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
Top 50 List of
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.
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
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.
meanings and naming traditions
the surname and last name
Examples of world last names
last name and
The History, Origin
and Meanings of last names
Definition of last names and family names
List of Surname
meanings and history