The Origin and Meaning of Names (continued)

Please visit our sponsor

Extensive Income Tax Information

Got questions about the tax rebate checks? Find answers in the 2008 Economic Stimulus Plan FAQ's page.


Except for the difference in language, the French system of names closely resembles that of the English. French contact with the English during the period of development of English surnames is largely responsible for the similarities. Please find the following surnames of French origin: Chevrier (one who took care of goats), Legault (a dweller by the woods), Pegues (one who produced and sold pitch, or wax) and Rozier (dweller near a rose bush).

Quebec also called New France and Acadia before it was ceded to the Britsh and later became Canada,, presents a number of unique issues regarding names. Naming of children was based on unique customs until 1850. Old Quebec customs you would see any more may help you interpret your family. Another major issue with French names in the old colony is the "dit" names. These also known as (aka) names are crossed referenced by Jette and Tanquay authorities on old names.


Most German surnames are derived from occupations, colors or locations. Some are from descriptive forms (characteristic) such as Mein (little) and Gross (big). The following surnames are of German origin: Kreuser (one who had curly hair), Schluter (one who worked as a doorkeeper of the prison), Tobler (a dweller in a forest, or ravine) and Shuck (one who made and sold shoes).


Most Greek names are patronymic in origin or derive from geographical place names. The most popular Greek name is Pappas, meaning descended from a priest. The following Greek surnames are derived from a religious, or characteristic origin: Kraikos (one who follows God), Xenos (the stranger), Galanis (one with blue eyes) and Psiharis (one who contributes for the good of his soul).


Up until the early 19th century, most Jewish names were patronymic or locational. However, during the persecutions in Germany, they were forced by law to take permanent surnames. Many were able to pay officials to choose their own surnames, usually one describing beauty. Unfortunately, many were unable to pay and were assigned names that were purposely offensive. Since many European Jews were strictly limited in their choice of professions, only a limited number of surnames are occupational in origin. Below please find some surnames of Hebrew origin. As you will see, they are mostly descriptive in nature: Meier (the scholarly man), Ury (fire, fight), Joffe (the handsome or beautiful person) and Shiffin (descendant of Shifra; beautiful).


Hereditary surnames were first used in Ireland as early as the 10th century, but the custom did not become widespread until the 12th century. Because ownership of land was determined by family relationships, pedigrees were accurately maintained from early times. This interest in descent is also the reason most Irish names are patronymics, which are signified by either 0 or Mac. 0 stands for the old Gaelic word ua, meaning descended from, while Mac means son and is sometimes abbreviated to Mc or M'. Because of persecution, many people dropped the 0 and Mac from their names, but in modem times, the use of these prefixes has been resumed. Some interesting Irish surnames include the following: McClary (die son of the clerk), Rogan (one with red hair, or a ruddy complexion), Ryan (the grandson of Rian; little king) and Tamory (the son of the gympanist).


All Italian surnames end in a vowel and many of them have been derived from a descriptive nickname. Even after hereditary surnames had become the rule in Italy, descriptive nicknames were often passed from one generation to another and gradually replaced the hereditary surname. This practice has produced numerous animal, fish, bird and insect names. The following surnames are of Italian origin and all end in a vowel: Cannella (a dweller where bent grass grew), Medici (one who practiced medicine), Pelficanno (one thought to possess the characteristics of a pelican) and Rotolo (one who made or wrote on scrolls).


A Downloadable e-book:

The Desperate Genealogist's Idea Book:
Creative Ways to Outsmart Your Elusive Ancestors



Throughout most of the history of Japan, only the nobility had surnames. However, this changed in the late 1800s when the Emperor declared that everyone must have a last name. Whole villages then took the same name. For this reason, there are only about 10,000 surnames in use in Japan and most of these are locational. The following are examples of Japanese surnames: Arakawa (rough, river), Yamada (mountain, rice fields), Hata (farm) and Shishido (flesh, door).


The most prominent characteristics of Polish surnames are the endings -ski and -orocki. These were originally used by the nobility as a way to distinguish themselves, but gradually the use spread to the peasants who used the suffixes to mean "son of." Many Poles had German names due to German influence. However, since World War 11, many have changed their surnames to remove any reminder of the German occupation. The following surnames are of Polish origin: Drozd (a dweller at the sign of the thrush), Pajak (one with spider-like characteristics), Rudzinski (a dweller near a mine where ore was obtained) and Gorcyzka (one who raised and prepared mustard).


Portuguese nobles and wealthy landowners began using surnames in the Eleventh century, but these didn't become hereditary until the 16th century. Wealthy nobles often chose the name of their estates as a surname and this practice spread as commoners began using place names. An unusual type of surname is found in Portugal - it refers to religious devotion, such as "da Santa Maria." Surnames of Portuguese origin include the following: Henrigues (the son of Henry; home rule), Marques (descendant of Marcus; belonging to Mars), Mello (one who came from Mello in Portugal) and Souza (one who came from a salty place).


Each person in Russia received three names: a first name, a second name derived from the father's name and the surname. Most are locational in origin. After the Revolution of 1917, many religious names were changed so that they were more acceptable to the Communist Party. Peasants also changed their names at this time to shed the offensive names Oven to them as serfs. The following are examples of Russian surnames: Droski (one who drove a coach), Shiroff (the son of a big, or wide man), Kosloff (one with the characteristics of a billy goat) and Rosoff (the son of Roza; Rose).


During the Middle Ages, the infant mortality rate in Scotland was high. For this reason, many Scottish families would use the same name over and over so that one family might have several children with the same name if more than one child survived. They also changed their surnames if they changed residence. Even through the 18th century, many Scottish women retained their own names when they married. This may be a carry over of an even older custom of the man taking the wife's name at the time of marriage.

There are two groups of Scottish surnames: Highland and Lowland. The Highland surnames developed slowly, and it was not until the 18th century that a man ceased to be designated by his father's name. The clan system was largely responsible for preserving the old ways of the Highlanders. A man would join a clan for protection and, to show his allegiance, he would then adopt a clan surname - usually Mac followed by the chiefs name. As chieftainship was hereditary, the names were mainly patronymic. In the Lowlands, the use of surnames developed much the same as English surnames, although at a somewhat slower pace. Many Lowland surnames are indistinguishable from English ones. Some examples of surnames of Scottish origin include the following: Mawhiney (son of Suibhne; well going), Peebles (a dweller in a tent, or assembly hall; one who came from Pebbleshire), Scrimgeour (one who taught fencing, a fencing master), and Rutherford (one who came from a river passage used by cattle).


According to legend, Spanish names actually began as cries between Christian families, warning each other of the approaching Moors. Most surnames in the Spanish world today are patronymic and locational in origin. Before surnames became hereditary, a father's name was generally used as a surname. These were distinguished by the endings -es and -ez which mean "son of" Some of these names gradually evolved into hereditary family names. Lords tended to use the name of their estates as surnames and sometimes the estate name was combined with a patronymic. A recent custom has been to use the father's surname in conjunction with the mother's. in these names, the father's surname comes first and is joined to the mother's by "y" (and) or occasionally by a hyphen. Other Spanish surnames include: Palo (a dweller near a tree), Tirado (the sharpshooter, or marksman), Labrador (one who cultivated the land; farmer) and Seda (one who dealt in silk).

Swedish and Norwegian

Since the early 10th century, Norwegians have traditionally taken a name associated with the family farm. Swedish surnames are of more recent origin and are generally patronymic. As a matter of interest, there were so many "sons" in Sweden that the government asked for new family names to be instituted. Accordingly, the National Family Name Committee approved fifty-six thousand new names, making record keeping a bit easier in Sweden. Some interesting surnames of Norwegian or Swedish origin include the following: Utter (otter), Raske (one who was daring; a soldier name), Seaberg (sea, mountain) and Hallberg (boulder, mountain).


Few surnames originated in Switzerland. Most are of French, German, Italian or Romansch origin. Most of the common Swiss surnames are of German origin. Below please find the following eclectic surnames of Swiss origin: Pallin (a dweller near the marsh, or swamp), Gonda (dweller at the stony slope), Rush (an excitable person) and Pestalozzi (one who cuts bones, a bone cutter).


Fixed family names are a recent introduction to Wales. Before they were imposed for legal purposes, fixed family names were neglected in favor of patronymic surnames. These were essentially a genealogical history of the family, where one generation was connected to another by ap, which means "son of." Names such as Llewelyn ap Dafydd ap, Leuan ap Griffith ap Meredith were not uncommon. At the end of the 19th century, this practice ceased and ap, was usually combined with one name to yield surnames such as Upjohn (from Apjohn) and Powell (from Aphowell). The following surnames are of Welsh origin: Heavens (descendant of Evan, the Welsh form of John), Mattock (son of Madog, or Madoc; fortunate), Parsons (the son of a parson, or son of Peter) and Ryder (the rider, or trooper; a mounted guardian of a forest).

American Names:

American Indian Names

Indian names reflect the culture of a particular tribe. Generally, most Indians have a birth name, such as "Sunrise Beauty;" a family name, "Smooth Water;" and an adult name, "White Mountain." These names are always symbolic, although each tribes has its own naming practices. Sometimes names are kept secret because of religious laws, in many tribes, a child will be given one name at birth, and other names during various stages of his or her life. As individuals take a new name, they discard the earlier one. For legal identification purposes, many Indians assumed "Americanized" names such as Frank Beaver, or Willard Rivers.


Emigrant Black Names

The majority of the names of black North Americans are similar to those of the white population. During the years of slavery, many were given names, some biblical, by the plantation owners. After slavery, many black Americans adopted the surnames of their former owners. But after the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, some blacks changed their names for religious reasons or to reflect their African heritage. Some blacks have converted to the Muslim religion and taken Muslim names. Others have given their children names from such African languages as Arabic, lbo, Iikuyu, Swahili, or Yoruba. Some children have such names as Aba (born on Thursday), Dakarai happiness), Aduke (much loved) and Marjani (Lord).

Share this article on: Facebook

<-- Previous Page   Page 2 of 2.

Search the Web with preference to names, meaning, family, and genealogy:
Custom Search
Home Page
| Surname Database |
Type French Accents | Sponsor:
Check these lenders for Great rates on Mortgages and Refinances