For further reading, here is a link to a similar article titled --'Last Name Meanings and Origins-
How to Trace the Meaning of Your Name'http://genealogy.about.com/od/surnames/a/surname_meaning.htm
A family name (in Western contexts often referred to as a surname or last name) is typically a part of a person's name which has been passed, according to law or custom, from one or both parents to their children. The use of family names is common in many cultures around the world. Each culture has its own rules as to how these names are applied and used.
Having both a family name and given name ("first name", "forename", or "Christian name") is far from universal. In many countries it is common for ordinary people to have only one name (a mononym).
In many cultures (particularly in European and European influenced cultures in the Americas, Australia, etc., as well as the Middle East, South Asia, and most African cultures), the family name is normally the last part of a person's 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 from East Asia, specifically China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. The Eastern order is also used in Hungary, Romania and in parts of Africa. Since family names are normally written last in European societies (except in Hungary and Romania), the term last name is commonly used for family name, while in East Asia (with vertical writing) the family name may be referred to as upper name (as in Japanese ue-no-namae (上の名前?)).
In an English-speaking context, 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, 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. Matrilineal ('mother-line') surnames, passing from mothers to daughters, are discussed elsewhere to avoid complicating this large article.Onomastics
is the study of proper names including 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 names or surnames is unclear. Surnames have arisen in cultures with large, concentrated populations where single, personal names for individuals became insufficient to identify them clearly. Many cultures use additional descriptive terms in identifying individuals. These terms may indicate personal attributes, location of origin, occupation, parentage, patronage, adoption, or clan affiliation. These descriptors often developed into fixed clan identifications which in turn became family names as we know them today.
In China, according to legend, family names started with Emperor Fu Xi in 2852 BC. His administration standardised the naming system in order to facilitate census-taking, and the use of census information. For scientific documentation that matrilineal surnames existed in China before the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) and that "by the time of the Shang Dynasty they (Chinese surnames) had become patrilineal".
In Japan, family names were uncommon except among the aristocracy until the 19th century.
In Ancient Greece, during some periods, formal identification commonly included place of origin. At other times, clan names and patronymics ("son of") were also common. For example, Alexander the Great was known as Heracleides (as a supposed descendant of Heracles) and by the dynastic name Karanos/Caranus, which referred to the founder of the dynasty to which he belonged. In none of these cases, though, were these names considered essential parts of the person's name, nor were they explicitly inherited in the manner which is common in many cultures today.
In the Roman Empire, the bestowal and use of clan and family names waxed and waned with changes in the various subcultures of the realm. (See Roman naming conventions.) At the outset, they were not strictly inherited in the way that family names are inherited in many cultures today. Eventually, though, family names began to be used in a manner similar to most modern European societies. With the gradual influence of Greek/Christian culture throughout the Empire, the use of formal family names declined. By the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, family names were uncommon in the Eastern Roman Empire. In Western Europe where Germanic culture dominated the aristocracy, family names were almost non-existent. They would not significantly reappear again in Eastern Roman society until the 10th century, apparently influenced by the familial affiliations of the Armenian military aristocracy. The practice of using family names spread through the Eastern Roman Empire and gradually into Western Europe although it was not until the modern era that family names came to be explicitly inherited as they are today.
In Ireland, the use of surnames has a very old history. Ireland was the first country in Europe to use fixed surnames. As noted in the Annals, the first recorded fixed surname was Ó Cleirigh which recorded the death of Tigherneach Ua Cleirigh, lord of Aidhne in Co. Galway in the year 916.
In England, the introduction of family names is generally attributed to the Normans and the Domesday Book of 1086. 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, such a name indicated lordship, or ownership, of the village. But some early Norman nobles in England chose to drop the French derivations and call themselves instead after their new English holdings.
During the modern era, many cultures around the world adopted family names, particularly for administrative reasons, especially during the imperialistic age of European expansion and particularly since 1600. Notable examples include the Netherlands (1811), Japan (1870s), Thailand (1920), and Turkey (1934). Nonetheless, their use is not universal: Icelanders, Tibetans, Burmese, Javanese, and many people groups in East Africa do not use family names.
Family names sometimes change or are replaced by non-family-name surnames under political pressure to avoid persecution. Examples are the cases with Chinese Indonesians and Chinese Thais after migration there during the 20th century, or the Jews who fled to different European countries to avoid persecution from the Nazis during World War II.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. Archer, Bailey, Baker, Brewer, Butcher, Carter, Chandler, Clark, Collier, Cooper, Cook, Carpenter, Dyer, Faulkner, Fisher, Fletcher, Fowler, Fuller, Glover, Hayward, Hawkins, Head, Hunt or Hunter, Judge, Knight, Miller, Mason, Page, Palmer, Parker, Porter, Sawyer, Slater, Smith, Stringer, Taylor, Thatcher, Turner, Shoemaker, Walker, Weaver, Wood or Woodman and Wright (or variations such as Cartwright and Wainwright). Personal characteristics
e.g., Short, Brown, Black, Whitehead, Young, Long, White Geographical features
e.g., Bridge, Camp, Hill, Bush, Lake, Lee, Wood, Grove, Holmes, Forest, Underwood, Hall, Brooks, Fields, Stone, Morley, Moore, Perry Place names
e.g., Washington, Everingham, Burton, London, Leighton, Hamilton, Sutton, Flint, Laughton
Estate For those descended from land-owners, the name of their holdings, castle, manor or estate, e.g. Ernle, Windsor, Staunton Patronymics, matronymics or ancestral
, often from a person's given name. e.g., from male name: Richardson, Stephenson, Jones (Welsh for John), Williams, Jackson, Wilson, Thompson, Benson, Johnson, Harris, Evans, Simpson, Willis, Fox, Davies, Reynolds, Adams, Dawson, Lewis, Rogers, Murphy, Nicholson, Robinson, Powell, Ferguson, Davis, Edwards, Hudson, Roberts, Harrison, Watson, 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, Henderson, Armstrong, Grant, Cameron, Stewart, Douglas, Crawford, Campbell, Hunter) 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). (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.)
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 was or 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. In England and cultures derived from there, there has long been a tradition for a woman to change her surname upon marriage from her birth name to her husband's 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 assumed their husband's surname upon getting married.
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 Gitxsan); it is increasingly common in the United States, where a married couple may choose a new last name entirely. As an alternative, both spouses may adopt a double-barreled name. For instance, when John Smith and Mary Jones marry each other, they may become known as John Smith-Jones and Mary Smith-Jones. However, some consider the extra length of the hyphenated names undesirable. A spouse may also opt to use his or her birth name as a middle name. An additional option, although rarely practiced, is the adoption of a last name derived from a portmanteau of the prior names, such as "Simones". Some couples keep their own last names but give their children hyphenated or combined surnames.
In some jurisdictions, a woman's legal name used to change automatically upon marriage. That change is no longer a requirement, but women may still easily change to their husband's surname. Upon marriage, men in the United States can easily change their surname with the federal government, through the Social Security Administration, but may face difficulty on the state level in some states. In some places, civil rights lawsuits or constitutional amendments changed the law so that men could also easily change their married names (e.g., in British Columbia and California).
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. Another reason some give for maintaining their birth names after marriage is a simple dislike for the new spouse's surname or the combination that would be formed with their first name and the spouse's last name. (For example, a hypothetical Paige Smith marrying a John Turner may hesitate to take her new husband's last name to avoid becoming Paige Turner. Other similar examples can easily be imagined.) The practice of women maintaining their surname after marriage is increasing. 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.
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 ("dark-haired"); occupations, e.g. Molinero ("miller"), Zapatero ("Shoe-maker") and Guerrero ("warrior"); and geographic location or ethnicity, e.g. Alemán ("German").
In Spain and in Spanish-speaking countries (e.g. Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela), people traditionally have two family names: the first family name is the paternal one, inherited from the father's paternal family name, while the second family name is the maternal one, inherited from the mother's paternal family name. In most situations only the first one is used. In some instances, when an individual's given name and first family name are too common (such as in José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mario Vargas Llosa), both family names are used (though not necessarily both given names). In Spain, a new law approved in 1999 allows an adult to change the order of his/her family names, and parents can also change the order of their children's family names if they (and the child, if over 12) agree.
Traditionally in most countries, and currently in Spain, Chile and Argentina, women, upon marrying, keep their own family names. It is considered impolite towards her family for a woman to change her name. The higher class women of Cuba and Spain traditionally never change their names. In certain rare situations, a woman may be addressed not only with her maternal surname, but also 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 Díaz de Guerrero. This custom, begun in medieval times, is decaying and only has legal validity in Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, Panama, and to a certain extent in Mexico (where it is optional but becoming obsolete), but is frowned upon by people in Spain, Cuba, and elsewhere.
Depending on the country, the family names may or may not be linked by the conjunction y ("and"), i ("and" in Catalonia), de ("of"), del ("of the", when the following word is masculine) or de la ("of the", when the following word is feminine). Sometimes a father transmits his combined family names, thus creating a new one e.g., the paternal surname of the son of Javier (given name) Reyes (paternal family name) de la Barrera (maternal surname) may become the new paternal surname Reyes de la Barrera. De is also the nobiliary particle used with Spanish surnames.
In Hispanic American countries, married women usually keep their first family name followed by "de" (denoting property: "'s" or "of") and then the husband's last name. For example María Martínez López when married to Josué Vásquez Hernández would then be María Martínez de Vásquez. However, this usage is falling into disuse. In Peru and the Dominican Republic, women normally conserve all family names after getting married. For example, if Rosa María Pérez Martínez marries Juan Martín De la Cruz Gómez, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Martínez de De la Cruz, and if the husband dies, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Martínez Vda. de De la Cruz (Vda. being the abbreviation for viuda, "widow" in Spanish).
The law in Peru changed some years ago, and all married women can keep their maiden last names or if they want, they can use also their husband's last name after their own maiden name, adding the "de" before their husband's last name.
In Ecuador, a couple can choose the order of their children's surnames. Most choose the traditional order (e.g., Guerrero García in the example above), but some invert the order, putting the mother's paternal surname first and the father's paternal surname last (e.g., García Guerrero from the example above). Such inversion, if chosen, must be consistent for all children of the marriage.
In Argentina only one family name, the father's paternal family name, is commonly used and registered, as in English-speaking countries. Women, however, do not change their family names upon marriage and continue to use their birth family names instead of their husband's family names. However, some women do choose to use the old Spanish custom of adjoining "de" and her husband's paternal surname to her own name. For example: if Cristina Fernández marries Felipe Kirchner, she might keep her birth name or become Cristina Fernández de Kirchner or Cristina Kircher.
In Cuba and in Nicaragua, both men and women carry their two family names (first their father's, and second their mother's). Both are equally important and are mandatory for any official document. Married women never change their original family names for their husband's. Even when they migrate to other countries where this is a common practice, many prefer to adhere to their heritage and keep their maiden name.
In villages in Catalonia, Galicia and Asturias (Spain) and in Cuba, people are often known by the name of their dwelling or collective family nickname rather than by their surnames. For example, Remei Pujol i Serra who lives at Ca l'Elvira would be referred to as "Remei de Ca l'Elvira"; and Adela Barreira López who is part of the "Provisores" family would be known as "Adela dos Provisores".Myanmar (Burma)
People from Myanmar or Burmese, have no family names. This, to some, is the only known Asian people having no family names at all. Some of those from Myanmar or Burma, who are familiar with European or American cultures, began to put to their younger generations with a family name - adopted from the notable ancestors. For example, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of the late Father of Independence General Aung San; Ms. Hemar Ne Win, is the daughter of the famous actor Colleague gin Ne Win etc.Pakistan
Pakistani 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, Husseini, and Suhrawardi.
People claiming Afghan ancestry include those with family names Durrani, Siddiqui, Suri.
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 Indian ancestry include those with family names Barelwi, Lakhnavi, Delhvi, Bilgrami and Rajput.
People claiming Iranian ancestry include those with family names Agha, Firdausi, Ghazali, Gilani, Hamadani, Isfahani, Kashani, Kermani, Khorasani, Farooqui, Mir, Montazeri, Nishapuri, Noorani, Kayani, Qizilbash, Saadi, Sabzvari, Shirazi, Sistani, Yazdani, Zahedi, and Zand.Jewish
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"), and other German words as their names' suffixes. Most Sephardic Jews adopted Arabic names, like "Azizi" ("you're [someones] love"), "Hassan" or added words to their original names, like "Kohenzadeh" ("[she] bore a Kohen"). Names like "Johnson" and "Peterson" ("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". Many Yemenite Jews' family names are consisting of the place in which their ancestors have come to Yemen (like Sana'a) and an "i" in the end (like the family name "San'ani"), indicating belonging to the place they have originated from.Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac
These groups of people make up a similar ethnic body with deep and long roots in the Middle East, mainly present-day Iraq and Iran. 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, Abro, Alamasha, Alamshah, Alawerdy, Aldawood, Amoo, Amu, Antar, Aprim, Asfar, Ashouri, Ashurian, Awshalum, Aziz, Azzo, Baaba, Bacchus, Badal, Balou, Barkoo, Benyamin, Bidavid, Bidawid, Cabani,Dankha,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, 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, Turkey and Syria). Kurds in these respective countries tend to hold Turkish, Persian or Arabic names, in the majority of cases, forcefully appointed by the ruling governments. Others hold Arabic names as a result of the influence of Islam and Arab culture.
Kurds holding authentic Kurdish names are generally found in Diaspora or in Iraqi Kurdistan where Kurds are relatively free. Traditionally, Kurdish family names are inherited from the tribes of which the individual or families are members. However, some families inherit the names of the regions they are from.
Common affixes of authentic Kurdish names are "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, and Tovi. Other names include Akreyi, Alan, Amedi, Botani, Hewrami, Mukri, and Serhati.
Traditionally, Kurdish women did not inherit a man's last name. Although still not in practice by many Kurds, this can be more commonly found today.Tibet
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.