that a man uses his wife's family name if the wife is an only child is sometimes observed. A similar tradition called ru zhui (入贅) is common among Chinese when the bride's family is wealthy and has no son but wants the heir to pass on their assets under the same family name. The Chinese character zhui (贅) carries a money radical (貝), which implies that this tradition was originally based on financial reasons. All their offspring carry the mother's family name. If the groom is the first born with an obligation to carry his own ancestor's name, a compromise may be reached in that the first male child carries the mother's family name while subsequent offspring carry the father's family name. The tradition is still in use in many Chinese communities outside mainland China, but largely disused in China because of social changes from communism. Due to the economic reform in the past decade, accumulation and inheritance of personal wealth made a come back to the Chinese society. It is unknown if this financially motivated tradition would also come back to mainland China.

In Chinese, Korean, and Singaporean cultures, women keep their own surnames, while the family as a whole is referred to by the surnames of the husbands.

In Hong Kong, some women would be known to the public with the surnames of their husbands preceding their own surnames, such as Anson Chan Fang On Sang. Anson is an English given name, On Sang is the given name in Chinese, Chan is the surname of Anson's husband, and Fang is her own surname. A name change on legal documents is not necessary. In Hong Kong's English publications, her family names would have been presented in small cap letters to resolve ambiguity, e.g. Anson CHAN FANG On Sang in full or simply Anson Chan in short form.

In Macau, some people have their names in Portuguese spelt with some Portuguese style, such as Carlos do Rosario Tchiang.[36]

Chinese women in Canada, especially Hongkongers in Toronto, would preserve their maiden names before the surnames of their husbands when written in English, for instance Rosa Chan Leung, where Chan is the maiden name, and Leung is the surname of the husband.

In Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, surnames are predominantly monosyllabic (written with one character), though a small number of common disyllabic (or written with two characters) surnames exists (e.g. the Chinese name Ouyang, the Korean name Jegal and the Vietnamese name Phan-Tran).

Many Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese surnames are of the same origin, but simply pronounced differently and even transliterated differently overseas in Western nations. For example, the common Chinese surnames Chen, Chan, Chin, Cheng and Tan, the Korean surname Jin, as well as the Vietnamese surname Trần are often all the same exact character 陳. The common Korean surname Kim is also the common Chinese surname Jin, and written 金. The common Mandarin surnames Lin or Lim (林) is also one and the same as the common Cantonese or Vietnamese surname Lam and Korean family name Lim (written/pronounced as Im in South Korea). Interestingly, there are people with the surname of Hayashi (林) in Japan too. The common Chinese surname 李, translated to English as Lee, is, in Chinese, the same character but transliterated as Li according to pinyin convention. Lee is also a common surname of Koreans, and the character is identical.


In Scandinavia, family names often, but certainly not always, originate from a patronymic. In Denmark and Norway, the corresponding ending is -sen, as in Karlsen. Names ending with dotter/datter (daughter), such as Olofsdotter, are rare but occurring, and only apply to females. Today, the patronymic names are passed on similarly to family names in other Western countries, and a person's father does not have to be called Karl if he or she has the surname Karlsson. However, in 2006 Denmark reinstated patronymic and matronymic surnames as an option.[37] Thus, parents Karl Larsen and Anna Hansen can name a son Karlssøn or Annasøn and a daughter Karlsdatter or Annasdatter.

Before the 19th century there was the same system in Scandinavia as in Iceland today. Noble families, however, as a rule adopted a family name, which could refer to a presumed or real forefather (e.g. Earl Birger Magnusson Folkunge ) or to the family's coat of arms (e.g. King Gustav Eriksson Vasa). In many surviving family noble names, such as Silfversparre ("silver chevron"; in modern spelling, Silver-) or Stiernhielm ("star-helmet"; in modernized spelling, stjärnhjälm), the spelling is obsolete, but since it applies to a name, remains unchanged. (Some names from relatively modern times also use archaic or otherwise aberrant spelling as a stylistic trait; e.g. -quist instead of standard -kvist "twig" or -grén instead of standard -gren, "branch".)

Later on, people from the Scandinavian middle classes, particularly artisans and town dwellers, adopted names in a similar fashion to that of the nobility. Family names joining two elements from nature such as the Swedish Bergman ("mountain man"), Holmberg ("island mountain"), Lindgren ("linden branch"), Sandström and Åkerlund ("field meadow") were quite frequent and remain common today. The same is true for similar Norwegian and Danish names. Another common practice was to adopt one's place of origin as a middle or surname.

Even more important a driver of change was the need, for administrative purposes, to develop a system under which each individual had a "stable" name from birth to death. In the old days, people would be known by their name, patronymic and the farm they lived at. This last element would change if a person got a new job, bought a new farm, or otherwise came to live somewhere else. (This is part of the origin, in this part of the world, of the custom of women changing their names upon marriage. Originally it indicated, basically, a change of address, and from older times, there are numerous examples of men doing the same thing). The many patronymic names may derive from the fact that people who moved from the country to the cities, also gave up the name of the farm they came from. As a worker, you passed by your father's name, and this name passed on to the next generation as a family name. Einar Gerhardsen, the Norwegian prime minister, used a true patronym, as his father was named Gerhard Olsen (Gerhard, the son of Ola). Gerhardsen passed his own patronym on to his children as a family name. This has been common in many working-class families. The tradition of keeping the farm name as a family name got stronger during the first half of the 20th century in Norway.

These names often indicated the place of residence of the family. For this reason, Denmark and Norway have a very high incidence of last names derived from those of farms, many signified by the suffixes like -bø, -rud, -heim/-um, -land or -set (these being examples from Norway). In Denmark, the most common suffix is -gaard — the modern spelling is gård in Danish and can be either gård or gard in Norwegian, but as in Sweden, archaic spelling persists in surnames. The most well-known example of this kind of surname is probably Kierkegaard (combined by the words "kirke/kierke" (= church) and "gaard" (= farm) meaning "the farm located by the Church".[38] It is, however, a common misunderstanding that the name relates to its direct translation: churchyard/cemetery), but many others could be cited. It should also be noted that, since the names in question are derived from the original owners' domiciles, the possession of this kind of name is no longer an indicator of affinity with others who bear it.[39]

In many cases, names were taken from the nature around them. In Norway, for instance, there is an abundance of surnames based on coastal geography, with suffixes like -strand, -øy, -holm, -vik, -fjord or -nes. Like the names derived from farms, most of these family names reflected the family's place of residence at the time the family name was "fixed", however. A family name such as Swedish Dahlgren is derived from "dahl" meaning valley and "gren" meaning branch; or similarly Upvall meaning "upper-valley"; It depends on the Scandinavian country, language, and dialect.[40]

Basque Country

Slavic surname formation

Most Slavic surnames have suffixes which are found in varying degrees over the different nations. Some surnames are not formed in this way, this includes names of non-Slavic origin.

Note: the following list does not take regional spelling variations into account.

  • -ov / -ev (-ova/-eva): Russia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia (especially frequent in Vojvodina), Croatia (rare) (sometimes as -iv in Ukraine); this has been adopted by many non-Slavic peoples of Central Asia who are or have been under Russian rule, such as the Tatars, Chechens, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, etc. Note that -ev is the soft form of -ov, found after palatalized consonants or sibilants.
  • -sky (-ska), -ski (-ska), -skiy (-skaya): Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Czech Republic (-ský (-ská)), Slovakia (-ský/-sky (-ská/-ska)), Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia (especially in Vojvodina), Croatia.
  • Note that these first two can be combined: -ovsky (-ovska), -owski (-owska): Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia.
  • -ić -vić -ović -ič -vič -ovič -ich, -vich, -vych, -ovich, -owicz/-ewicz: Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Republic of Macedonia (rare), occasionally Bulgaria. Yugoslav ex.: Petrović, means Petar's son. In Russia, where patronyms are used, a person would have two -(ov)ich names in a row; first the patronym, then the family name (see Shostakovich).
  • -in (-ina): Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia (rare)
  • -ko, -nko, -enko -enkov (-enkova): of Ukrainian origin in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia
  • -ak/-ek/-ik (-akova/-ekova/-ikova): Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, very rarely in Bulgaria.
  • -uk, -yuk: Ukraine
  • -ac/-ec: Slovenia (both versions), Croatia (both versions), Serbia (only -ac), Czech Republic (only -ec), Slovakia (only -ec).

Use of feminine name form

Slavic countries are noted for having masculine and feminine versions for many (but not all) of their names, as already presented in the list above. In most countries the use of a feminine form is obligatory in official documents as well as in other communication, except for foreigners. In some countries only the male form figures in official use (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia), but in communication (speech, print) a feminine form is often used.

In Slovenia last name of a female is the same as the male form in official use (identification documents, letters). In speech and descriptive writing (literature, newspapers) a female form of the last name is regularly used.

Feminine forms of names without suffix

If the name has no suffix, it may or may not have a feminine version. Sometimes it has the ending changed (such as the addition of -a). In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, suffixless names, such as those of German origin, are feminized by adding -ová (for example, Schusterová).

Czech Republic and Slovakia

Names of Czech people consist of given name (křestní jméno) and surname (příjmení). Usage of the second or middle name is not common. Feminine names are usually derived from masculine ones by a suffix -ová (Nováková) or for names being originally adjectives (Veselá), sometimes with a little change of original name's ending (Sedláčková from Sedláček or Svobodová from Svoboda). Women usually change their family names when they get married. The family names are usually nouns (Svoboda, Král, Růžička, Dvořák, Beneš), adjectives (Novotný, Černý, Veselý) or past participles of verbs (Pospíšil). There is also a couple of names with more complicated origin which are actually complete sentences (Skočdopole, Hrejsemnou or Vítámvás). The most common Czech family name is Novák / Nováková.

In addition, many Czechs and some Slovaks have German surnames due to mixing between the ethnic groups over the past thousand years. Deriving women's names from German and other foreign names is often problematic since foreign names do not suit Czech language rules, although most commonly -ová is simply added (Schmidtová; umlauts are simply dropped), or the German name is respelled with Czech spelling (Šmitová). Hungarian names, which can be found fairly commonly among Slovaks, can also be either left unchanged (Hungarian Nagy, fem. Nagyová) or respelled according to Czech/Slovak orthography (masc. Naď, fem. Naďová).

South Slavs

Endings in -ić and -ič

Surnames of some South Slavic groups such as Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, and Bosniaks traditionally end with the suffixes "-ić" and "-vić" (often transliterated to English and other western languages as "ic", "ich", "vic" or "vich". The v is added in the case of a name to which "-ić" is appended would otherwise end with a vowel, to avoid double vowels with the "i" in "-ić".) These are a diminutive indicating descent i.e. "son of." In some cases the family name was derived from a profession (e.g. blacksmith – "Kovač" → "Kovačević").

An analogous ending is also common in Slovenia. As the Slovenian language does not have the softer consonant "ć", in Slovene words and names only "č" is used. So that that people from the former Yugoslavia need not change their names, in official documents "ć" is also allowed (as well as "Đ / đ"). Thus, one may have two surname variants, e.g.: Božič, Tomšič (Slovenian origin or assimilated) and Božić, Tomšić (roots from the Serbo-Croat language continuum area). Slovene names ending in -ič do not necessarily have a patrimonial origin.

In general family names in all of these countries follow this pattern with some family names being typically Serbian, some typically Croat and yet others being common throughout the whole linguistic region.

Children usually inherit their fathers' family name. In an older naming convention which was common in Serbia up until the mid-19th century, a person's name would consist of three distinct parts: the person's given name, the patronymic derived from the father's personal name, and the family name, as seen, for example, in the name of the language reformer Vuk Stefanović Karadžić.

Official family names do not have distinct male or female forms, except in Macedonia, though a somewhat archaic unofficial form of adding suffixes to family names to form female form persists, with -eva, implying "daughter of" or "female descendant of" or -ka, implying "wife of" or "married to". In Slovenia the feminine form of a surname ("-eva" or "-ova") is regularly used in non-official communication (speech, print), but not for official IDs or other legal documents.

Bosniak Muslim names follow the same formation pattern but are usually derived from proper names of Islamic origin, often combining archaic Islamic or feudal Turkish titles i.e. Mulaomerović, Šabanović, Hadžihafizbegović, etc. Also related to Islamic influence is the prefix Hadži- found in some family names. Regardless of religion, this prefix was derived from the honorary title which a distinguished ancestor earned by making a pilgrimage to either Christian or Islamic holy places; Hadžibegić, being a Bosniak Muslim example, and Hadžiantić an Orthodox Christian one.

In Croatia where tribal affiliations persisted longer, Lika, Herzegovina etc., originally a family name, came to signify practically all people living in one area, clan land or holding of the nobles. The Šubić family owned land around the Zrin River in the Central Croatian region of Banovina. The surname became Šubić Zrinski, the most famous being Nikola Šubić Zrinski.

In Montenegro and Herzegovina, family names came to signify all people living within one clan or bratstvo. As there exists a strong tradition of inheriting personal names from grandparents to grandchildren, an additional patronymic usually using suffix -ov had to be introduced to make distinctions between two persons bearing the same personal name and the same family name and living within same area. A noted example is Marko Miljanov Popović, i.e. Marko, son of Miljan, from Popović family.

Due to discriminatory laws in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, some Serb families of Vojvodina discarded the suffix -ić in an attempt to mask their ethnicity and avoid heavy taxation.

The prefix Pop- in Serbian names indicates descent from a priest, for example Gordana Pop Lazić, i.e. descendent of Pop Laza.

Some Serbian family names include prefixes of Turkish origin, such as Uzun- meaning tall, or Kara-, black. Such names were derived from nicknames of family ancestors. A famous example is Karađorđević, descendents of Đorđe Petrović, known as Karađorđe or Black Đorđe.

Endings -ov and -ski

Among the Bulgarians, another South Slavic people, the typical surname suffix is "-ov" (Ivanov, Kovachev), although other popular suffixes also exist.

In the Republic of Macedonia, the most popular suffix today is "-ski".

Slovenian surnames

Slovenes have a great variety of surnames, most of them differentiated according to region. Surnames ending in -ič are less frequent than among Croats and Serbs. There are typically Slovenian surnames ending in -ič, such as Blažič, Stanič, Marušič. Many Slovenian surnames, especially in the Slovenian Littoral, end in -čič (Gregorčič, Kocijančič, Miklavčič, etc.), which is uncommon for other South Slavic peoples (except the neighboring Croats, e.g. Kovačić, Jelačić, Kranjčić, etc.). On the other hand, surname endings in -ski and -ov are rare, and are usually of foreign (mostly Czech) origin. One of the most typical Slovene surname endings is -nik (Rupnik, Pučnik, Plečnik, Pogačnik, Podobnik) and other used surname endings are -lin (Pavlin, Mehlin, Ahlin, Ferlin), -ar (Mlakar, Ravnikar, Smrekar Tisnikar) and -lj (Rugelj, Pucelj, Bagatelj, Bricelj). Many Slovenian surnames are linked to Medieval rural settlement patterns. Surnames like Novak (literally, "the new one") or Hribar (from hrib, hill) were given to the peasants settled in newly established farms, usually in high mountains. Peasant families were also named according to the owner of the land which they cultivated: thus, the surname Kralj (King) or Cesar (Emperor) was given to those working on royal estates, Škof (Bishop) or Vidmar to those working on ecclesiastical lands, etc. Many Slovenian surnames are named after animals (Medved – bear, Volk, Vovk or Vouk – wolf, Golob – pigeon, Lisjak – fox, Orel – eagle, Zajc or Zajec – rabbit, etc.). Many are named after neighbouring peoples: Horvat, Hrovat, or Hrovatin (Croat), Furlan (Friulian), Nemec (German), Lah (Italian), Vogrin, Vogrič or Vogrinčič (Hungarian), Vošnjak (Bosnian), Čeh (Czech), Turk (Turk), or different Slovene regions: Kranjc, Kranjec or Krajnc (from Carniola), Kraševec (from the Kras), Korošec (from Carinthia), Kočevar or Hočevar (from the Gottschee county).

Use of feminine surnames in Slovenia

In Slovenia last name of a female is the same as the male form in official use (identification documents, letters). In speech and descriptive writing (literature, newspapers) a female form of the last name is regularly used. Examples: Novak (m.) & Novakova (f.), Kralj (m.) & Kraljeva (f.), Mali (m.) ˛& Malijeva (f.) (this is different from the Czech principle, though forexample "mali" in Slovenian also means "small" the last name is not changed grammatically to "mala".) So we have Maja Novak on the ID card and Maja Novakova in communication; Tjaša Mali and Tjaša Malijeva; respectively. Derogative form of last names for females is also available: Novakovka, Kraljevka. As for pronunciation, in Slovenian there is some leeway regarding accentuation. Depending on the region or local usage, you may have either Nóvak & Nóvakova or, more frequently, Novák & Novákova. Accent marks are normally not used.

Ukraine and Belarus

Ukrainian and Belarusian names evolved from the same Old East Slavic and Ruthenian language (western Rus’) origins. Ukrainian and Belarusian names share many characteristics with family names from other Slavic cultures. Most prominent are the shared root words and suffixes. For example, the root koval (blacksmith) compares to the Polish kowal, and the root bab (woman) is shared with Polish, Slovakian, and Czech. The suffix -vych (son of) corresponds to the South Slavic -vic, the Russian -vich, and the Polish -wicz, while -sky, -ski, and -ska are shared with both Polish and Russian, and -ak with Polish.

However some suffixes are more uniquely characteristic to Ukrainian and Belarusian names, especially: -chuk (Western Ukraine), -enko (all other Ukraine) (both son of), -ko (little [masculine]), -ka (little [feminine]), -shyn, and -uk. See, for example, Mihalko, Ukrainian Presidents Leonid Kravchuk, and Viktor Yushchenko, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, or former Soviet diplomat Andrei Gromyko.

Burundi and Rwanda

In Burundi and Rwanda, most, if not all surnames have God in it, for example Hakizimana (meaning God cures), Nshimirimana (I thank God) or Havyarimana/Habyarimana (God gives birth). But not all surnames end with the suffix -imana. Irakoze is one of these (technically meaning Thank God, though it is hard to translate it correctly in English or probably any other language). Surnames are often different among immediate family members, as parents frequently choose unique surnames for each child, and women keep their maiden names when married. Surnames are placed before given names and frequently written in capital letters, e.g. HAKIZIMANA Jacques.

Horn of Africa

The patronymic custom in most of the Horn of Africa gives children the father's first name as their surname. The family then gives the child its first name. Middle names are unknown. So, for example, a person's name might be Bereket Mekonen . In this case, Bereket is the first name and Mekonen is the surname, and also the first name of the father.

The paternal grandfather's name is often used if there is a requirement to identify a person further, for example, in school registration. Also, different cultures and tribes use as the family's name the father's or grandfather's given name. For example, some Oromos use Warra Ali to mean families of Ali, where Ali, is either the householder, a father or grandfather.

In Ethiopia, the customs surrounding the bestowal and use of family names is as varied and complex as the cultures to be found there. There are so many cultures, nations or tribes, that currently there can be no one formula whereby to demonstrate a clear pattern of Ethiopian family names. In general, however, Ethiopians use their father's name as a surname in most instances where identification is necessary, sometimes employing both father's and grandfather's names together where exigency dictates.

Many people in Eritrea have Italian surnames, but all of these are owned by Eritreans of Italian descent.

By ethnic group


Jewish names have historically varied, encompassing throughout the centuries several different traditions. The most usual last name for those of the priest tribe is "Cohen"/"Kahen"/"Kogan"/"Kohen"/"Katz" (a Hebrew acronym of Kohen Tzedek, or righteous Kohen) and for those of the Levites, "Levi"/"Levine". Those who came from Europe usually have "Rosen"("rose"), "Spiel", "Gold", and other German words as their names' prefixes, and "man", "wyn"/"wein"("wine"), "berg"("mountain"), and other German words as their names' suffixes. Most Sephardic Jews adopted Arabic names, like "Azizi" ("you're [someones] love"), "Hassan" or added words to their original names, like "Kohenzadeh" ("[she] bore a Kohen"). Names like "Johnson" and "Peterson" may be used in Jewish tradition as they too used the father's name as identification. So "Johnson" in Hebrew is "Ben Yochanon", meaning "Yochanon (John)'s son". Many Yemenite Jews' family names are consisting of the place in which their ancestors have come to Yemen (like Sana'a) and an "i" in the end (like the family name "San'ani"), indicating belonging to the place they have originated from.


The Assyrians (a.k.a. Chaldo-Assyrian) are a distinct ethnic group, descendant largely from the population of ancient Assyria, indigenous to Mesopotamia with deep and long roots in the Middle East, mainly present-day Iraq, northwest Iran, northeast Syria and southeast Turkey.

Surnames come from the Akkadian influenced Eastern Aramaic dialects of the Assyrian (Chaldo-Assyrian) people. Some surnames are connected to East Syrian Rite Christianity, the religion Assyrians currently follow and have followed since the 1st Century AD, with others being of distinctly ancient Assyrian/Mesopotamian origin.

Common surnames include: Aboona, Abraham, Abro, Agajan, Agassi, Aghase, Akkad, Akbalit/Akbalut, Alamasha, Alawerdy, Aldawid, Amo Baba, Amu, Antar, Aprim, Apshu, Afarcan, Arad, Ashai, Ashouri, Ashurian, Ashur, Awdishu, Awikam, Awishalim, Awitor, Awia, Awrohum, Aziz, Azzo, Baba, Bacchus, Badel, Barkha/Barkho, Brikha, Bronit, Balou, Barkoo, Benassi, Benyamin, Bidavid, Bidawid, Bishu, Cabani, Dadashu/Dadasho, Darmu, Dinkha, Daoud, Dayan/Daian, Disho, Duman, Elia, Elias, Enwia, Eshai, Farhad, Gorges/Georgis, Gewargis, Hadad/Adad, Hamsho, Hasso, Harshu, Hormis, Hosanna, Hurmis, Ilshu, Ilishu, Ishmael, Ishai, Isaac, Ishaq, Iskhaq, Iwassi, Jabri, Jelu, Jendo, Juna, Kambar, Karam, Karoukian, Kasri, Khamo, Khanbaba, Khanisho/Khnanisu, Khnaninia, Khedroo, Khoshanu, Khoshaba, Malech, Malek, Malka, Malkai, Malick, Mamendo, Matti, Merza, Mikhael/Mikhail, Mnashi, Nisan, Nimrod, Narsai, Ninweh, Nineveh, Nessar, Odah, Odisha, Odisho, Oraham, Oshana, Qateneh, Raaba, Rabi, Rafael, Ramsin/Rumsin, Rassam, Rifkha, Ronay, Samo, Sargis, Sargon, Sarkis, Sarmas, Sayad, Semma, Shabad, Shamash/Shamasha, Shamshi, Sinharib, Sharrukin, Shimun, Shamoon, Shimon, Shimonaya, Shinu, Shinai, Sleman, Shulman, Sliwoo/Sliwa, Tematheus, Thoma, Thomaya, Tamraz, Tiras, Tiyareh/Tyareh, Urshan, Warda, Warad, Yacoub, Yawalaha, Yalda, Yatrin, Yetron, Yelu, Yoel, Yohannan, Yonan, Yonadam Yoseph, Yoshu, Youkhana, Younan, Yousif, Yukhannan, Zakharia, Zilkha, Zimri.


The majority of Kurds do not hold Kurdish names because the names have been banned in the countries they primarily live in (namely Iran, Turkey and Syria). Kurds in these respective countries tend to hold Turkish, Persian or Arabic names, in the majority of cases, forcefully appointed by the ruling governments.[41] Others hold Arabic names as a result of the influence of Islam and Arab culture.

Kurds holding authentic Kurdish names are generally found in Diaspora or in Iraqi Kurdistan where Kurds are relatively free. Traditionally, Kurdish family names are inherited from the tribes of which the individual or families are members. However, some families inherit the names of the regions they are from.

Common affixes of authentic Kurdish names are "-î" and "-za" also "-a" and "-ê" by two surnames.

  • Baran(ê) Memê Alan

Baran of Mem of Alan


  • Berfîn(a) Soreya Evînê

Berfin of Sarah of Evin
there are also names with the word "Mal(a)" [House (of)] e.g.:

  • Baran mala Alan

Baran of House of Alan

  • Berfîn mala Evîn

Berfin of House of Evin

Some common Kurdish last names, which are also the names of their respective tribes, include Baradost, Barzani, Berwari, Berzinji, Chelki, Diri, Doski, Jaf, Mutki, Rami, Rekani, Rozaki, Sindi, and Tovi. Other names include Akreyi, Alan, Amedi, Botani, Hewrami, Mukri, and Serhati.

Traditionally, Kurdish women did not inherit a man's last name. Although still not in practice by many Kurds, this can be more commonly found today.


Tibetan people are often named at birth by the local Buddhist Lama or they may request a name from the Dalai Lama. They do not often use a family name though many have one. They may change their name throughout life if advised by a Buddhist Lama, for example if a different name removes obstacles. The Tibetans who enter monastic life take a name from their ordination Lama, which will be a combination of the Lama's name and a new name for them.

North Caucasian Adyghe family surnames

In the case of Circassians, especially Adyges and Kabardians, hereditary surnames have been borne by people for thousands of years. All Circassian people belong to a Clan.

Most surnames of Adyge origin fall into six types:

  • Occupations (e.g., 'smith', 'hunter', 'tailor')
  • Personal characteristics (e.g., 'short', 'deaf', 'beautiful')
  • Geographical features (e.g., 'hill', 'river', 'cave', 'wood', 'fields')
  • Animal names (e.g., 'bear', 'horse', 'snake', 'fox', 'wild boar')
  • Patronymics and ancestry, often from a male's given name ('son of...') or from an ethnic name (e.g., Shapsug, Kabardey)
  • Religious names (e.g., Shogen 'Priest', Yefendi 'Efendi', Mole 'Mullah')

Shogen comes from the Christian era, and Yefendi and Mole come from the Muslim era.

Circassian women, even when they marry, do not change their surnames. By keeping their surnames and passing it on to the next generation, children come to distinguish relatives from the maternal side and respect her family as well as those from their father's side.

On the other hand, children cannot marry someone who bears the same surname as they do, no matter how distantly related.

In the Circassian tradition, the formula for surnames is patterned to mean "daughter of ..."

Abkhaz families follow similar naming patterns reflecting the common roots of the Abkhazian, Adygean and Wubikh peoples.

Circassian family names cannot be derived from women's names or from the name of female ancestors.

See also


  1. ^ See, for example, the Italian Civil Code, art. 143-bis.
  2. ^ Kelly, 99 W Va L Rev at 10; see id. at 10 n 25 (The custom of taking the father's surname assumes that the child is born to parents in a "state-sanctioned marriage." The custom is different for children born to unmarried parents.). Cited in Doherty v. Wizner, Oregon Court of Appeals (2005)
  3. ^ a b Note: content available by subscription only. First page of content available via Google Scholar.
  4. ^ "American Women, Changing Their Names", National Public Radio. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^ Richard H. Thornton, The Controversy Over Children's Surnames: Familial Autonomy, Equal Protection and the Child's Best Interests, 1979 Utah L Rev 303.
  12. ^ Whose Surname Should a Child HaveJoanna Grossman, , FindLaw's Writ column (Aug 12, 2003), (last visited Dec 7, 2006).
  13. ^ UN Convention, 1979. "Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women". Archived at WebCite on 1 Apri1 2011.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
  16. ^ Burghartz v. Switzerland, no. 16213/90, 22 February 1994.
  17. ^ Losonci Rose and Rose v. Switzerland, no. 664/06, 9 November 2010.
  18. ^ Ünal Tekeli v Turkey, no. 29865/96, 16 November 2004.
  19. ^ European Gender Equality Law Review – No. 1/2012, p.17
  20. ^ Katherine M. Spadaro, Katie Graham (2001) Colloquial Scottish Gaelic: the complete course for beginners p.16. Routledge, 2001
  21. ^ Daniella Miletic (20 July 2012) Most women say 'I do' to husband's name. The Age.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Québec newlywed furious she can't take her husband's name, by Marianne White, CanWest News Service, 8 August 2007 . Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  24. ^ Note: Google auto translation of title into English→Royal Decree 193/2000, of February 11, to amend certain articles of the Civil Registration Regulations in the field on the name and order.
  25. ^
  26. ^ The whole section is based on the article Paikkala, S. Sukunimet sukututkimuksessa. Retrieved 11-6-2007. (Finnish)
  27. ^ Equality in Finland: Information for immigrants
  28. ^ The information here is taken from the Finnish Nimilaki (694/1985) (Name Act). Retrieved 11-6-2007.
  29. ^ Tzavaras, Ath.: "Agapite Aderfe Vasileie", Ekdosis Exantas, Athens 1999
  30. ^ , Michael C. O'Laughlin, Irish Roots Cafe, 1999Families of County Cork, Ireland: Including English, Scots and Anglo-Norman Settlers
  31. ^ (Italian) Italian Civil Code, art. 143 bis
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Hans Peter Vietze: Mongolische Namen (in German)
  35. ^ Terry, Edith. How Asia Got Rich: Japan, China and the Asian Miracle, pp. 632 ff. M.E. Sharpe, 2002. ISBN 0-7656-0356-X.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ (Johan I. Borgos)Norwegian Naming Patterns
  40. ^ (Norwegian-American Historical Association)Norwegian Names
  41. ^

External links

  • Family Facts Archive,, including UK & US census distribution, immigration, and surname origins (Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press)
  • World Names Profiler, search for family names by region
  • Guild of One-Name Studies
  • History of Jewish family Names
  • Dictionnaire des noms de famille de France et d'ailleurs, French surname dictionary
  • Information on surname history and origins
  • Short explanation of Polish surname endings and their origin
  • Italian Surnames, free searchable online database of Italian surnames.
  • Comprehensive surname information and resource site
  • Glossary of Surname Meanings & Origins
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