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A name (in Western contexts often referred to as a last name) is a type of surname and part of a person's name indicating the family to which the person belongs. The use of family names is widespread in cultures around the world. Each culture has its own rules as to how these names are applied and used.

In many cultures (notably Western, Middle Eastern, and African) the family name is normally the last part of a person's name. In other cultures, the family name comes first. The latter is often called the Eastern order because Europeans are most familiar with the examples of China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Since family names are normally given last in European societies, the term last name is commonly used for family name. In past history, family names were changed or replaced by non-family-name surnames under political pressure to avoid prosecution, such as 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 Two.

Family names are most often used to refer to a stranger 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, "Christian name" (traditionally in Western Christian custom the name formally given to a child at an infant baptism or "christening"), 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.

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. In contrast, the "matrilineal surname" or "mother-line surname", handed down from or inherited from the mother's line, is treated in its own section of a totally separate article, to avoid complicating this large Family name article—see Matrilineality's Matrilineal surname section.

Research on individual names

Onomastics is the study of proper namesincluding family names. A one-name study is a collection of vital and other biographical data about all persons worldwide sharing a particular surname. The Guild of One-Name Studies is a major UK-based organization in this field.


The oldest use of family or surnames is unclear. Surnames have arisen in cultures with large, concentrated populations where single names for individuals became insufficient to identify them clearly. In many cultures, the practice of using additional descriptive terms in identifying individuals has arisen. These identifying terms or descriptors may indicate personal attributes, location of origin, occupation, parentage, patronage, adoption, or clan affiliation. Often these descriptors developed into fixed clan identifications which became family names in the sense that we know them today.

In China, according to legend, family names started with Emperor Fu Xi in 2852 BCE. 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 BCE) and that "by the time of the Shang Dynasty they (Chinese surnames) had become patrilineal", see Matrilineality's China section.

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

In Ancient Greece, during some periods, it became common to use one's place of origin as a part of a person's official identification.At other times, clan names and patronymics ("son of") were also common. For example, Alexander the Great was known by the clan name Heracles and was, therefore, 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 formal 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. By the time of the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, family names were uncommon in the Eastern Roman (i.e. Byzantine) 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. 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 in the way that they are today.

In the case of England, the most accepted theory of the origin of family names is to attribute their introduction to the Normans and the Domesday Book of 1086. As such, documents indicate that surnames were first adopted among the feudal nobility and gentry, and only slowly spread to the other parts of society. Some of the early Norman nobility arriving in England during the Norman Conquest differentiated themselves by affixing 'de' (of) in front of 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, those distinguishing themselves by this manner indicated lordship, or ownership, of their village. But some early Norman nobles in England chose to drop the French derivations and simply call themselves after the name of their new English holdings.

Modern era

During the modern era, many cultures around the world adopted the practice of using family names, particularly for administrative reasons, especially during the imperialistic age of European expansion and particularly from the 17th to 19th centuries onward. Notable examples include the Netherlands (1811), Japan (1870s), Thailand (1920), and Turkey (1934). Nonetheless, their use is not universal: Icelanders, Tibetans, Burmese, and Javanese do not use family names.

UN Convention, CEDAW

In its 1979 "Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women," or CEDAW, the UN officially adopted the following provision: "States ... shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation." (Italics added.) For a further description of and treatment of this Convention, see Matrilineality's Matrilineal surname section.

By language

English-speaking countries

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 Scottish people had acquired 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.

Most surnames of British origin fall into seven types:
  • Occupations (e.g., Smith, Sawyer, "Fuller", Brewer, Clark, Cooper, Cook, Carpenter, Forrester, Head, Archer, Baker, Dyer, Walker, Woodman, Taylor, Turner, Knight, Weaver, Wright)
  • Personal characteristics (e.g., Short, Brown, Black, Whitehead, Long)
  • Geographical features (e.g., Bridge, Camp, Hill, Lake, Lee, Wood, Forest, Fields, Stone, Morley, HeadMiddle English for hed = given a person who lived at the head of a river or on a hilltop.)
  • Place names (e.g., Washingtonmarker, Everinghammarker, Burton, London, Leighton, Hamilton, Sutton, Flint, Laughton)
  • For those descended from land-owners, the name of their holdings, manor or estate (the name Washington can also fall into this category, Old English components Hwæssa-inga-tūn "estate of the descendants of Wassa")
  • Patronymics, matronymics or ancestral, often from a person's given name (e.g., from male name: Richardson, Jones (Welsh for John), Williams, Thompson, Johnson) or female names Molson (from Moll for Mary), Madison (from Maud), Emmott (from Emma), Marriott (from Mary) or from a clan name (for those of Scottish origin, e.g., MacDonald, Forbes) with "Mac" Scottish Gaelic for son.
  • Patronal, from patronage (Hickman meaning Hick's man, where Hick is a pet form of the name Richard) or strong ties of religion Kilpatrick (follower of Patrick) or Kilbride (follower of Bridget). It might be worth noting that Kil may come from the Gaelic word 'Cill' which means Church. This would certainly support the claim that the surname is tied to the religion. (Approximately 79 percent of white Americans have surnames that are of English, Irish, or Scottish derivation)

The original meaning of the name may no longer be obvious in modern English (e.g., a Cooper is one who makes barrels, and the name Tillotson is a matronymic from a diminutive for Matilda). A much smaller category of names relates to religion, though some of this category are also occupations. The names Bishop, Priest, or Abbot, for example, may indicate that an ancestor worked for a bishop, a priest, or an abbot, respectively, or possibly took such a role in a popular religious play (see pageant play).

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. Some descendents of slaves, such as Malcolm X changed their name rather than live with one they believed had been given to their ancestors by a slave owner.

In England and cultures derived from there, there has long been the patriarchal tradition for a woman to change her surname upon marriage from her birth name to her husband's last name. From the first known US instance of a woman keeping her birth name, Lucy Stone in 1855, there has been a general increase in the rate of women keeping their original 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 2004, roughly 90% of American women automatically assumed their husband's surname upon getting married. Even in families where the wife has kept her birth name, parents often choose to give their children their father's family name. In America, married women are traditionally known as Mrs [Husband's full name].

In the Middle Ages, when a man from a lower-status family married an only daughter from a higher-status family, he would often take 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 name, so that the name of the testator continued. It is rare but not unknown for an English-speaking man to take the name of his wife, whether for personal reasons or as a matter of tradition (such as among Canadian aboriginal groups, especially the matrilineal Haida and Kwakiutl); it is increasingly common in the United States, where a married couple may choose a new last name entirely. This has become more widely popular in Southern California since the election of Antonio Villaraigosa as Los Angelesmarker mayor.

As an alternative, both spouses may adopt a double-barrelled 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.

In some jurisdictions, a woman's legal name used to change automatically upon marriage. That change is no longer a requirement (except in South Africa), but women may still easily change to their husband's surname. Upon marriage, men in the United Statesmarker 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). (Note: many Anglophone countries are also common-law countries.)

Many people choose to change their name when they marry, while others do not. There are many reasons why people maintain their surname. One is that dropped surnames disappear throughout generations, while the adopted surname survives. Another reason is that if a person's surname is well known due to their particular family's history, he or she may choose to keep his or her birth surname. Yet another is the identity crisis people may experience when giving up their surname. People in academia, for example, who have previously published articles in academic journals under their birth name often do not change their surname after marriage, in order to ensure that they continue to receive credit for their past and future work. This practice is also common among physicians, attorneys, and other professionals, as well as celebrities for whom continuity is important. Though the practice of women's maintaining their surname after marriage is increasing, it has not caught on in the general population and there is great peer pressure for women to change their names. Practices among same-sex married couples do not at this point follow any discernible pattern, with some choosing to share surnames, while others do not.

In Southern United States gospel and folk music, families often perform together as groups. When female artists in these genres marry, they usually adopt double-barrelled surnames if the husband comes from a noted musical family as well (e.g. Allison Durham Speer, Kelly Crabb Bowling), or simply continue to go by their birth names if the husband is not from such a family (e.g. Karen Peck, Libbi Perry, Janet Paschal).

Spelling of names in past centuries is often assumed to be a deliberate choice by a family, but due to very low literacy rates, many families could not provide the spelling of their surname, and so the scribe, clerk, minister, or official would write down the name on the basis of how it was spoken, or how they heard it. This results in a great many variations, some of which occurred when families moved to another country (e.g. Wagner becoming Wagoner, or Whaley becoming Wheally). With the increase in bureaucracy, officially-recorded spellings tended to become the standard for a given family.

Spanish-speaking countries

In medieval times, a patronymic system similar to the one still used in Iceland emerged. 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 ("tan"); occupations, e.g. Molinero ("miller"), Rey ("King") and Guerrero ("warrior"); and geographic location or ethnicity, e.g. Alemán ("German").

However, nowadays in Spain and in many Spanish-speaking countries (former Spanish colonies, e.g. Mexicomarker, Dominican Republicmarker, Puerto Rico, Cubamarker, Guatemalamarker, Nicaraguamarker, Colombiamarker, Perumarker, Chilemarker, Ecuadormarker,Venezuelamarker), most people have two family names, although in some situations only the first is used. The first family name is the paternal one, inherited from the father's paternal family name. The second family name is the maternal one, inherited from the mother's paternal family name. (As an example, Mexicanmarker boxer Marco Antonio Barrera's full name is Marco Antonio Barrera Tapia, though Barrera is the only one used in general conversation.) 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 agree (if one of their children is at least 12 years old they need his/her agreement too).

Depending on the country, the family names may or may not be linked by the conjunction y ("and"), i ("and", in Cataloniamarker), de ("of") and de la ("of the", when the following word is feminine). However, in many South American countries, people have now adopted the English-speaking custom of having a single family name (e.g., in Argentinamarker). Sometimes a new father transmits his complete family name by creating a new one, combining his two family names, 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.

Presently in Spainmarker, women upon marrying keep their own two family names. In certain rare situations, especially the nobility, she may be addressed as if her maternal surname had been replaced with her husband's paternal surname, often 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, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Panamamarker, and to a certain extent in Mexico, where its use is becoming minor through time. In Mexico, women who got married kept their first family name followed by "de" 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; this usage is being discontinued and it's only used by elder women, or by adult females that knew that custom when they were little, also it's used to refer to a woman who one doesn't know her full name and use her husband's last name instead (like in the former example). 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 la Cruz, and if the husband dies, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Martínez Vda. de la Cruz (Vda. is the abbreviation for Viuda, "widow" in Spanish). 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 maintained for all the children.

In Argentina only one family name, the father's paternal family name, is commonly used and registered, as in English-speaking countries (the real reason why many Argentinians [but by no means all, a large proportion of them use two as per Spanish usage] use one last name is because a large proportion of the dominant class come from Italian ascent, and therefore follow the conventions of this country). 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.

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 in Cuba, people are often known by the name of their dwelling rather than by their surnames. For example, Remei Pujol i Serra who lives at Ca l'Elvira would be referred to as "la Remei de Ca l'Elvira."

French-speaking countries


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 Austriamarker 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 one of them can adopt a hyphenated name of their birth names (the latter case is forbidden for both partners and for the last names of children), or one of them can switch to their partner's name (if the partner keeps it). After that, they must decide on one family name for all their future children, by pretty much the same rules. (German name)

Changing one's family name for reasons other than marriage, divorce or adoption is only possible in Germany if the applicant can prove that they suffer extraordinarily due to their name.

Portuguese-speaking countries

In the case of Portuguesemarker 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. A person's full name as 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 some bureaucracy. Parents or the person him/herself must explain the claims they have to bearing that surname (a family nickname, a lost and rare surname lost in past generations or any other reason one may find suitable).

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") 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' name or the name of the town or villaged 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 Earthquakemarker, 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; 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 "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 NetherlandsBelgiumSouth Africa

By country


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 Parthian 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 assimiliation. In Russia, many have changed -yan to -ov (or -ova for women). In Turkey, many have changed the ending to -oglu (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 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.


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 decent 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 in (e.g. Tabrizpour for those from Tabriz) or their occupation (e.g. Damirchizadeh for blacksmiths).

In the middle of a 19 century Azeri people were forced to abandon their traditional Azeri surname suffixes and were then replaced by Russian "-ov", "-yev" for men and "-ova", "-yeva" for women suffixes.


Bulgarianmarker names usually consists 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 consists 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/belonging to a family.For example 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 prefixes, "-ov", "-ev"/"-ova", "-eva" are used for expressing relationship to the father and "-in"/"-ina" - relationship to the mother (often for orphans with dead father).


Finland has two predominant surname traditions: the West Finnish and the East Finnish. Until the early 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 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 in 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 17th centuries, new names were most often formed by adding the place name of the former or current place of living (e.g. Puumalainen Puumalamarker). In the East Finnish tradition, the females carried the family name of their fathers in female form (e.g. Puumalatar Puumalainen). By 19th century, this practice fell into disuse due to the influence of West-European surname tradition.

In Western Finland, the 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, foreign 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 case of clergy) Latin surnames. 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).

In the 21st century Finland, the use of surnames follows the German model. Every person is legally obliged 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 barrelled name. The parents may choose either surname or the double barrelled surname for their children, but all siblings must share the same surname. 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 resident 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. 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, the root of the surname can be modified by consonant gradation regularly when inflected to a case. In contrast, first names do not undergo qualitative gradation (e.g. Hilta - Hiltan), only quantitative gradation (Mikko - Mikon).


Most eastern Georgianmarker surnames end with the suffix of "-shvili", (e.g. Sharmazana'shvili) Georgian for "child" or "offspring". Western Georgian surnames most commonly have the suffix "-dze", Georgian for "son". Megrelian surnames usually end in "-ia" or "ua". Other location-specific endings exist: In Svanetimarker "-iani", meaning "belonging to", or "hailing from", is common. In the eastern Georgian highlands common endings are "uri" and "uli". Some noble family names end in "eli", meaning "of (someplace)".In Georgian, the surname is not normally used as the polite form of address; instead, the given name is used together with a title. For instance, Nikoloz Sharmazanashvili is politely addressed as bat'onii Nikolozi "Mr. Nikoloz".


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 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 as 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.

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 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, i.e. "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- 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.

Arvanitic surnames also exist. For example, the Arvanitic word for "brave" or "pallikari" (in Greek) being "çanavar" or its shortened form "çavar" was pronounced "tzanavar" or "tzavar" giving birth to traditional Arvanitic family names like "Tzanavaras" and/or "Tzavaras".

Most Greek patronymic suffixes are diminutives, which vary by region. The most common Hellenic patronymic suffixes are:
  • -poulos/-poulou, which has Latin origin (pullus) and means "the little", representing "the son of ...", so a man whose family name is "Christopoulos" means that his father was named "Christos". This suffix is very spread mostly throughout the whole Greecemarker and is original from the Peloponessusmarker in particular.
  • -idis/-idou and -iadis/-iadou are both very ancient last names and clan forms used in the Pontus and Asia Minormarker regions, i.e. "Michailidis", the "clan of Michael"
  • -akis/-aki is associated primarily with Cretemarker and the Aegean Islands. A patronymic signifying "little" and/or "son" therefore "Theodorakis" being "little Theodore".

Others, less common are:

The suffix -idis(often transliterated -ides in English and French languages) is the oldest in use. Zeus, for example was also referred to as Cronides ("son of Cronus").

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 Icelandmarker, 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 cultures and language groups within it. Thus, Indian surnames, where formalized, fall into seven general types. And many people from the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala do not use any formal surnames, though most might have one.

In Northern India, most of the people have their family name after the given names, whereas in Southern India, the given names come after the family name.
  • Patronymics and ancestry, where 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 used to collect taxes, Kapadia, Nadkarni, Patwardhan, Patwari, Shenoy, etc.) and priestly distinctions (Bhat, Bhattar, Trivedi, Shukla, Chaturvedi, Twivedi, Purohit, Mukhopadhyay) Businesspeople: Amin, Shah. 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, Goud 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).
  • A few last names originate from the names (Juthani)
  • The father's first name is used as a surname in certain Southern states, such as Keralamarker, Karnatakamarker and Tamil Nadumarker. However after the marriage the bride uses her husband's first name instead.
  • Muslim surnames, generally following the same rules used in Pakistanmarker. Khan among the most popular, 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, Tharakan, Panicker, Vallikappen, Moocken, etc.) and those bestowed by the British (Rai, Bahadur).
  • Names indicating nobility or feudal associations or honorifics (Chowdary, Naidu, Varma, Singh, Burman, Raja, Reddy, Tagore, Thakur)
  • 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 eg. Miranda-Prabhu and Pereira-Shenoy.

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 Maharashtramarker, official documents list the family name first, followed by a comma and the given names.

It is customary for wives to take the surname of their husband after marriage. In modern times, in urban areas at least, this practice is not universal. 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.

In some parts of Southern India, no formal surname is used, because the family has decided to forgo its existing clan name. There has been a minor reversal of this trend in the recent times. This practice is prevalent in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. For example, people from the kongu vellala gounder community of Tamil Nadu have in general two titles: the caste title Gounder and the clan name, example Perungudi. Nowadays it is common for people not to use any of these titles. So a Konguvel, son of Shanmuganathan, of say Erode, would call himself Konguvel Shanmughanathan, instead of the traditional Erode Perungudi Konguvel Gounder. This practise is of very recent origin though. Wife or child takes the given name of the husband or father (Usha married Satish, and may therefore be called Usha Satish or simply S. Usha). However in some families(Nair/Nayar), the children carry the last name of their mother instead of the father and are considered part of the mother's family. In many communities, especially Christian, names are formed by the given name as the first name, the family name and house name as the middle name(s) and the father's/husband's given name as the last name. Thus, the last name changes with each generation. The house name would also change as generations move out of their consanguineal family homes with the changing ownership of property upon the death of the patriarch. The Dravidian movement in the beginning of 20th century was instrumental in knocking off the concept of surnames in Tamil Nadu. Since many companies in the industrially rich Tamil Nadu managed to filter candidates just by looking at their names, the movement went on to such an extent that surnames/castenames were simply refused at primary school levels. The movement went so active that even Streets, roads and galis where names with caste name was published, road-tar was applied on caste names. For instance in a Ranganatha Mudaliar street, the Mudaliar name was struck off with tar, leaving the street as Ranganathan Street. Similar was the case with almost all castes, Now it's hard to find a Mudaliar, Nadar, Pillai,Goundar, Iyer, Chettiar etc in any public display. Only on arranged marriages, people feel proud to publish their caste names. In cases where people arrange their own marriages (intercaste / inter religion), the caste name almost vanishes. Hence the famous "ETHIRAJA MUDALIAR College" in Chennai is simply "ETHIRAJ COLLEGE" or "Kamaraja nadar road" is simply "Kamaraj road". This is being welcomed by politicians from UP, Bihar etc.

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 at 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 Bengalmarker Government now insists on re-converting all the variations to their original form when the child is enrolled in school.

Some parts of Sri Lankamarker, Thailandmarker, Nepalmarker, Burmamarker, and Indonesiamarker have similar patronymic customs as that 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.
  • 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 for details.
  • The 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 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.

Javanesemarker people are the majority in Indonesia, and most do not have any surname. There are many individuals who have only name, such as "Suharto" and "Sukarno". These are not only common with the Javanese but also with 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 in Ireland of Gaelic origin derive from ancestors' names, nicknames, or descriptive names. In the first group can be placed surnames such as McMurrough and McCarthy, 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 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 (cinnéide, "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 ( ), meaning Welsh.

In areas where certain family names are extremely common, extra names are added that sometimes follow this archaic pattern. In Irelandmarker, 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.

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, 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.

Some Irish surnames can be mistaken for non-Irish. Anglicization of many surnames has been so thorough that bona-fide Irish names such as Crockwell and Harrington appear to be English. Other Irish names can appear to be German (Bruder), Italian (Costello), French (Devereux), or even Polish (Comiskey).

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, De 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.
  • Mhic: . Compressed form of bean mhic ("wife of the son of") eg 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 ) 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 1800s. A number of illegitimate descendent of the British royal family (who were not, due to their illegitimacy, members themselves) were given surnames which indicated their illegitimacy: 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 .
  • : 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.


Most Persian last names have the following affixes.

Affixes are:

-i, -zadeh (born of), -pour (son of), -nejad (from the race of), -mand, -vand, -far, -doost, -khah, -zad, -mannesh

Sometimes name of cities or towns are attached as the last word in the family name such as:Tehranimarker, Shirazimarker, Esfahanimarker, Tabrizimarker, Zanjani, Angurani, Samani, Farahani.

Some common Persian last names are: Afshar, Agassi, Alivandi, Alizadeh, Amanpour, Ansari, Anvari, Ariani, Arki, Ashtari, Azria, Bahari, Bahrami, Bakhtiari, Barati, Bateni, Bozorgi, Dashti, Davoodi, Ebadi, Elmi, Emami, Esfahani, Fakoor, Farahani, Feiz, Firozi, Gharani, Gharibpour, Ghassemi, Golzari, Hosseini, Javanmardy, Kalbasi, Karimi, Kashani, Kiani, Kiyanfar, Kiyanpour, Loghmani, Mehranzadeh, Mesgara, Milani, Mirzapour, Motallebzadeh, Najafi, Nakhoda, Niyazfar, Omidifar, Ovisi, Ovasi, Rabiee, Rahimi, Rastinpour, Rezaei, Rouzrokh, Samani, Sarafpour, Sattari, Shirazi, Soltanzadeh, Souriani, Talebi, Tehrani, Teymourian, Yaghoubi, Yari, Yazdani, Zahedi, Zandi and Zandipour.

Many last names that end in "ian" (or sometimes "yan") are traditionally Persian last names (though this is also common in Armenian last names, which are not related). This is the same for "-stan" which is a Persian noun-maker suffix used for country names such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. which comes from Persian meaning "land" or "province" (Ostan in Persian).

In the Persian culture the wife does not take on the husband's surname, as opposed to the European style.


Italymarker has around 350,000 surnames. Most of them derive from the following sources: patronym or ilkmarker (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, "Enzo the Smiths"), 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 formal or administrative settings; lists are usually indexed according to the last name.

Since 1975 women keep their surname when married, but since recently they should have added the surname of the husband according to the civil code, although it was not a common practise. In recent years, the husband's surname can be used only in unofficial situations. In this 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).


Lithuanian names follow the Baltic distinction between male and female suffixes of names, although the details are different. Male surnames usually end in -as, -is, -ius, or -us, whereas the female versions change these suffixes to -aitė, -ytė, -iūtė, and -utė respectively (if unmarried) or -ienė (if married). Some of 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.


Due to different cultures that had their impacts on the Maltese archipelago, various surnames are evident. Sicilian and Italian surnames are common due to the close vicinity to Malta. Examples include Bonello, Camilleri, Cauchi, Chetcuti, Dalli, Darmanin, Farrugia, Giglio, Gauci, Delicata, Licari, Magri, Rizzo, Schembri, Tabone, Troisi, Vassallo, etc. English surnames exist due to Malta forming a part of the British Empire in the 19th century and most of the 20th. Examples include Bickle, Bone, Haidon,'Harding, Harmsworth, Hogg, Atkins, Mattocks, Martin, Wallbank, Smith, Jones, Sixsmith, Woods, Turner, Henwood.

Semitic surnames are common, due to the early presence of Eastern and Southern Mediterranean people in Malta. Examples include Sammut, Zammit, Said, Borg, Xuereb, Xerri, Grixti, Xriha, although the last three are also written in a Italianized form, i.e. Scerri, Griscti, Sciriha, due to Maltese being written in the Italian alphabet in the 19th century. Spanish surnames exist too. One common Maltese name that appears to be Spanish in origin is Galdes and less common surnames are Enriquez, Herrera, Guzman, Inguanez, Carabez. A variant of Galdes exists and is Galdies, with only one family possessing it.

At first glance, another common Maltese surname that appears to be Spanish in origin is Calleja , though, the first recorded instance of the surname on Malta predates Spanish rule and was spelled Calleya in the 1200s. Giovanni Francesco Abela, the father of Maltese history suspected the surname to be of Greek origin. It should also be noted that Calleja does appear in Sicily in Italy, two other forms of the name is Calleya and Callea—in fact is it not entirely unlikely the surname is of Italian/Sicilian origin and was exported to both Malta and Spain. Such as Papagiorcopoulo, Dacoutros, Vasilopoulos, Vasilis, Trakosopoulos Such as Depuis, Montfort. Surnames from foreign countries from Middle Ages include German

Such as von Brockdorff, Maempel, Engerer, Hyzler, Schranz, Craus, Fenech. The Jews have also left a relic of their presence on the island with the surnames of Abela, Ellul, Azzopardi and Cohen.

  • Double Surnames
Some Maltese women, in order to preserve a rare surname from becoming extinct after marriage, add their maiden surname to their husband's. Sometimes, it becomes a sign of social status.

These include: Spiteri Maempel, Zammit Maempel, Spiteri-Gonzi, Fleri Soler, Mifsud-Bonnici, Sammut-Alessi, Sammut-Testaferrata, Samut-Tagliaferro, Cachia-Zammit, Caruana Curran, Vella-Maistre, Zarb Cousin, Fenech-Adami, Borg Olivier, Sant Fournier.
  • Surnames showing places in Malta
The few original Maltese surnames are those which show places of origin, for example, Chircop (Kirkopmarker), Lia (Lija), Balzan (Balzanmarker), Valletta (Vallettamarker), Sciberras (Xebb ir-Ras Hill, on which Valletta was built) and possibly Curmi from Qormimarker.

The village of Munxarmarker, Gozomarker is characterised by the majority of its population having one from two surnames, either Curmi or de Brincat. In Gozo, the surnames Bajada and Farrugia are also common.

  • Customs
Women take a man's surname upon marriage, and their name is written as: Maria Borg née Zammit in official documents, but only as Maria Borg in informal scenarios. However some celebrities retain their old name as a stage name. Generally children take the surname of their father, but some are given the name of their mother, either alone or combined to their father's.

The custom to address a family is to use the initial and surname of the male and refer also to the family. For example, if a letter is sent to a person named David Saliba and his family, one writes Mr. and Mrs. D. Saliba.

Except for the new surnames from foreign countries, and sometimes the long, combined and rare ones, generally the Maltese people do not give a lot of importance to the origins of their surnames, and cohabit hand in hand.

  • Foreign Minority Surnames
Some new surnames have entered Maltese society through asylum seekers from third world countries and Eastern Europe. An example is Nwoko, following the naturalization of footballer Chucks Nwoko. Others include Okoh, Ohaegbu, Yekoko, Stefanov,Bogdanovic, Giorev, Mohammed, Abu Shala, Abu Shamala.
  • Some Maltese surnames
Some examples of surnames from Malta are:
  • A: Abdilla; Abela; Agius; Anastasi; Ancilleri; Apap; Aquilina; Arpa; Arrigo; Asciak; Attard; Axisa; Azzopardi
  • B: Bajada; Baldacchino; Balzan; Barbara; Barbaro; Bartolo; Bencini; Bezzina; Bickle; Bilocca; Bisazza; Boffa; Bonanno; Bonavia; Bonello; Bonnici; Bontempo; Borg; Briffa; Brincat; Bruno; Bugeja; Buhagiar; Busuttil; Buttigieg
  • C: Cachia; Calamitta; Calì; Calleja; Callus; Camenzuli; Camilleri; Cannataci; Carabott; Caruana; Casha; Cassar; Cauchi; Cefai; Chetcuti; Chircop; Ciantar; Ciappara; Cilia; Cini; Coleiro; Coppini; Cortis; Cremona; Cucciardi; Cumbo; Curmi; Cuschieri; Cutajar
  • D: Dalli; Dalmas; D'Amato; Darmanin; Debattista; Debono; Debrincat; Decelis; Degabriele; Degiovanni; Deguara; Delia; Delicata; Demanuele; Demicoli; Desira; Diacono; Dimech; Dingli
  • E: Ebejer; Ellul; Esposito; Engerer
  • F: Falzon; Farrugia; Fava; Fenech; Ferriggi; Filletti; Fleri Soler; Formosa; Francalanza; Frendo; Friggieri; Fsadni
  • G: Gafa'; Galdes; Galea; Gambin; Gatt; Gauci; Gerada; Ghigo; Ghirxi; Gonzi; Grech; Grillo; Grima; Griscti; Grixti; Gusman
  • H: Haber; Herrera; Hili; Hyzler
  • I: Imbroll; Incorvaia; Inglott
  • L: Laferla; Lanfranco; Lautier; Lewis; Lia
  • M: Magri; Magro; Mahoney; Mallia; Mamo; Manduca; Mangion; Marmara; Massa; Meilak; Meli; Mercieca; Micallef; Mifsud; Mintoff; Mizzi; Montebello; Montalto; Mugliett; Mula; Muscat; Musumeci
  • N: Nani; Naudi
  • P: Pace; Padovani; Palmier; Parascandolo; Paris; Parnis; Pavia; Penza; Pirotta; Pisani; Piscopo; Portelli; Privitelli; Psaila; Pule'; Pulis; Pullicino
  • Q: Quattromani; Quintano
  • R: Rapa; Rapinett; Refalo; Rizzo
  • S: Sacco; Said; Saidon; Salerno; Saliba; Sammut; Sant; Sapiano; Sapienza; Savona; Scerri; Sceberras; Schembri; Schiavone; Sciberras; Scicluna; Scriha; Seguna; Seychell; Spagnol; Spina; Spiteri; Stivala; Suda; Sultana
  • T: Tabone; Tanti; Tedesco; Testa; Theuma; Tonna; Trapani ;Troisi
  • V: Valletta; Vassallo; Vella
  • X: Xerri; Xuereb
  • Z: Zahra; Zammit; Zarb; Zerafa; Zrinzo


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 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 names - ovog, 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 or other attributes of their lives as surnames. Gürragchaa chose Sansar (Cosmos). Clan names precede the patronymics and given names, i.e. Besud Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. In practice, these clan names seem to have had no really significant effect, and are not even included in Mongolian passports.


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

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

People claiming Afghanmarker ancestry include those with family names Khan, Suri etc.

Family names indicating Turkish heritage include Mughal, Chughtai (this name is also an Arab Family name in Middle East) , Mirza, Baig or Beg, Pasha, and Barlas.

People claiming Indianmarker ancestry include those with family names Barelwi, Lakhnavi, Delhvi, Bilgrami etc.

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

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

In Pakistan the official paperwork format regarding personal identity is as follows;

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

A large number of Rajput converts to Islam 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 there perhaps a majority of Filipinos have Spanish surnames, such a surname does not always indicate Spanish ancestry.

The vast majority of Filipinos follow a naming system which is the reverse of the Spanish one. 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; so upon her marriage to David de la Cruz, the full name of Laura Yuchengco Macaraeg would become Laura Yuchengco Macaraeg de la Cruz.

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.

Unique Spanish family names 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 begin to adopt 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 hold 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. That, 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 outside 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, are 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 Pablo) or Juan apo ni Teofilo (John, the grandson of Theophilus).


In Romaniamarker, 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 and social pressure to follow this tradition is not particularly strong in most families.

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 (Romanian numele mic, literally, "small name") 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 often introduce themselves with their family names first, especially in official contexts, 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 other cases, as with Romanians of Hungarian origin, these changes were often mandated by the state, as was the practice during the period of communist rule.


In Turkeymarker, following the Surname Law imposed in 1934 in context of Atatürk's Reforms, every family living in Turkey were 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).

The most common family names in Turkey are 'Yılmaz' (means "undaunted"), 'Doğan' (falcon), 'Şahin' (hawk), 'Yıldırım' (thunderbolt), 'Şimşek' (Lightning), Öztürk (means "genuinely Turkish"). Some surnames include patronymic suffixes like 'oğlu' (meaning "son of") and 'zade' (originally Persian, meaning "son of"). However, these do not necessarily refer to ancestry or in most cases can not be traced back historically. 'ov/ova', 'yev/yeva' and 'zade' can be found as a suffix 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 patronymic 'yan' ('ian'). Likewise, Greek descendants also usually have Greek surnames which might have Greek patronyms like 'oglou' (From the Turkish suffix for "son of", used for both genders), 'ou', 'akis/aki', 'poulos/poulou', 'idis/idou', 'iadis/iadou' or prefixes like 'papa' or 'kara' (From the Turkish word for "black").The Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain and settled in Turkey in 1492 have apart from Jewish/Hebrew surnames, also surnames in Spanish, 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

Cultures of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam

In Chinesemarker, Japanesemarker, Koreanmarker, and Vietnamesemarker cultures, the family name is placed before the given names. So the terms "first name" and "last name" are generally not used, as they do not in this case denote the given and family names.

Chinese family names have many types of origins, dating back as early as pre-Qin era (i.e., before 221 BCE): 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 days, some Chinese adopt a Western given name in addition to their original given names, e.g. Lee Chu-ming (李柱銘) adopted the Western name Martin, which can often be used as a nickname of Chu-ming. The adopted Western name can be put in front of their Chinese name, e.g. Martin LEE Chu-ming. In addition, many people with Chinese names have non-Chinese first names which are commonly used. Sometimes, the Chinese name becomes used as a "middle name", e.g. Martin Chu-ming Lee, or even used a "last name", e.g. Lee Chu-ming Martin. Chinese names used in Western countries may be rearranged when written to avoid misunderstanding, e.g. cellist Yo-Yo Ma. However, some well-known Chinese names remain in the traditional order even in English literature, e.g. Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, Yao Ming (Note that the name on the back of Yao Ming's NBA jersey is "Yao," rather than "Ming," as the former is his family name). Most people from mainland China stick with their own national standard to present their names. For example, in all Olympic events all the PRCmarker athletes' names are presented in the Chinese ordering even when they are spelled out phonetically in Latin alphabets. Chinese athletes from other countries especially those in the US team use the Western ordering. So the non-compliance to the Western ordering is a matter of cultural convention and also a national standard adopted by PRC.

Vietnamese names are generally stated in East Asian order (family name first) even when writing in English.

In English writings originating from non-English cultures (e.g. English newspapers in China), the family name is often written with all capital letters to avoid being mistaken as a middle name, e.g. Laurence Yee-ming KWONG or using small capitals, as Laurence KWONG Yee-ming or with a comma, as AKUTAGAWA, Ryūnosuke to make clear which name is the family name. Such practice is particularly common in mass-media reporting international events like the Olympic Games. The CIA World Factbook stated that "The Factbook capitalizes the surname or family name of individuals for the convenience of [their] users who are faced with a world of different cultures and naming conventions". For example, Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing who is actually Mr.Cheung might be mistaken as Mr. Wing by readers unaware of Chinese naming conventions.

Vietnamese family names present an added complication. Like Chinese family names, they are placed at the beginning of a name, but unlike Chinese names, they are not usually the primary form of address. Rather, people will be referred to by their given name, usually accompanied by an honorific. For example, Phan Van Khai is properly addressed as Mr. Khai, even though Phan is his family name. This pattern contrasts with that of most other East Asian naming conventions.

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 of 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 Macaumarker, some people have their names in Portuguese spelt with some Portuguese style, such as Carlos do Rosario Tchiang.

Chinese women in Canadamarker, especially Hongkongers in Torontomarker, 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 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 Swedenmarker, the patronymic ending is -son, e.g. Karlsson ("Karl's son"). In Denmarkmarker and Norwaymarker, 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 doesn't 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. 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 pro -kvist "twig" or -grén pro -gren.)

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, 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.

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 - a name that followed the person from birth till the end. 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, -stuen, -løkken (these being examples from Norway) or even more predominantly -gaard -- the modern spelling is gård in Danish and has changed to 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" . It is, however, a common misunderstading 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.

In many cases, names were taken from the nature around them. In Norway, for instance, there is an abundancy of surnames based on coastal geography, with suffixes like -strand, -øy, -holm, -vik, -fjord or -nes. A family name such as 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.

Basque Country

Slavic countries

Slavic countries are noted for having masculine and feminine versions for many (but not all) of their names. Most of their surnames have suffixes which are found to varying degrees over the different nations. (Of course, many other names do not have suffixes at all.)

Note: the following list does not take regional spelling variations into account.
  • -ov / -ev (-ova/-eva): Russia, Bulgaria (sometimes as -iv), Serbia, Croatia (sometimes as -iv); this has been adopted by many non-Slavic peoples of Central Asia who are or have been under Russian rule, such as the Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, etc. Note that -ev is the soft form of -ov, found after palatalized consonants or sibilants. In English, -ev is also erroneously written after ch, even though it is pronounced -ov (Gorbachev, Khrushchev, etc.)
  • -sky (-ska), -ski (-ska), -skiy (-skaya): Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Russia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Macedonia.
  • Note that these first two can be combined: -ovsky (-ovska): Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine.
  • -ich, -vich, -vych, -ovich: ex-Yugoslavia (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia), Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, 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
  • -ko, -nko, -enko: Ukrainemarker, -enkov (-enkova): Russified of Ukrainian origin
  • -ak/-ek/-ik (-akova/-ekova/-ikova): Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, Slovenia, Croatia
  • -uk, -yuk: Ukraine
  • -ski: Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria

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), but this is not done in neighboring Poland, where feminine versions are used only for -ski (-ska) names (this includes -cki and -dzki, which are phonetically -ski preceded by a t or d respectively) and for other adjectival surnames.

Czech Republic

Names of Czech people consist of given name (rodné jméno) and surname (příjmení). Usage of the second or middle name is not common. Females' names are usually derived from males' 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 change their family names when they get married. Deriving women's names from foreigners' names is often problematic since foreign names do not suit Czech language rules.

The family names are usually nouns (Svoboda, Král, Růžička), adjectives (Novotný, Černý, Veselý), verbs in a past tense of the third person (Pospíšil) or they mean nothing particular (Dvořák, Beneš). 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.


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:
  • Ivan'ov (son of Ivan),
  • Petr'ov (son of Petr),
  • Sidor'ov (son of Sidor).

Feminine forms of these surnames have the ending -a:
  • Ivan'ova (daughter of Ivan),
  • Petr'ova (daughter of Petr),
  • Sidor'ova (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 (Moscowmarker) → 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 Polandmarker 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"), 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 Wiślicamarker") and Zbigniew Oleśnicki ("Zbigniew of Oleśnicamarker"), 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 gender; 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 noble clans. These are used either as separate names or the first part of a double-barrelled name. Thus, persons named Jan Nieczuja and Krzysztof Nieczuja-Machocki might be related. Similarly, after World War I and World War II, many members of Polish underground organizations adopted their 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.

South Slavs

Surnames of some South Slavic groups such as Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, and Bosniaks traditionally end with the suffixes "-ić" and "-ović" (often transliterated to English and other western languages as "ic", "ich", "ovic" or "ovich") which are a diminutive indicating descent i.e. "son of."

Noted exception from patronymic rule was a family name of prominent 19th century Serbia family Babadudić from Baba (literally, granny) Duda.

In some cases family name was derived from a profession (e.g. blacksmith - "Kovač" → "Kovačević").

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

Official family names do not have distinct male or female forms. Somewhat archaic unofficial form of adding suffixes to family names to form female form exists, with -eva, implying "daughter of" or "female descendant of" or -ka, implying "wife of" or "married to".

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 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 Bosniak Muslim example.

In Croatiamarker where tribal affiliations persisted longer, Likamarker, Herzegovina etc., original family name came to signify practically all people living in one area 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.

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

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 Macedoniamarker, the most popular suffix today is "-ski".

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.


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 languages.)


The patronymic custom in most of Eritreamarker and Ethiopiamarker 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"), "Speil", "Gold", and other German words as their names' prefixes, and "man", "wyn"/"wein"("wine"), "berg"("mountain"), andother 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"("Peter" not included) come from the Jewish tradition to use the father's name as identification. So "Johnson" in Hebrew is "Ben Yochanon", meaning "Yochanon(John)'s son".


These groups of people make up a similar ethnic body with deep and long roots in the Middle East, mainly present-day Iraqmarker and Syriamarker. Surnames come from the Aramaic languages of these Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac people. Some surnames are connected to Christianity, the religion Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Syriacs currently follow and have followed since its beginnings.

Common surnames include: Ablahat, Aboona, Abraham, Alamasha, Alamshah, Alawerdy, Aldawood, Amoo, Amu, Antar, Aprim, Asfar, Ashouri, Ashurian, Awshalum, Aziz, Azzo, Baaba, Bacchus, Badal, Balou, Barkoo, Benyamin, Bidavid, Bidawid, Desho, Duman, Elia, Elias, Enwiga, Eshai, Farhad, Gorges, Gewargis, Hasso, Hermes, Hormis, Hosanna, Hurmis, Ibrahim, Isaac, Ishaq, Iskhaq, Jacoub, Josep, Karam, Karoukian, Khamis, Khanbaba, Khanisho, Khedroo, Khubiar, Koshaba, Malech, Malek, Malick, Matti, Mieza, Mikhail, Mnashi, Neesan, Odah, Odisha, Odisho, Oraham, Oshana, Samo, Sargis, Sarkis, Sayad, Semma, Shabas, Shamun, Shamoon, Shimon, Shimonaya, Sleman, Sliwoo, Soleyman, Summa, Tematheus, Thoma, Thomaya, Urshan, Warda, Wyrda, Yacoub, Yawalaha, Yelda, Yohannan, Yonan, Yoseph, Youkhana, Younan, Yousif, and Yukhannan.


The majority of Kurds do not hold Kurdish names because the names have been banned in the countries they primarily live in (namely Iran, Turkeymarker 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. 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 Kurdistanmarker 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 "i" and "zade".

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, Tovi and Zebari. Other names include Akreyi, Alan, Amedi, Botani, Hewrami, Kurdistani (or Kordestani), 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 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 thousand of years. All Circassian people belong to a Clan.

Most surnames of Adyge origin fall into six types:
  • Occupations (e.g., Smith, Hunter, Taylor etc.)
  • Personal characteristics (e.g., Short, deaf, beautiful)
  • Geographical features (e.g., Hill, River, cave, Wood, Fields etc.)
  • Animal Names (e.g., Bear, Horse, snake,Fox, Wild boar etc.)
  • 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.

In Circassian culture, women even when they marry, do not change their surnames. By keeping their surnames and passing that 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 and of the name of female ancestors.

See also


External links

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