Family name

From Academic Kids

(Redirected from Surname)

A family name, or surname, is that part of a person's name that indicates to what family he or she belongs.

In English-, Dutch-, German- and French-speaking countries, people often have two or more given names (first and middle), and the family name goes at the end, which is why it's sometimes called a last name. (Occasionally it is inaccurately called 'second name', which can be confused with the middle name.)

The word surname is "name" prefixed by the French word sur (meaning "on"), which derives from Latin super ("over"). In the past it was sometimes spelled sirname or sirename (suggesting that it meant "man's name" or "father's name") due to fake etymology.

A woman frequently changes her family name upon marriage; her previous family name is known as her maiden name. It is common for women to adopt her husband's family name, and for their children also to take this family name; though some countries permit wives or children to have a different family name. Still other countries allow a man to take his wife's name. Particularly in English-speaking countries, some people choose to take a double-barrelled name upon marriage, combining both family names, joined by a hyphen.

Family names are not universal. In particular, Icelanders, Tibetans and Javanese often do not use a family name — well-known people lacking a family name include Suharto and Sukarno (see Indonesian names). Also, many royal families do not use family names.

In the 19th century, Francis Galton published a statistical study of the extinction of family names. See Galton-Watson process for an account of some of the mathematics.


English-speaking countries

Supposedly, all surnames of English origin fall into just four types:

  • Occupations (e.g. Smith, Baker, Archer)
  • Personal characteristics (e.g. Short, Brown, Goodman, Whitehead)
  • Places & geographical features (e.g. Scott, Hill, Rivers, Windsor)
  • Ancestry, often based on a first name (e.g. Richardson, James) or - if we include surnames of Scottish origin - clan (e.g. Macdonald).

These surname types describe respectively the occupation, personal characteristics, location/origin, and ancestry (typically father's name) of the distant ancestor to whom the surname was first applied. Of course, the original meaning of the name may no longer be obvious in modern English (e.g. Cooper = barrel maker). Arguably there is also a much smaller fifth category of names relating to religion, though some of these are also occupations (e.g. Bishop).

In the Americas, the family names of many black people have their origins in slave names. Many of these names were chosen by freed slaves themselves, who sometimes adopted the name of their former master. Some people, such as Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, change their name rather than live with one thought to have been given by a slave owner.

It has long been the custom for women to give up their family name (called the birth name or maiden name) upon marriage, and to use their husband's last name in its place. In recent years, more women have chosen to keep their birth name when they are married. Still, 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, women traditionally became Mrs. [Husband's name] upon marriage, though recently they are referred to as Mrs. [First name] [Husband's surname] more frequently.

It is extremely rare for men in Western countries to take the name of their wives; this was chiefly done in the Middle Ages, when the man was from a low-born family and was marrying an only daughter, and was thus designated to carry on his wife's family name. In the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain, bequests were sometimes made contingent upon a man changing (or hyphenating) his name, so that the name of the legator continued. Now, some men choose to take their wives' names rather than the reverse. A married couple may also choose a new last name rather than that of either the husband or the wife.

As an alternative to that solution, commonly the husband and wife will adopt a double-barrelled name. For instance, when John Smith and Mary Jones marry each other, they become known as John and Mary Smith-Jones. However, many couples dislike this option, because it can make for very long names (like Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby). So, the wife could opt to make her maiden name her middle name. So, when John Smith marries Mary Jones, she is still Mrs. Smith, but she can also refer to herself as Mary Jones Smith.

In some jurisdictions, it used to be the case that the woman's legal name changed automatically upon marriage. This is no longer usually the case; now, women may easily change to their married name, though it is no longer automatic. In some jurisdictions, civil rights lawsuits were used to change the law so that men could easily change to a married name, too.

French-speaking countries

French-speaking countries have many similarities to English-speaking ones in the way family names are used. However, in France and Quebec, name change upon marriage is no longer recognized. Those who wish to change their name upon marriage must follow the same legal procedure as would be used under any other circumstance. Otherwise, although one may use a married name, one's legal name remains unchanged.

French family names are often written in capitals, as is also often done for Chinese names (see below).

In France, until January 1, 2005, children were required by law to take the surname of their father. From this date, article 311-21 of the French Civil code permits parents to give their children either the name of their father, mother, or a hyphenation of both - although no more than two names can be hyphenated. In cases of disagreement the father's name applies [1] ( This brought France into line with a 1978 declaration by the Council of Europe requiring member governments to take measures to adopt equality of rights in the transmission of family names, a measure that was echoed by the United Nations in 1979. Similar measures were adopted by Germany (1976), Sweden (1982), Denmark (1983) and Spain (in 1999).


Many surnames in Ireland of Gaelic origin derive from either father's or ancestor's names; nicknames; or descriptive names. In the first group can be placed surnames such as Mac Murrough, Maguire, MacDermott, MacCarthy (all derived from father's names) or O'Brian, O'Neill, O'Donnell, O'Toole (ancestral names).

Gaelic surnames derived from nicknames include Docherty (from "dortach", hurtful), Garvery ("garbh", rough or nasty), Manton ("mantach", toothless), Duffy ("dubh", black, as in black hair), Bane ("ban", white, as in white hair), Finn ("fionn", fair, as in fair or blonde hair), Kennedy ("cennidie", ugly head).

Descriptive Gaelic surnames include Carr ("gearr", short or small), Joyce/Seoige (from the Welsh word, "sais", meaning Saxon or English), Kearney ("ceithearnach", footsolider), Brehony ("mac an Brehon", son of the judge), Ward ("mac an Bard", son of the bard).

In contrast to England, very few Gaelic surnames are derived from placenames. Among those that included in this small group, several can be shown to be bastardisations of Gaelic personal names or surnames.

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

For much the same reason, nicknames (the Fada Burkes, i.e. the long/tall Burkes), father's names (John Morrissey Ned) or mother's maiden name (Kennedy becoming Kennedy-Lydon) can become coloquial or legal surnames. The Irish family of de Courcy Ireland became so-named to distinguish them from their cousins who moved to France in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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 (i.e, 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), Mary Bartly Mike Walsh (Mary daughter of Bartly son of Mike Walsh), and so on. Even in English-speaking areas, especially in rural districts, something of this tradition continues.

Irish surname prefixes:

Mac: Mac is Irish for son.

Mac Gilla: Son of the devotee of a saint, or, more properly, son of a man whose name was the likes of Gilla Padraigh, Gilla Christ, (Mac) Gilla Bridge, and so on. An equivalent would be the use of St. George and St. John as forenames in England in the 18th and 19th century.

Mael: In Pagan times this was expressed as Mug, as in the case of Mug Nuada. The literal expression of this is "slave of Nuada". Slave should be seen in the same sense as "devotee". In the Christian era the word Mael was used in its place for given names such as Mael Bridget, Mael Padraig, Mael Sechlainn, Mael Martain, and so on. In later times, some of these given names evolved into surnames (O Mael Sechlainn, Mac Mael Martain, etc).

Fitz: Fitz is a Norman-French word derived from the Latin word, filius, meaning son of. It was used as a patronymic by thousands of men in the early Norman period in Ireland (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 Old English 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, Michael Lynch fitz Arthur, and so on, being used even as late as the early 1800's.

Despite claims to the contrary, the use of Fitz in a surname does not, and never did, denote illigitimacy.

O: Originally 'hua', meaning grandson, or descendant of, a given person. For example, the ancestor of the O'Brien clan, Brian Boru (937-1014) was known in his lifetime as Brian mac Lorcan mac Cennedie, i.e., Brian the son of Lorcan the son of Cennedie. Not till 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 two hundred years being wriiten as O', but in recent years the apostraphae is being dropped, bringing it into line with early medieval forms.

Uí: Originally used not as part of a surname but to denote related members of a dynasty or kin-group, all descended from a particular person, i.e., the Uí Neill, the Uí Censellagh. Nowadays sometimes used in place of O. Pronounced as (U)ee.

Ní: From the Irish word for daughter, íníon, and compressed into Ní. Pronounced as nee.

Bean: Wife. Pronounced as baan.

Spain and Hispanic areas

Main article: Spanish names

In mediaeval times, a patronymic system similar to the one still used in Iceland emerged. For example, Álvaro 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: Delgado (thin), Moreno (dark); occupations: Molina (miller), Guerrero (warrior); geographic location or ethnicity: Alemán (German).

In Spain and countries of Hispanic culture (former Spanish colonies), each person has two family names (although in some situtations only the first is used): the first is the first (paternal) family name of the father; the second is the first family name of the mother; Depending on the country, these may or may not be linked by the conjunction "y" (and) or "de" (of). When a woman marries, she would traditionally either add her husband's paternal surname to the end of her name or, more commonly, replace her maternal surname with her husbands paternal surname often linked with "de". Thus, Ana García Díaz, upon marrying Juan Guerrero Macías, would be known as Ana García Díaz de Guerrero or, more commonly, Ana García de Guerrero. Their children would carry the surnames Guerrero García. In present day Spain, women upon marrying keep their two family names intact.

Portugal and Brazil

The Portuguese position is the reverse of the Spanish one. Each person has at least two family names: the first is the second family name of the mother; the second is the second family name of the father. A person can have up to six names (two first names and four surnames - he or she may have two names from the mother and two from the father). In Brazil the rule is the same except that it is now very common for a person to have only one family name: the second family name of the father. In the ancient ages the patronymicum was commonly used - surnames like Gonçalves (son of Gonçalo), Fernandes (son of Fernando), Nunes (son of Nuno) and many more are used today as usual family names.

The Philippines

Until the middle of the 19th century, there was no standardization of surnames in the Philippines. There were native Filipinos without surnames, there were people 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 executed a decree to end these arbitrary practices. The result of which was the Catálogo Alfabético de Apellidos (Alphabetic Catalog of Surnames). The book contained many words coming from Spanish and other Philippine languages such as Tagalog.

The actual 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 Romblon province have surnames starting with F such as Fabicon, Fallarme, Fadrilan, Ferran, etc. This means that although there are perhaps a majority of Filipinos with Spanish surnames, this does not necessarily imply Spanish ancestry.

There are other sources for surnames. For example, in Muslim-dominated areas of the Philippines, surnames are usually of Arab origin such as Hassan and Haradji.

Many Filipinos also have Chinese surnames which yield clues as to when their Chinese ancestor immigrated to the Philippines. For example, a surname like Cojuangco, which was Hispanicized, suggests an 18th century immigration while a surname like Lim suggests a relatively recent one. Some Chinese last names like Tiu-Laurel are composed of the immigrant Chinese ancestor's surname as well as the name of that ancestor's godparent.

There are also Filipinos, particularly those from rural tribes, who have no surnames at all.

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, the son of Juan de la Cruz and Maria Agbayani would be David Agbayani de la Cruz. Women take the surnames of their husband upon marriage; so upon her marriage to David de la Cruz, Laura Yuchengco Macaraeg's full name would become Laura Yuchengco Macaraeg de la Cruz.


Main article: Naming conventions of Iceland

In Iceland, most people have no family name; a person's last name is a patronymic, i.e., is a modified form of the father's first name or, sometimes, the mother's. For example, when a man called Karl has a daughter called Anna and a son called Magnús, their names will be Anna Karlsdóttir ("daughter of Karl") and Magnús Karlsson ("son of Karl").


In Scandinavia family names often, but certainly not always, originate from a patronymic. The Swedish surname Karlsson (note the double s') for example, means "Karl's son," but today Karlsson is a family name, and a person's father doesn't have to be called Karl if he or she has the surname Karlsson. In Denmark and Norway family names ending with -sen are common. Karlsen for example means "Karl's son." These family names are today passed on similarly to family names in other western countries.

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 Cederqvist ("cedar-twig") or Stiernhielm ("star-helmet"), the spelling is obsolete, but as names remains unchanged.

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 such as the Swedish Bergman, Holmberg, Lindgren, Sandström and Åkerlund were quite frequent and remain common today. The same is true for similar Norwegian and Danish names.

These names often indicated the place of residence of the family. For this reason, Denmark has a very high incidence of names derived from those of farms, as signified by the suffix -gaard -- the modern spelling is gård, but as in Sweden, archaic spelling persists in surnames. The most well-known example of this kind of surname is probably Kierkegaard (original meaning: the farm located by the Church or also churchyard (although this is unlikely in the context) which, with kierke, actually includes two archaic spellings), 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.

The Netherlands

Many Dutch names start with a prefix like "van" (from), "de" (the), "der" (of the), "van de" (from the), "in het" (in the). Examples are "de Groot" (the great), "van Rijn" (from Rhine). These prefixes are normally not spelled with a capital. In name directories, the prefixes are always ignored for sorting.

India and Indonesia

Main articles: Indian family name, Indonesian names

Similar patronymic customs exist in some parts of India and Indonesia. However, many Indians (from India) living in English-speaking countries give up on this tradition because many English speakers so consistently misunderstand the custom; therefore many Indian fathers simply follow the English-speaking custom to pass on their last name instead of their first.

For religious reasons, Sikh males usually have the surname Singh (meaning "lion"), and Sikh females usually have the name Kaur ("princess").


In most of Ethiopia, a patronymic custom exists. A child is given the father's exact first name as their surname.

Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other ex-Soviet republics

In Russia, family names endings are based upon the person's gender. For example, wife of Ivanov became Ivanova. The same for endings:

  • "-ov" -> "-ova" (f.e., Fradkov -> Fradkova);
  • "-ev" -> "-eva" (f.e., Lebedev -> Lebedeva);
  • "-in" -> "-ina" (f.e., Putin -> Putina)
  • "-y" -> "-aya", "-oya", "-eya", "-iaya" (f.e., Bely (Белый) -> Belaya (Белая))

This is specific for almost all Cyrillic languages.

In Russia, names are typically written with both family name and patronymic, a modified version of the father's name. For example, in the name "Lev Ivanovich Chekhov," "Chekhov" is the family name or surname whereas "Ivanovich" is the patronymic; we can infer that Lev's father was named "Ivan". The same is true in Ukraine, Belarus and other ex-Soviet republics. A different suffix is used for women's names. Where a son whose father's name is Ivan will be called Ivanovich, a daughter will be called Ivanovna.

In Russia, in addition to the categories of last names in English--those based on occupation, place of origin, ancestry, or personal characteristics--there is a large category of "clerical" last names, given to seminary students and others who had to have a last name in order to get an education. These were based on names of churches (e.g. Uspensky, Kazansky), student jargon, or even arbitrary Latin and Greek words (e.g. Gilyarov, from Latin hilarius).

China, Hungary, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam

Main articles: Chinese family name, Korean name#Family names, Japanese name, and Vietnamese name

In Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Hungarian cultures, the family name is placed before the given names. So the terms "first name" and "last name" are potentially confusing and should be avoided, as they do not in this case denote the given and family names respectively.

Some Chinese add an English given name in front of their Chinese name, e.g. Martin LEE Chu-ming. In addition, many Chinese Americans have an English family name which is commonly used and a Chinese name which is used as a middle name, e.g. Martin Chu-ming Lee. Chinese living in the US are willing to rearrange their names when written in English to avoid misunderstanding. However, no one in China would rearrange Mao Zedong into Zedong Mao in English writings.

Korean and Vietnamese names are generally stated in East Asian order (family name first) even when writing in English. Names of contemporary Japanese individuals are usually written in Western order (given name first) while names of Japanese historical figures are usually written in East Asian order. Names of Hungarian individuals are stated in Western order 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: "Martin LEE Chu-ming" (this practice is common on the Internet), or in small capitals (except the first letter), as "Martin LEE Chu-ming" (this is more common in books) or AKUTAGAWA, Ryunosuke to make clear which one is the family name, particularly often 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." On the contrary, the English Wikipedia follows a strict guideline on not to use all capital family names (the Esperanto Wikipedia (, for example, often capitalizes family names regardless of the country of origin of the person who bears the name). As a result, non-English names appearing in Wikipedia articles are ambiguous to most laymen. For example, Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing 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 stands out against the pattern of most other East Asian naming conventions, and can confuse those used to dealing with (for example) Chinese names.

In Japan, 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. It is worth noting that the Chinese character zhui (贅) carries a money radical (貝), which implies that this tradition was originally based on financial reasons. All their offspring will carry the mother's family name. Usually the groom or his family would not agree with such arrangement if he were the first born who has an obligation to carry his own ancestor's name. In such situation, a compromise may be reached in that the first male child would carry the mother's family name while the other offspring carry the father's family name. The tradition is still in use in many Chinese communities outside of mainland China. Under Mao Zedong's communist rule, Chinese citizens had no personal assets to pass to their heirs therefore such traditions became unnecessary. With Chinese economic reform, it is uncertain if such tradition returned to China.

In Hong Kong, mainland China, Korea and Taiwan, women would keep their own surnames, while the family as a whole would be referred 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 a must.

In Macau, some people have their names in Portuguese spelt with some Portuguese style, such as Carlos do Rosario Tchiang (

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

Romanian names

In Romania family names traditionally have an English-like usage: 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.

Romanian names' etymologies are mixed. Sometimes, family names denote some ancestor's occupation (for example Butnaru meaning 'barrel-maker'), sometimes a genitor's name - notably, there are common family names deriving from a woman's name, hence the mother's name (e.g. Amarandei, '[son or daughter]-of-[S]maranda').

It should be noted that the first name/last name distinction is not clear in Romanian culture. While the ordering of given name first, family name second is always used in media, from literature to television, the opposite order is used in all official documents, ostensibly for filing purposes. Since bureaucracy is very pervasive in Romania, a Romanian will often instinctively start with his family name when introducing himself, especially in any 'official' context (this includes, for example, a student signing an occasional test paper in school). You will not, however, hear someone refer to a poet or a politician this way.

In Romanian the words "nume de familie" (literally "family name") and "prenume" (for one's given name) are used instead of the first/second name convention.

Jewish names

Until a few hundred years ago, Jews followed no tradition of family names, but used patronymics within the synagogue, and matronymics in other venues. For example, a boy named Joseph of a father named Isaac would be called to the Torah as Joseph ben Isaac. That same boy of a mother named Rachel would be known in business as Joseph ben Rachel. A male used the Hebrew word "ben" (son) and a female "bat" (daughter).

When northern European countries legislated that Jews required "proper" surnames, Jews were left with a number of options. Many Jews (particularly in Austria, Prussia and Russia) were forced to adopt Germanic names. Joseph II issued a law in 1787 which assumed that all Jews were to adopt German names. The city mayors were to choose the name for every Jewish family. For names related to precious metals and flowers a fee was gathered, the free of charge surnames were usually connected to animals and common metals. Many took Yiddish names derived from occupation (e.g. Goldstein, 'Gold-smith'), from their father (e.g. Jacobson), or from location (e.g. Berliner, Warszawski or Pinsker). That makes Jewish names quite similar to Scandinavian and especially Swedish surnames.

In Prussia special military commissions were created to chose the names. It became common that the poorer Jews were forced to adopt derogatory, offensive or simply bizarre names. Among those created by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann were:

  • Ochsenschwanz - Oxtail
  • Temperaturwechsel - Temperatureglitch
  • Kanalgeruch - Sewerstink
  • Singmirwas - Singmesomething

The Jews of Poland adopted names much earlier. Those who were adopted by a szlachta family usually changed the name to that of the family. Christened Jews usually adopted either a common Polish name or a name created after the month of their baptism (that's why many Frankists adopted the name Majewski - after the month of May in 1759).

Western Jews today may have complete Western names as well as Jewish names, reflecting the ancient patronymic/matronymic pattern, for use only in the synagogue.

Polish names

In Poland and most of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the surnames first appeared in late Middle Ages. Initially their purpose was to denote the differences between various people living in the same town or village and bearing the same name. The conventions used were very similar to English family names: initially names were simple nouns denoting the occupation (Karczmarz - Innkeeper, Kowal - Blacksmith, Bednarczyk - Young Cooper), descent (patronymic names like Szczepaniak - Son of Szczepan, Józefski - Son of Józef or Kaźmirkiewicz - Son of Kazimierz) or a feature (Nowak - the new one, Biały - the pale one, Mazur the one from Masovia or Wielgus - the big one).

From the early 16th century geographical names became common, especially among the szlachta. Initially the surnames were in a form of Jan z Kolna (meaning John of Kolno), later most of the surnames were changed to adjective forms (Jakub Wiślicki - James of Wisła, Zbigniew Oleśnicki - Zbigniew of Oleśnica) with suffixes -ski, -cki and -dzki. Names formed this way are still adjectives grammatically, and therefore - as all Polish adjectives - change their form depending on gender. So we have Mr Jan Kowalski and Ms Maria Kowalska (and Kowalscy in plural).

As names with -ski/cki/dzki suffix became associated with noble origin, many people from lower classes successively changed their surnames to fit this pattern. This produced large amounts of Kowalskis, Bednarskis, Kaczmarskis and so on. Today most Polish speakers would not necessarily know about noble associations of -ski endings, but such names still "sound somehow better".

A separate class of surnames is constituted by names derived of the names of szlachtas coats of arms. These are used either as separate names or the first part of a double-barrelled name. This way persons named Jan Nieczuja and Krzysztof Nieczuja-Machocki might be related. Similarly, after World War I and World War II many members of the underground organizations adopted their war-time pseudonyms as the first part of their surnames. This way Edward Rydz became the later Marshal of Poland Edward Śmigły-Rydz and Jan Nowak became Jan Nowak-Jeziorański.

See also

External links

br:Anv-familh de:Familienname es:Apellido fr:Nom de famille it:Cognome ja:姓 nl:achternaam pl:nazwisko pt:Sobrenome sv:Efternamn zh:姓氏


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools