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A family name, surname, or last name is the part of a person's name that indicates to what family he or she belongs. The use of family names today is widespread in cultures around the world although each culture has its own rules as to how these names are applied and used. In practice, many modern societies no longer require that a family, or surname explicitly indicate family relationship allowing parents and individuals to select the surname according to personal taste, if desired.
Although in many cultures, notably most European and North and South American states (there are exceptions), the family name is the last part of a person's name, in many other cultures in Asia and Africa the family name is typically spoken or written first. This order is often erroneously called the Eastern order because Europeans are most familiar with the examples of China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. Because the family name is today generally given last in English-speaking societies, the term last name is commonly used for family name.
In countries that use family names, these are most often used to refer to a stranger in a formal setting, often with the use of a title such as Mr. or Mrs (or equivalent). The first name, christian name, given name, or personal name is the one used by friends, family, and other intimates.
It is notable that many Arab societies commonly do not have family names in the sense used in the English sense of the term (although increasingly many Muslims/Arabs are adopting so-called Western naming practices). Traditional Arab naming practices do indicate familial relationships but names indicating these relationships are not inherited in the manner of that the term family name normally implies.
The word surname is name prefixed by the French word sur (meaning "on"), which derives from Latin super ("over" or "above"), meaning "additional name." As early as the 14th century it was also found spelled as sirname or sirename (suggesting that it meant "man's name" or "father's name") due to folk etymology.
The use of family names varies among cultures. In particular, Icelanders, Tibetans, Burmese, and Javanese often do not use a family name — well-known people lacking a family name include U Thant (Burmese), Suharto and Sukarno (see Indonesian names), and Dilber (Uyghur, a Turkic language). Also, many royal families do not use family names.
In some cultures, a woman's family name traditionally changes upon marriage, although few countries mandate such a change. Other modern options include combining both family names, changing neither name, or creating a new name, e.g. combining letters of previous surnames or creating a pseudonym unrelated to the previous surnames.
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.)
In English-, Dutch-, German-, French- and Scandinavian-speaking countries, people often have two or more given names, and the family name goes at the end. (Occasionally a surname is called the "second name", which can be confused with a middle name.) In Spain and Hispanic areas, people have one or more given names and two family names, one from the father and one from the mother. In Italy, people may have one or more given names, no middle name, and a family name. In the Portuguese-speaking countries, people can have one or two given names and from one up to four family names taken from the father and/or from the mother.
Surnames used to be taken from the towns or villages that people lived in.
The oldest use of family or surnames is unclear. Surnames have arisen in cultures with large, concentrated populations where single names for individuals become insufficient to uniquely identify them. In many cultures the practice of using additional descriptive terms in identifying individuals arose. These descriptors might indicate personal attributes, location of origin, occupation, parentage, 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 originate with Emperor Fu Xi in 2852 BC. His administration standardized the naming system in order to facilitate the census. In Japan family names were uncommon except in the aristocracy until the 19th century.
In Ancient Greece during some periods it became common to use place of origin as a part of their official identification. At other times clan names and patronymic names ("son of") were also common. For example, Alexander the Great was known by the clan name Herakles (as a supposed descendant of Heracles) and the dynastic name Karanos/Caranus referring to the founder of the dynasty. 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 clan/family names became very standardized. At the beginning 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 Western 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 affilations 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. Note that in the case of the English, the most accepted theory of the origin of family names in England is their introduction to the Normans and the Domesday Book of 1086.
During the modern era many cultures around the world adopted the practice of using family names, especially during the imperialistic age of Europe and particularly from the 17th to 19th centuries. However, they are unused in some cultures even today.
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 people and Scottish people had acquired surnames, but many Highland Scots and Welsh people didn't adopt surnames until the 17th century, or later.
Most surnames of British origin fall into six types:
Occupations (e.g., Smith, Archer, Baker, Dyer, Walker)
Personal characteristics (e.g., Short, Brown, Whitehead, Long)
Geographical features (e.g., Hill, Lee, Wood, Fields)
Place names (e.g., London, Hamilton, Sutton, Flint, Laughton)
For those descended from land-owners, the name of their holdings, manor or estate
Patronymics and ancestry, often from a male's given name (e.g., Richardson, Williams, Johnson) or from a clan name (for those of Scottish origin, e.g., MacDonald, Forbes)
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, usually indicate that an ancestor worked for a bishop, a priest, or an abbot, respectively.
In the Americas, the family names of many African-Americans have their origins in slavery. Many of them came to bear the surnames of their former owners. Many freed slaves either created family names themselves or else adopted the name of their former master. Others, such as Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, changed their name rather than live with one they believed had been given to their ancestors by a slave owner.
It has long been the patriarchal tradition for women to change their surname upon marriage from their birth name (or maiden name) to their husband's last name. From the first known instance of a woman keeping her birth name, Lucy Stone in the 19th century, 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 60% 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 English-speaking countries, married women traditionally have been called Mrs. [Husband's full name], although this practice is now outdated and has been replaced by a title of Mrs. [Wife's first name] [Husband's surname].
In the Middle Ages, when a man from a lower status family married an only daughter from a higher status family, he would take the 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. Although it is rare for English-speaking men to take the name of their wives, some men still choose to do so (such as among Canadian aboriginal groups) or, increasingly common in the United States, a married couple may choose a new last name entirely.
As an alternative, both the husband and wife 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 wife may also opt to use her maiden name for her middle name, giving her the option of referring to herself as either Mrs. Smith or Mary Jones Smith. An additional option is when the spouses adopt a last name derived from an aesthetically pleasing combination of the prior names, such as "Simones".
In some jurisdictions, a woman's legal name used to change automatically upon marriage. Although women may now easily choose to change to their married name, that change is no longer the default. 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 women choose to change their name when they marry, while others don't. There are many reasons why women maintain their surname. One is that the female surname disappears throughout generations, while the male surname survives. By keeping their surname and passing that name down to the next generation, the female surname (and its heritage) may also survive. Another reason is if the women's surname is well known due to their family heritage, she may choose to keep her surname. Yet another is the identity crisis women may experience when giving up their surname. Women in academia, for example, who have previously published articles in academic journals under their maiden name often don't 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 female physicians, attorneys, and other professionals, as well as celebrities for whom continuity is important. Though the practice of women maintaining their surname after marriage is increasing, it hasn't caught on in the general population. A possible reason is due to the difficulty of distinguishing such a married couple from one who is cohabiting without asking them directly, and the associated stigma that may result.
Spelling of names in past centuries is often assumed to be a deliberate choice by a family, but due to very low literacy rates the reality is that 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. This results in many variations, some of which occurred when families moved to another country. The officially-recorded spellings tended to become the standard for that family.
FRENCH SPEAKING COUNTRIES
French-speaking countries have many similarities to English-speaking ones in the way family names are used. In France and the Canadian province of Quebec, name change upon marriage is no longer automatic. Those who wish to change their name upon marriage must follow the same legal procedure as would be used under any other circumstance.
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 . 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 (1999).
Furthermore, in French Canada, up until the late 1960s, children of Roman Catholic origin were given three names at birth (usually not hyphenated): the first, Marie or Joseph, usually indicated the gender of the child. The second was usually the name of the godfather or godmother, while the third and last given name was the name used in everyday situations. Thus, a child prenamed Joseph Bruno Jean on his birth or baptismal certificate would indicate the baby to be a boy, the godfather's first name to be Bruno and that the child would be called Jean (and not Joseph) for all intents and purposes of everyday life. This naming convention was in the most part dropped following the Quiet Revolution (late 1960s), and is now seen much more rarely. Currently, most couples give the child the surname of the father, though Quebec civil code allows a couple to combine at most two of their surnames, with or without hyphens. Thus a couple named Joseph Bouchard-Tremblay and Marie Dion-Roy could give to their children the surnames Bouchard, Tremblay, Dion, Roy, Bouchard-Tremblay, Dion-Roy, Bouchard-Dion, Bouchard-Roy, etc. Until the late 1800s, several families also had a "nom-dit" tradition. This was a family nickname (literally a "said name"). The origins of the noms-dits were various. Some noms-dits were the warname of the first settler, while he was a soldier: Hébert dit Jolicoeur (Pretty Heart, cf. Braveheart), Thomas dit Tranchemontagne (mountain chopper). Some denoted the place of origin of the first settler: Langevin (Anjou), Barbeau dit Poitevin (Poitou). Others probably denoted a characteristic of the person or of his dwelling: Lacourse, Lépine, Larivière.
According to some estimations, there would be some 900,000 surnames in France (not all of French origin). For Belgium, see below.
GERMAN SPEAKING COUNTRIES
There are about 1,000,000 different family names in German. German family names most often derive from given names, occupational designations, bodily attributes or geographical names. Hyphenations notwithstanding, they mostly consist of a single word; in those rare cases that the family name is linked to the given names by particles such as von or zu, they usually indicate noble ancestry.
Family names in German-speaking countries are usually positioned last, after all given names. There are exceptions, however: In parts of Austria 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.
Many Dutch family names start with an independent prefix ("tussenvoegsel") like van ("of"), de or het ("the"), der, van de or van der ("of the"), and in het ("in the"). Examples are De Groot ("the great"), Van Weert ("of the city Weert"). Many such Dutch surnames originated from referrals to cities and other geographical locations. Surname registration started with the French occupation by Napoleon (1811). Some Dutch people, convinced that this convention would only be temporary, deliberately chose comical or confusing surnames, such as Rotmensen (meaning "rotten people"), Poepjes ("poops" or "farts"), Naaktgeboren ("born naked"), or Zeldenthuis ("seldom home" or "rarely at home").
The Dutch settlers in South Africa also influenced the language and names. Consequently, surnames like van der Merwe, van Biljon, etc. are common amongst people of that descent.
Since Belgium has three national languages — Dutch, French and German — Belgian names are similar to those in the neighbouring countries: the Netherlands, France and Germany. Thanks to this multiculturalism, Belgium has one of the highest number of surnames in the world (no less than 190,000 at the last count), and certainly the highest per capita ratio, about 1 family name for 53 people. Place names (regions, towns, villages, hamlets) with a particle meaning "from" (de in French, or van in Dutch) are the most numerous. An uncapitalised particle sometimes indicates nobility.
Some differences exist between names in Belgium and in neighbouring countries: for example, Dutch names commonly have prefixes as mentioned above, except that these usually start with a capital letter, and are often written connected to the main word. Thus, de Bakker and van der Steen are probably Dutch while De Bakker and Vandersteen are Belgian. (Note: This distinction may have faded in surnames of Americans of Dutch or Belgian heritage.) The most common Dutch surnames in Belgium are Peeters, Janssens, Maes, Jacobs, Willems, Mertens, Claes, Wouters, Goossens, and De Smet. Dutch surnames in Belgium tend to resemble first names more often than in the Netherlands, e.g. the following first names relate to above surnames: e.g. Peter, Jan, Jacob, Willem, Maarten, Klaas, and Wouter. The trailing s reportedly once meant "son of", so Willems would be "Willem's son". Furthermore older or historically different regional spelling remains visible in many names, e.g. usage of c instead of k and ae instead of aa (compare Claes with Klaas).
The 20 most common French surnames in Belgium are respectively Dubois, Lambert, Dupont, Martin, Dumont, Leroy, Leclercq, Simon, Laurent, François, Denis, Renard, Thomas, Lejeune, Gérard, Petit, Mathieu, Lemaire, Charlier, and Bertrand.
Many surnames in Ireland of Gaelic origin derive from ancestor's names; nicknames; or descriptive names. In the first group can be placed surnames such as McMurrough and McCarthy, derived from father's names, or O'Brien and O'Grady, derived from ancestral names.
Gaelic surnames derived from nicknames include O'Dubhda (from Aedh ua Dubhda - Aedh (pronounced Hugh), 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").
In contrast to England, very few Gaelic surnames are derived from place names 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 O'Cuilleain or O'Collins (from cuileann, "Holly") as in the Holly Tree, considered one of the most sacred objects of pre-Christian Celtic culture.
In areas where certain family names are extremely common, extra names are added that sometimes follow this archaic pattern. In Ireland, for example, where Murphy is an exceedingly common name, particular Murphy families or extended families are nicknamed, so that Denis Murphy's family were called The Weavers and Denis himself was called Denis "The Weaver" Murphy. (See also O'Hay.)
For much the same reason, nicknames (e.g. the Fada Burkes, "the long/tall Burkes"), father's names (e.g. John Morrissey Ned) or mother's maiden name (Kennedy becoming Kennedy-Lydon) can become colloquial or legal surnames. The Irish family of de Courcy 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 ("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 100% English. Other Irish names can appear to be German (Bruder), Italian (Costello), or even Polish (Comiskey).
Irish surname prefixes
Bean: "Wife", pronounced /bæn?/.
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 and de Faoite. 'De' historically has signaled ownership of lands and was traditionally therefore a mark of prestige.
Mhic: pronounced /v?k/. 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 /v?k/) 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 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 and Michael Lynch fitz Arthur, used even as late as the early 1800s. Despite claims to the contrary, the use of Fitz in a surname never denoted illegitimacy. This misunderstanding may have originated because a number of illegitimate members of the British royal family were given such surnames: 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.
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.
Uí: 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. Pronounced /i/.
Ní: This is used for women instead of O 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 (pronounced /n?k/) is used in cases where the surname uses Mag e.g. Nig Shamhráin.
Italy has more different surnames than any other country in the world , around 350,000.
Italian names are mostly derived from Latin, but since the Italian city-states and modern Italy have always experienced extensive contacts with foreign powers and travellers, many surnames are of Spanish, French, German, Norman or Swiss origin. Beginning in the 14th century, it became necessary to add a second name to distinguish between individuals with the same surname.
Italian surnames are generally easy to recognize because most end in a vowel, like nearly all words in standard Italian, and many of them have been derived from descriptive nicknames.
Italian surnames developed in the most part from four sources: patronym (e.g. Francesco di Marco, "Francis, son of Mark"), occupation (e.g. Giovanni Ferrari, "John the Smith"), personal characteristic (e.g. nicknames or pet names like Dario Forte, "Darius the Strong"), origin (e.g. Eduardo de Filippo, "Edward belonging to the family of Philip") and geographic origin (e.g. Elisabetta Romano, "Elisabeth from Rome"), objects (e.g. Carlo Sacchi, "Charles Bags").
Few family names are still in the original Latin, and usually they indicate from or with pretensions to antiquity, e.g. Santorum or de Laurentiis. Despite notions of this indicating nobility, it actually reflects that the family name has been preserved from Medieval Latin sources as a part of their business or household documentation or church records.
Usually, family names are written after any given name in most uses. However, the surname is written before given names when used in many official documents (for example, Giovanni Fabbri may be referred to Fabbri Giovanni in official documents). In speech, the use of given name first, family name last is standard.
The women, when married, conserve their surname, but they can be addressed with the surname of the husband, especially when widow; sometimes both surnames are written (the proper first), usually separated by in (e.g. Giuseppina Mauri in Crivelli).
In a new proposal of law, the son can be given the surname of the mother rather than the usual father's.
PORTUGAL AND BRAZIL
In the Portuguese naming customs, the main surname (the one used in alphasorting, indexing, abbreviations, and greetings), appears last (reverse the order of Spanish surnames).
Each person has usually two family names: the first is the maternal family name; the last is the paternal family name. 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 the ancient ages the patronymicum 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") and many more are used today as usual family names.
Brazilians usually call people only by their given names, omitting family names, even in many formal situations (as in the press referring to authorities, i.e. "President Fernando Henrique", never President Cardoso). When formality or a prefix requires a family name, the given name usually precedes the surname, e.g. João Santos, or Sr. João Santos.
SPANISH SPEANING 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") 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. Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Venezuela), most people have two surnames, although in some situations only the first is used. The first surname is the paternal one, inherited from the father's paternal surname. The second surname is the maternal one, inherited from the mother's paternal surname. (As an example, Mexican 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 surnames, and parents can also change the order of their children's surnames if they agree (if one of their children is at least 12 years old they need his/her agreement too).  (Link in Spanish)
Depending on the country, the surnames may or may not be linked by the conjunction y ("and"), i ("and", in Catalonia), 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 surname (e.g., in Argentina). Sometimes a new father transmits his complete surname by creating a new one, combining his two surnames, e.g., the paternal surname of the son of Javier (given name) Reyes (paternal surname) de la Barrera (maternal surname) may become the new paternal surname Reyes de la Barrera.
At present in Spain, women upon marrying keep their 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 Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru and Panama. In Peru, women normally conserve all last names after getting married. For example, if Rosa María Pérez Mártinez marries Juan Martín De La Cruz Gómez, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Mártinez de De La Cruz, and if the husband passes away, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Mártinez Vda. (Vda. is the abbreviation for Viuda, "widow" in Spanish) de De La Cruz. 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 surname, the father's paternal surname, is commonly used and registered, as in English-Speaking countries. Women, however, do not change their surname upon marriage and continue to use their maiden name instead of their husband's last name.
In Scandinavia family names often, but certainly not always, originate from a patronymic. In Sweden, the patronymic ending is -son, e.g. Karlsson ("Karl's son"). In Denmark and Norway, the corresponding ending is -sen, as in Karlsen. Names ending with dotter/datter (daughter), such as Olofsdotter, are rare but occurring, and only apply to females. Today, the patronymic names are passed on similarly to family names in other Western countries, and a person's father doesn't have to be called Karl if he or she has the surname Karlsson.
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-sparrow") or Stiernhielm ("star-helmet"), the spelling is obsolete, but since it applies to a name, 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.
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 ti ive somewhere else. (This is part of the origin, in this part of the world, of the custom of woemn changing their names upon marriage. Originally it indicated, basically, a change of address and there are numerous examples of men doing the same thing.
These names often indicated the place of residence of the family. For this reason, Denmark and Norway have a very high incidence of names derived from those of farms, many signified by the suffixes like -bø, -stuen, -løkken 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 (original meaning: the farm located by the Church or also churchyard and cemetery [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.
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.
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, Ukraine, 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 Tatars, Chechens, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, etc.
-ski (-ska), -skiy (-skaya): Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia
-ich, -vich, -ovich: ex-Yugoslavia (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia), Belarus, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovakia. Yugoslav ex.: Petrovi?, means Petar's son.
-in (-ina): Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia
-ko, -enko: Ukraine, Belarus, Russia
-ak/-ek/-ik (-akova/-ekova/-ikova): Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, Slovenia, Croatia
-uk, -yuk: Ukraine, Belarus
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 are feminized by adding -ová, but this is not done in neighboring Poland.
A full Russian name consists of personal (given) name, patronymic, and family name (surname). Most Russian family names originated from patronymics, that is, father's name usually formed by adding the adjective suffix -ov(a) or -ev(a)). Contemporary patronymics, however, have a substantive suffix -ich for masculine and the adjective suffix -na for feminine. For example, the proverbial triad of most common Russian surnames follows: Ivanov (son of Ivan), Petrov (son of Petr), Sidorov (son of Sidor). Feminine forms of these surnames have the ending -a: Ivanova (daughter of Ivan), Petrova (daughter of Petr), Sidorova (daughter of Sidor). Such a pattern of name formation is not unique to Russia or even to the Eastern and Southern Slavs in general; quite common are also names derived from professions, places of origin, and personal characteristics, with various suffixes (e.g. -in(a) and -sky (-skaia)). Professions: kuznets (smith) ? Kuznetsov--Kuznetsova portnoi (tailor) ? Portnov--Portnova pastukh (shepherd) ? Pastukhov--Pastukhova. Places of origin: Moskva (Moscow) ? Moskvin--Moskvina, Smolensk ? Smolensky--Smolenskaia, Riazan ? Riazanov--Riazanova. Personal characteristics: tolsty (stout, fat) ? Tolstov--Tolstova, Tolstoy--Tolstaya, nos (nose) ? Nosov--Nosova, sedoi (grey-haired or -headed) ? Sedov--Sedova. 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) ? Rozhdestvensky--Rozhdestvenskaia, voskresenie (Resurrection) ? Voskresensky--Voskresenskaia, uspenie (Assumption) ? Uspensky--Uspenskaia. Christian virtues: philagathos (one who loves goodness) ? Dobrolubov--Dobrolubova, Dobrolubsky--Dobrolubskaia, philosophos (one who loves wisdom) ? Lubomudrov--Lubomudrova, theophilos (one who loves God) ? Bogolubov--Bogolubova. 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)., Sedykh, Lata).
In Poland and most of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, surnames first appeared during the late Middle Ages. They initially denoted the differences between various people living in the same town or village and bearing the same name. The conventions were similar to those of English surnames, using occupations, patronymic descent, geographic origins, or personal characteristics. Thus, early surnames indicating occupation include Karczmarz ("innkeeper"), Kowal ("blacksmith"), and Bednarczyk ("young cooper"), while those indicating patronymic descent include Szczepaniak ("Son of Szczepan), Józefowicz ("Son of Józef), and Ka?mirkiewicz ("Son of Kazimierz"). Similarly, early surnames like Mazur ("the one from Mazury") indicated geographic origin, while ones like Nowak ("the new one"), Bia?y ("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] de ("z", "of") [location]". Later, most surnames were changed to adjective forms, e.g. Jakub Wi?licki ("James of Wi?lica") and Zbigniew Ole?nicki ("Zbigniew of Ole?nica"), with masculine suffixes -ski, -cki and -dzki or respective feminine suffixes -ska, -cka and -dzka. 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 endings, such names still sound somehow 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 ?mig?y-Rydz and Zdzis?aw Jeziora?ski became Jan Nowak-Jeziora?ski.
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Q. What's the difference between a Coat of Arms & Family Crest?
A. A coat of arms technically refers to the cloth covering worn by knights over their armor to display their arms. Arms are the correct term used to describe what we call today a Coat of Arms or Family Crest, with a Crest being the charge (symbol) over the helmet, so both terms coat of arms and family crest are the same thing.
Q. Why is the Surname History Origin and Coat of Arms Origin different?
A. The history reflects certain information about the surname, but as people move around and names change Coats of Arms may be granted in different countries, but we may have other origins available (see question below).
Q. I want a different Coat of Arms origin than that displayed do you have any more origins for this surname?
A. Yes it is possible we would advise you order via our main website Family-crests.com
Q. I can't find my surname on your database, what should I do?
A. This database is not a complete listing for every surname we have a coat of arms for, if you contact us, we will do a search on your surname to see what we have available.
Q. I need to see the Coat of Arms before I order?
A. As we draw each coat of arms on a per customer basis, we are unable to send samples or display all our coats of arms on our database.
When searching for a coat of arms from countries other than England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, they are reffered to by different names, in
Germany: Wappen, Familienwappen, Blasonierung, Heraldik, Wappenschablonen
Netherlands: Wapen, Wapenschid, Heraldiek, Familiewapen
Sweden: Slaktvapen, Heraldik
Poland: Herby, Herb, Herbu, Herbarz
Spain: Heraldica de Apellidos, Escudo, Heraldaria
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