This section of the website contains facts an information about surnames that are in common use around the world. Surnames are also referred to as last names and family names. In Hispanic countries they are referred to as appelidos. Surnames or family names are hereditary names that are used to identify the members of a specific family. Surnames are added to a given name and used to identify an individual.
During the period in history referred to as the Dark Ages most Europeans were referred to by just their first names. Surnames were introduced into England by the Normans following the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Norman conquest of England allowed the Normans to collect taxes and in order to do efficiently this they compiled the Doomsday Book in 1086 which was a survey of the lands and a census of the English people. Other European countries also adopted the custom of using the surname. As populations grew and it became easier to travel, the need to identify individuals by surnames became a necessity. It might therefore surprise many people that Muslim Turks had no surnames until the introduction of their Law on Family Names in 1934. European last names have found their way to America when the early European colonists settled in the 'New World'.
Top 50 List of American Surnames and Meanings
The section on American last names provides a Top 50 list of the most common surnames in the US. There are also details of the origins and meanings of American surnames such as Lee and Hall which were both derived as descriptive names for English dwelling places.
List of British and English Surnames and Meanings
The section relating to British surnames includes the most common English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh names in the UK. A separate article providing more comprehensive details is also provided for each of these countries together with facts and information about Gaelic surnames.
English Surnames and Meanings
English surnames were derived from first names such as Robert to create the surname Roberts. Other surnames reflected the jobs and trades of their owners such as a Brewer (Brewster) or a Potter. The homes of people were also used such as Hall or Castle as were the regions or villages from which they originated. Nicknames or pet names for people were also used as surnames. The naming traditions of many other countries in Europe also used these naming traditions and customs.
English Surnames in America
The English surname quickly spread to America following the arrival of the first English who voyaged to America on the Mayflower ship in 1620. They were soon followed by many more people from England and other European countries and their last names now form a part of American heritage. Our section on American surnames provides a list of the historical surnames of the Mayflower passengers.
Surnames and a Change of Name
In English-speaking countries the surnames of women are traditionally inherited from her father. Married names are family names or last names adopted by a person and change when they marry. When a person marries they undertake a change of name and assume the surname of his or her spouse which replaces the original maiden name or birth name of the person.
Family Surname Meanings - "The Son of..."
Many family surnames are patronymic and include prefixes or suffixes meaning the "Son of...".
In Scotland the prefix "Mac" or "Mc" means the 'son of' in a family name. The Welsh surname prefixes of "ab" or "ap" also translate as the "Son of..."
The Family surname in Ireland with the suffix "O", such as O'Doherty, O'Reilly and O'Neill indicate the person is "grandson of..." or the "descendant of..."
French family surnames with suffixes such as "eau" also mean 'son of' as in Moreau meaning the son of the Moor and Rousseau meaning the son of man with red hair.
List of Spanish & Hispanic Last Names (Apellidos) and Meanings
People living in the US of Spanish, Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin are collectively referred to as Hispanic. We have provided a section on Spanish and Hispanic surnames. In Spanish speaking countries surnames are referred to as apellidos as in the first apellido and the second apellido. This naming tradition is also used by of people Latin American descent.
List of Russian Surnames and Meanings
Our lists include male Russian last names such as Tchaikovsky and Petrov and female last names such as Pavlova and Bystraya. Names like Ivanov can be translated as the son of Ivan.
Top Lists of the most common last names such as:
Chinese Surnames and Meanings
Chinese surnames such as Huang, Zhang, Liang and Han are used by ethnic groups in China, Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Eastern and Chinese surnames have a different ordering of names in which the family name precedes the given name. A boy called Wei and belonging to the Chen family is called "Chen Wei" and not "Wei Chen".
List of French, German and Swedish Surnames and Meanings
There are sections relating to French, Swedish and German last names and meanings. Examples of common German last names are Brandt, Keller and Berger, common French last names are Petit, Durand and Leroy and common Swedish last names are Hansen, Johansson and Norberg. Prefixes and suffixes are sometimes found attached to last names to form a patronymic surname such as Charles de Gaulle meaning Charles, son of Gaulle. The German name "Johann, the son of Peter" led to the surname of Petersohn.
|Surname meanings and naming traditions|
|Useful information and history|
|Components of the surname and last name|
|Examples of world last names and meanings|
|The Surname, last name and Genealogy|
|The History, Origin and Meanings of last names|
|Definition of last names and family names |
|List of Surname meanings and history|