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A patronymic, or patronym, is a component of a personal name based on the given name of one's father, grandfather (avonymic), or an earlier male ancestor. A component of a name based on the name of one's mother or a female ancestor is a matronymic. A name based on the name of one's child is a teknonymic or paedonymic. Each is a means of conveying lineage.
Patronymics are still in use, including mandatory use, in many countries worldwide, although their use has largely been replaced by or transformed into patronymic surnames. Examples of such transformations include common English surnames such as Johnson (son of John).
Origins of terms
The usual noun and adjective in English is patronymic, but as a noun this exists in free variation alongside patronym. [a] The first part of the word patronym comes from Greek πατήρ patēr "father" (GEN πατρός patros whence the combining form πατρο- patro-); the second part comes from Greek ὄνυμα onyma, a variant form of ὄνομα onoma "name". In the form patronymic, this stands with the addition of the suffix -ικός (-ikos), which was originally used to form adjectives with the sense ‘pertaining to’ (thus 'pertaining to the father's name'). These forms are attested in Hellenistic Greek as πατρώνυμος (patrōnymos) and πατρωνυμικός (patrōnymikos). The form patronym, first attested in English in 1834, was borrowed into English from French patronyme, which had previously borrowed the word directly from Greek. Patronymic, first attested in English in 1612, has a more complex history. Both Greek words had entered Latin, and, from Latin, French. The English form patronymic was borrowed through the mutual influence of French and Latin on English.
In many areas around the world, patronyms predate the use of family names. Family names in many Celtic, Germanic, Iberian, Scandinavian, Georgian, Armenian and Slavic languages originate from patronyms, e.g. Wilson (son of William), FitzGerald (son of Gerald), Powell (from "ap Hywel"), Fernández (son of Fernando), Rodríguez (son of Rodrigo), Andersson or Andersen (son of Anders, Scandinavian form of Andrew), Carlsen (son of Carl), Ilyin (of Ilya), Petrov (of Peter), Grigorovich (son of Grigory, Russian form of Gregory), Stefanović (son of Stefan, little Stefan), MacAllister (from "mac Alistair", meaning son of Alistair, anglicized Scottish form of Alexander) and O'Conor (from "Ó Conchobhair", meaning grandson/descendant of Conchobhar). Other cultures which formerly used patronyms have switched to the more widespread style of passing the father's last name to the children (and wife) as their own. In Iceland, family names are unusual; Icelandic law favours the use of patronyms (and more recently, matronyms) over family names.
Historical and current use
Traditionally Muslim and non-Arabic speaking African people, such as Hausa and Fulani people usually (with some exceptions) follow the Arab naming pattern. The word or phrase meaning "son of" is, however, omitted. So Mohamed son of Ibrahim son of Ahmed is "Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed", and Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed's son Ali is "Ali Mohamed Ibrahim".
Ethiopia and Eritrea
Ethiopians and Eritreans have no concept of family name and surname. If one is to refer to a person with a single name he/she will always use the person's given name. Ethiopian and Eritreans use a naming pattern very similar to the Arab naming pattern, but with one exception: no suffix or prefix. The full name is written as: First name (given name) followed by the father's name, and last by the grandfather's name. For example, Lemlem Mengesha Abraha is Lemlem (given name) Mengesha (father's name) Abraha (grandfather's name). The grandfather's name is usually only used in official documents. The father's name is not considered a middle name. Instead, it is considered a last name. The same is true for females; they do not take their husband's last name. They go independently by their given name, followed by their father's name, and then their grandfather's name, even after marriage.
Some Kenyan communities used patronyms. As of 2010 the practice has largely dropped off with the use of just the father's last name as a surname. Kalenjin use 'arap' meaning 'son of'; Kikuyu used 'wa' meaning 'of'. Because of polygamy, matronyms were also used and 'wa' used to identify which wife the child was born of; Maasai use 'ole' meaning 'son of'; Meru use 'mto' abbreviated M' thus son of Mkindia would be M'Mkindia, pronounced Mto Mkindia.
Patronymic naming is very common in parts of Mozambique. Although the practice is not universal, patronymic naming has been documented in the Zambezia province.
Now not as prominent as before, many people of southern Nigeria took their father's given name as their surname. It could also be the father's prominent nickname, which takes the place of a first name. An example would be a man named Kolade Fabiyi, who had a son named Dele. The son's name would now be Dele Kolade, not Dele Fabiyi. This is used to distinguish between extended family who would have the same last name, like between cousins. This custom has dropped to the modern English one, due to an increase in British-style education.
Somalis use their paternal grandfather's given name as their legal surname for documentation purpose. They also use the term "ina" or "iña" meaning "the son of" or "the daughter of," which is similar to other African- and the Arab-naming patterns. For example, the name "Ahmed Mohamed Ali Farah" means "Ahmed son of Mohamed son of Ali son of Farah." When stating one's lineage, one will say "Ahmed ina Mohamed" (Ahmed, the son of Mohamed). To identify themselves and the sub-clan they belong to, Somalis memorize their long lineage back a common ancestor. Women never adopt their husbands' patronym but keep theirs for life.
Among the Zulu patronymics were used in the pre-colonial era. The prefix "ka" was attached to the father's name, for example Shaka kaSenzangakhona means Shaka son of Senzangakhona. The practice disappeared from everyday use with the introduction of the modern European style surname system but still remains part of traditional cultural practices, particularly in the case of chieftains and royalty where reciting lineages forms a part of many ceremonial occasions.
Atayal people's names are followed by the name of their father, both son and daughter are patronymic. Amis people's son names are also followed by the father's name, while a daughter's name is followed by her mother's name. Whereas the Seediqs often get to choose which of their parents’ name to go after their own.
Mongol people's names are followed by the name of their father, both son and daughter are patronymic.
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Patronymy is common in parts of India. For example, if a father is named Khurram Suleman (a Muslim masculine name), he might name his son Taha Khurram, who in turn might name his son Ismail Taha. As a result, unlike surnames, patronymics will not pass down through many generations.
In Tamil Nadu and some parts of Kerala and South Karnataka, patronymy is predominant. This is a significant departure from the rest of the country where caste names are mostly employed as surnames. This came into common use during the 1950s and 1960s when the Dravidian movement campaigned against the use of one's caste as part of the name.
However, rather than using the father's full name, only the first letter — popularly known as the initial — is prefixed to the given name. For example, if a person's given name is Saravanan and his father's Krishnan, then the full name is K. Saravanan and is seldom expanded, even in official records. Only where it is forced by stipulation — such as when applying for an Indian passport which does not usually allow initials — is the initial expanded and the name rendered as "Krishnan Saravanan". Some families follow the tradition of retaining the name of the hometown, the grandfather's name, or both as initials. The celebrated Indian English novelist R. K. Narayan's name at birth was Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Narayanaswami, which was shortened at the behest of his writer friend, Graham Greene. Rasipuram, the first name, is a toponym and Krishnaswami Ayyar, the second name, is a patronym.
In Tamil Nadu the use of initials and/or surname is up to the prerogative of the person with no strict rules. The late chief minister Karunanidhi preferred to be referred as M. Karunanidhi where the initial M stood for Muthuvel - his father's given name. M.Karunanidhi's son prefers to be referred as M.K.Stalin incorporating both his fathers and grandfather's names. However M.K.Stalin's son prefers to be referred as Udhayanidhi Stalin. Where Udhayanidhi is his given name and Stalin his father's given name as his surname rather than as an initial.
Likewise, cricketer Ashwin son of Ravichandran prefers to be referred to as R.Ashwin or Ravichandran Ashwin. This is because commentators in sports often call players by their last names only and it would be embarrassing to call him by his father's name, therefore he puts his own given name in the last.
Another upcoming trend is to expand the initials to reflect how it would sound in the native language. For example, Karuppiah prefers to be called Pala. Karuppiah instead of P. Karuppiah and his son Palaniappan prefers Karu. Palaniappan. Cinema director Ranjith prefers Pa. Ranjith instead of P. Ranjith as Pa sounds closer to the name in Tamil rather than P which sounds like Pe unlike the first syllable Pa.
Celebrated scientist M. Annadurai would expand his name as Mayilsami Annadurai, however he has to be referred to as Annadurai as referring to him as Mayilsami would be referring to him with his father's given name which could be embarrassing for him.
While the usage of caste names as surnames/last names is discouraged (but not banned) in Tamil Nadu, such usage by out of state people is greeted with indifference. So Lakshmi Menon, Shilpa Shetty etc. are referred by their preferred names which include their caste names. Likewise old Tamil names with caste in them are also fully used while referring to them such as Pasumpoan Muthuramalinga Thevar, U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer etc.
- Cricketer Sunil Gavaskar's full name is Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, where Manohar is his father's given name. Sunil Gavaskar's son Rohan Gavaskar would be Rohan Sunil Gavaskar, and so on.
- Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar's full name is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, where Ramesh is his father's given name.
- First Deputy Prime Minister and first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's full name is Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, where Jhaverbhai is his father's given name.
- India's 15th Prime Minister Narendra Modi, famously took oath of office as the Prime Minister of India as Narendra Damodardas Modi, where in Damodardas is his father's given name. He prefers to write his full name including his father's name as his middle name.
This system works for both boys and girls, except that after marriage, a woman takes her husband's given name as her middle name – her new middle name is no longer a patronymic. East Slavic naming customs are similar, except that the suffix -yevich, -yevna or something similar is used in a Russian language patronymic.
Malaysian Indians may also follow this custom with "son" or "daughter" of being replaced by "anak lelaki" or "anak perempuan", respectively.
Indians of the Muslim Isma'ili sect also have patronymic middle names which use the father's first name and the grandfather's first name plus a family name. Someone called "Ramazan Rahim Ali Manji" might call his son "Karim Ramazan Rahim Manji" and his granddaughter might be called "Zahra Karim Ramazan Manji".
In Brunei, the ruling family of the monarch uses given name + ibni + father's name instead of using bin/binti.
In Indonesia, there are a number of ethnic groups with different naming systems. The Batak of North Sumatra (Sumatra Utara) give every child the family's name. Sometimes the family's name is prefixed by Huta-, Batu-, etc., but most use Si-, such as Sitanggang, Sihombing, Sibutar-butar, Sinaga, or Sitohang. The family's name is given from the father's family. For example, if the father's name is Boggi Sinaga who married to Moetia Siregar then all children will be given family's name of Sinaga.
A common feature of historical Semitic names is the patronymic system. Since ancient times, men and women were referred to and named using this system. This was not limited to any certain region or religion. It was only in the 17th and 18th centuries, when laws were put in place in European nations demanding as much, that those of Semitic progeny began to abandon the patronymic naming scheme in favor of embracing consistent legal surnames. It was only after these laws were ratified that 99% of Jews and Muslims in these territories received surnames.
Jews have historically used Hebrew patronymic names after the Bar Kokhba revolt, before which the most common language was Aramaic. In the Jewish patronymic system the first name is followed by either ben- or bat- ("son of" and "daughter of", respectively), and then the father's name, mother's name, or both. In Aramaic, the first name was followed by bar- or bat- ("son of" and "daughter of", respectively).
Permanent family surnames exist today, first by Sephardic Jews in 10th or 11th century Iberia and by Ashkenazi Jews in the late 18th century, when Austria passed the first law requiring Jews adopt surnames. Similar laws were passed in Prussia, Galicia, France, regions of Germany, and other countries.
While Jews now have permanent surnames for everyday life, the patronymic form is still used in religious life. It is used in synagogue and in documents in Jewish law such as the ketubah (marriage contract). Many Sephardic Jews used the Arabic ibn instead of bat or ben when it was the norm. The Spanish family Ibn Ezra is one example.
There is a strong cultural pressure for immigrants to modern Israel to Hebraize their names. This practice is especially common among Ashkenazic immigrants, because most of their names were taken during the period from the end of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th century. For example, Golda Meir was born "Golda Mabovitch", took the name "Golda Meyerson" after her marriage to American Morris Meyerson, and, upon making Aliyah and at the urging of Moshe Sharett, Hebraized her last name to Meir.
In Arabic, the word "ibn" (ابن or بن: "bin", "ben" and sometimes "ibni" and "ibnu" to show the grammatical case of the noun) is the equivalent of the "-son" suffix discussed above. (The prefix ben- is used similarly in Hebrew.) In addition, "bint" (بنت) means "daughter of". Thus, for example, "Ali ibn `Amr" means "Ali son of `Amr". In Classical Arabic, the word ibn is written as bn between two names, since the case ending of the first name then supplies a vowel. Consequently, ibn is often written as "b.", as bint is often written as "bt.," in name formulas rendered from Arabic into Roman characters. Thus Hisham ibn al-Kalbi is alternatively written as Hisham b. al-Kalbi. However, the pronunciation "bin" is dialectal and has nothing to do with either the spelling or pronunciation in Classical Arabic. The word "Abu" ("Aba" or "Abi" in different grammatical cases) means "father of", so "Abu `Ali" is another name for "`Amr".
In medieval times, an illegitimate child of unknown parentage would sometimes be termed "ibn Abihi", "son of his father" (notably Ziyad ibn Abihi.) In the Qur'an, Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is consistently termed "`Isa ibn Maryam" - a matronymic (in the Qur'an, Jesus has no father; see Islamic view of Jesus). An Arabic patronymic can be extended as far back as family tree records will allow: thus, for example, Ibn Khaldun gives his own full name as "`Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Jabir ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn `Abd ar-Rahman ibn Khaldun".
Patronymics are still standard in parts of the Arab world, notably Saudi Arabia and Iraq. (In the case of Iraq, with the omitted ibn or bint.) However, some of the Arab world has switched to a family name system.[when?] As in English, the new family names are sometimes based on what was formerly a patronymic. The form most used in the Arab world is the usage of both the patronymic and a family name, often using both the father's and paternal grandfathers given name in sequence after the own given name, and then the family name. In Iraq for example, full names are formed by combining the given name of an individual with the given name of their father (sometimes the father is skipped and the paternal grandfather's given name is used instead, sometimes both father and paternal grandfather are used), along with the town, village, or clan name. For instance, Hayder Muhammed al-Tikriti is the son of Muhammed named Hayder, and he is from the town of Tikrit. In Saudi Arabia naming conventions are similar to Iraq's but family names are used much more often.
In Aramaic, the prefix bar- means "son" and is used as a prefix meaning "son of". In the Bible, Peter is called Bar-Jonah in Matthew 16:17 and Nathanael is possibly called Bartholomew because he is the son of Tolmai (or son of Ptolemy, with "P" being reduced). The titles can also be figurative, for example in Acts 4:36-37 a man named Joseph is called Barnabas meaning "son of consolation".
The Assyrians for centuries have used the patronymic bet or bit literally meaning "house" in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic; however, in the context of the name it means "from the house of [the father's name]."
In Persian, patronymics پَتوَند are formed by names ending with the suffix "-pur" پور for men and "-dokht" دُخت for women. For example: Shahpur (son of king) and Sinapur (son of Sina). Depending on country, some suffixes are more common than others. For example, in Iran, the suffix "-pur" is common while in Afghanistan, the suffix "-Zadah" زاده or "-Zad" زاد is common, although --Zadeh is common in Iran.
In Europe patronyms were formerly widespread but later became confined to Scandinavia and Iceland.
In England, names ending with the suffix "son" were often originally patronymic. In addition, the archaic French (more specifically, Norman) prefix fitz (cognate with the modern French fils, meaning "son") appears in England's aristocratic family lines dating from the Norman Conquest, and also among the Anglo-Irish. Thus there are names such as Fitzgerald and Fitzhugh. Of particular interest is the name "Fitzroy", meaning "son of [the] king", which was used by illegitimate royal children who were acknowledged as such by their fathers.
Irish, Scottish, and Manx
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The use of "Mac" in some form was prevalent in Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Manx, in all of which it denotes "son". "Mc" is also a frequent anglicisation in both Scotland and Ireland. In Ireland, the forms "Mag" and "M'" are encountered. The prefix "Mac" is used to form a patronym, such as "Mac Coinnich" – or the anglicized 'Mackenzie' – son of Coinneach/Kenneth. The female equivalent of Mac is Nic, condensed from nighean mhic (in Scottish Gaelic) or iníon mhic (in Irish), both meaning daughter. For example, the Scottish Gaelic surname, Nic Dhòmhnaill meaning 'daughter of a son of Dòmhnall' (in English, Donald), as in Mairi Nic Dhòmhnaill, or Mary MacDonald.
At the north end of the Irish Sea, in Ulster, the Isle of Man and Galloway (indeed as far north as Argyll), "Mac" was frequently truncated in speech to /k/, leading to such anglicisations as "Qualtrough" (Son of Walter) & "Quayle" (son of Paul, cf. MacPhail) – usually beginning with "C", "K" or "Q". In Ireland, this truncation resulted in surnames such as "Guinness" (son of Aonghus, cf. MacAonghusa) beginning usually in "C" or "G" for patronymics prefixed with Mac, and in "H" (e.g. "Hurley" (descendant of Iarlath, cf. Ua h-Iarfhlatha/O'Hurley)) for surnames prefixed with "O". Colloquial Scottish Gaelic also has other patronymics of a slightly different form for individuals, still in use (for more information please see: Scottish Gaelic personal naming system).
Welsh and Cornish
Before the 1536 Act of Union, the Welsh did not generally employ surnames, but instead used epithets (e.g. Selyf Sarffgadau, "Selyf the Battle-Serpent"), patronyms (e.g. Rhodri ap Merfyn, "Rhodri son of Merfyn"), and (much less often) matronyms (e.g. Rhodri ap Nest, "Rhodri son of Nest") to identify people. Welsh, as a P-Celtic language, originally used map or mab instead of the Q-Celtic mac employed in Ireland and Scotland. These were later simplified to the modern Welsh ap and ab. A common practice is to use ab before a father's name beginning with a vowel (e.g., Llywelyn ab Iorwerth), but the two alternative forms are also employed arbitrarily in many sources.
Daughters were indicated by ferch or verch (mutated from merch, "girl, daughter"). Angharad verch Owain would be "Angharad, daughter of Owain".
After the Acts of Union, this led to many Welsh surnames being variants of their father or ancestor's personal name: ap or ab Ieuan often became "Evans"; ap Rhys, "Price"; ap or ab Owain, "Bowen"; ap Hywel, "Powell" or "Howell". In addition to these Anglicised baptismal and official names, patronyms continued to be commonly employed in Welsh until the Industrial Revolution, particularly in the north and west of Wales. Patronyms were sometimes employed within the English names as well by using the father's personal name as the sons' middle name.
Perhaps because Cornwall was legally incorporated into England earlier than Wales was, patronyms (e.g.[m]ap Ros>Rouse, [m]ap Richard>Pritchard, Davies, Evans) are less common there than toponyms (e.g. Tresillian, Trevithick, Nanskeval/Nankeville) and occupational surnames (e.g. An Gof, [An] Gove, (Blacksmith); Helyer (Cornish dialect - possibly a slater or huntsman (helgher)).
In Dutch, patronymics were often used in place of family names or as middle names. Patronymics were composed of the father's name plus an ending -zoon for sons, -dochter for daughters. For instance, Abel Janszoon Tasman is "Abel son of Jan Tasman", and Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer: "Kenau, daughter of Simon Hasselaer". In written form, these endings were often abbreviated as -sz. and -dr. respectively e.g. Jeroen Cornelisz. "Jeroen son of Cornelis", or Dirck Jacobsz. The endings -s, -se and -sen were also commonly used for sons and often for daughters too. In the northern provinces, -s, as genitive case, was almost universally used for both sons and daughters. The suffix -x as in "Tacx" or "Hendrix" also denoted the son or daughter of..., and is now integrated as a complete name.
Patronymics were common in the Dutch United Provinces until the French invasion in 1795 and subsequent annexation in 1810. As the Netherlands were now a province of France, a registry of births, deaths and marriages was established in 1811, whereupon emperor Napoleon forced the Dutch to register and adopt a distinct surname.
In France, the terms patronyme and nom patronymique had long been used interchangeably to designate the family name, meaning that it is inherited from the father.
The tradition of patronymic lineage is still used among some Canadian descendants of French colonists: in the oral tradition of many Acadians, for example, Marc à Pierre à Gérard (lit. "Marc of Pierre of Gérard"), means "Marc, son of Pierre, grandson of Gérard".
In the past, both in Spanish and Portuguese, the endings -ez and -es tended to be conflated since pronunciation was quite similar in the two languages. Today, Portuguese has been fully standardized to -es; Spanish is also standardized to -ez, but it is very common to see archaic endings in -es. For instance, Pires/Peres and Pérez are the modern equivalents of English "Peterson" in Portuguese and Spanish.
In Portugal, there are some surnames which had a patronymic genesis, while still common they no longer indicate patronymic usage. For instance, Álvares was the son of Álvaro and Gonçalves was the son of Gonçalo (it was the case of Nuno Álvares Pereira, son of Álvaro and Gonçalves Pereira, son of Gonçalo Pereira). Other cases include Rodrigues (son of Rodrigo), Nunes (son of Nuno) and Fernandes (son of Fernando). In the same way the surname Soares means son of Soeiro (in Latin Suarius). It comes from Latin Suaricius (son of Suarius); the Latin genitive suffix -icius/a was used to indicate a patronymic. Later it became Suáriz, Suárez (both Spanish) and eventually Soares (Portuguese) . Another theory attributes the Iberian -ez style patronymics to Germanic (Visigothic) rather than Latin influence.
Spanish patronyms follow a similar pattern to the Portuguese (e.g., López: son of Lope; Fernández: son of Fernando; Hernández: son of Hernán; Rodríguez: son of Rodrigo; Álvarez: son of Álvaro). Common endings include -ez, -az, -iz, -is and -oz. However, not all surnames with similar endings are necessarily patronymic. For example, Chávez is not the son of Chavo, but comes from Galician or Portuguese Chaves, meaning "keys", and its "s" stands for the plural form, as in key/keys in English.
However, these kinds of surnames were unusual outside the Crown of Castile. Apart from natural spelling variations (such as using Giménez or Ximénez), language contact has brought a number of crossed versions, showing characteristics from multiple languages. It is possible to find the Catalan language politician Jordi Sànchez (who has a Spanish surname spelled the Catalan way) or the journalist Vicenç Sanchis (who has a Catalan surname spelled the Spanish way).
Due to the letters z and s being pronounced alike in Latin America dialects of Spanish many non-patronymic surnames with an -es have come to be written with an -ez. In Hispano-American Spanish, the -ez spellings of Chávez (Hugo Chávez), Cortez (Alberto Cortez) and Valdez (Nelson Valdez) are not patronymic surnames, but simply variant spellings of the Iberian Spanish spelling with -es, as in the names of Manuel Chaves[disambiguation needed], Hernán Cortés and Víctor Valdés. For more on the -z surnames in Spanish see Influences on the Spanish language.
|Original given name||Castilian patronymic||Galician-Portuguese patronymic|
|Antom, Antão, António||Antúnez||Antunes|
|Benito, Bento, Bieito||Benítez||Bentes, Bieites, Viéitez|
|Bermudo, Vermudo||Bermúdez, Vermúdez||Bermudes|
|Diego, Diogo||Díaz, Díez, Diéguez||Dias, Diegues|
|Esteban, Estêvão||Estébanez||Esteves, Estévez|
|Fáfila, Fávila||Fáfez, Fáfilaz||Fafes, Fáfilas|
|Froila, Fruela||Fróilaz, Fruelaz||Froilas, Fruelas|
|Godinho, Godím||Godins, Godínez||Godins|
|Gutier, Gutierre, Guterre²||Gutiérrez||Guterres|
(from the Latin Ioannes)
|Yáñez, Yanes, Ibáñez||Eanes, Anes|
|Martín, Martim, Martinho||Martínez||Martins|
|Menendo, Mendo, Mem, 1||Menéndez, Méndez||Mendes|
|Pelayo, Paio1||Peláez, Páez||Paes, Pais|
|Pero, Pedro||Pérez, Píriz||Peres, Pires|
|Ruy, Rui-Roi³||Ruíz||Ruis, Rois|
|Velasco, Vasco||Velázquez, Vázquez||Vasques, Vaz|
- 1 - Archaic given name, not in use.
- 2 - Archaic given name, not in use. Equivalent to the German Gunther.
- 3 - Ruy or Rui is an archaic hypocoristic form of Rodrigo.
In Norse custom, patronyms and matronyms were formed by using the ending -son (later -søn and -sen in Danish, Norwegian and German) to the genitive form of the father's name to indicate “son of”, and -dóttir (Icelandic and Faroese -dóttir, Swedish and Norwegian -dotter, Danish and Norwegian -datter) for "daughter of". The resulting patronymic was generally not used as a surname; however a third name, a so-called byname based on location or personal characteristic, was often added to differentiate people and could eventually develop into a kind of family name. Some Early Modern examples of the latter practice, where the patronymic was placed after the given name and was followed by the surname, are Norwegian Peder Claussøn Friis, the son of Nicolas Thorolfsen Friis (Claus in Claussøn being short for Nicolas) and Danish Thomas Hansen Kingo, the son of Hans Thomsen Kingo.
Eventually, most Nordic countries replaced or complemented this system with the prevailing "international" standard of inherited family names. In Norway, for example, the parliament passed a family name act in 1923, citing the rising population and the need to avoid the confusion of new last names in every generation. The law does allow a person to retain a patronymic as a middle name in addition to the surname, as was common in Early Modern times; this is not a common practice, but does occur, a modern example being Audhild Gregoriusdotter Rotevatn. The Danish government outlawed the practice in 1856 and eased the regulations in 1904 to deal with the limited number of patronymics. In Sweden the practice of children keeping their father's and wives taking their husband's patronymic as a surname occurred in the 18th century but was first prevalent in the late 19th century. Patronymics were normal in Sweden, at least in rural Sweden, until the 19th century. From the end of the 19th century patronymics gradually became less common in Sweden until they were abolished in 1966. In 1982 the right to use patronyms (and metronyms) was partially restored; a person (or the parents of a child) had to apply and pay a fee. 1 July 2017 parents in Sweden are free to give their children patronyms/matronyms at birth instead of inherited family names, and any person can change her or his last name to a metronymic or patronymic.
Matronyms were used exceptionally if the child was born out of wedlock or if the mother was much more high-born or well known than the father, a historical example being Sweyn Estridsson.
In Iceland, patronymics or matronymics are still used as last names and this is in fact compulsory by law, with a handful of exceptions. The father's name (usually in the genitive case) plus the word son for sons, dóttir for daughters. For example, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (i.e. "Jóhanna, daughter of Sigurð[ur]").
In Finland, the use of patronymics was a result of relatively recent Swedish influence and remained uncommon outside official documents. Only in the 19th century did the use of patronymics gain any sort of popularity among the Finnish-speaking lower classes. Family names became obligatory in Finland by law in 1920.
Historically, patronymics were composed in Swedish fashion: the father's name and the suffix -n for genitive plus the word poika for sons, tytär for daughters. For example, Tuomas Abrahaminpoika (to be read in English as "Tuomas, Abraham's son") and Martta Heikintytär (to be read in English as "Martta, Heikki's daughter").
In Bulgarian, the patronymics are -ov/-ev and -ova/-eva for men and women, respectively. These are identical to the endings of family names in Bulgarian and some other Slavic family names (such as names in Russian and Czech). In Bulgarian official documents, the patronymic is inserted before the surname - e.g. Ivan Marinov Yordanov would be Ivan, son of Marin Yordanov.
The use of patronymics was introduced in Armenia by Russians during the times of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Previously to that period, the use of patronymics was very limited. Patronymics are usually formed by the addition of "i" ("of", pronounced as ee) to the father's name, e.g. if father's name is "Armen", the corresponding patronymic would be "Armeni" (of Armen). Russified version of the same patronymic would be "Armenovich" for males and "Armenovna" for females. After Armenia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 a massive decline in the use of Russified patronymics occurred; nowadays few Armenians use patronymics outside of official contexts.
Many Armenian surnames were once patronymics first used by distant ancestors or clan founders. These are characterized by the suffix "-ian" in Western Armenian, often transliterated as "-yan" in Eastern Armenian. These are appended to the given name, i.e. Kardashian, Asdvadzadourian, Hagopian, Khachadourian, Mardirosian, Bedrosian, Sarkissian, etc. Note that the suffix "-ian" was also appended to trades, as in Adakhtsakordzian (issued from the carpenter), Chalian (issued from the candlemaker).
Of particular note are the surnames of the children of married priests, or kahanas. Though not as common nowadays, it was customary for a long time for these children (particularly the sons) to change their last names to the name-in-religion of their father. For example, the son of Ter (Reverend) Bartev would change his last name to Ter Bartevian.
In Azeri, patronymics are formed through -oğlu (sometimes transliterated as ogly) for males and qızı (often transliterated as gizi or kizi) for females. Prior to the late 19th–early 20th century, patronymics were used as an essential part of a person's full name, i.e. Sardar Ilyas oğlu ("Sardar, son of Ilyas") and Mina Nabi qızı ("Mina, daughter of Nabi"), since surnames were mostly non-existent before Sovietization (with the exception of the upper and some middle-class families). After surnames were commonly adopted in Azerbaijan in the 1920s, patronymics still remained parts of full names, i.e. Sardar Ilyas oğlu Aliyev ("Sardar Aliyev, son of Ilyas"). Nowadays in Azerbaijan, patronymics sometimes replace surnames in unofficial use. Normally in such case, they are spelled as one word (i.e. Eldar Mammadoğlu, Sabina Yusifqızı). Many Azeri surnames are also derived from Persian-style patronymics ending in -zadeh (Kazimzadeh, Mehdizadeh, etc.). They are found among both Caucasian and Iranian Azeris. However unlike the former, Azeris in Iran do not generally use patronymics in oglu / qizi. Azeri patronymics are not to be confused with Turkish surnames in -oğlu and Greek surnames in -ογλού (-oglou), which do not have specific female versions and do not reflect names of fathers.
In Georgian, patronymics, when used, come with the addition of s to the end of the father's name, followed by dze for a man and asuli for a woman. For example, Joseph Stalin's actual name was Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili. s in Georgian is a possessive, and dze and asuli mean male and female descendant. After collapse of the USSR, patronymics in Georgia are disused as part of Russian tradition. Georgian last names derive mostly from patronymics, nicknames and places of origin. Two common elements in Georgian last names, dze and shvili mean son of, and child, respectively.
Greek and Greek Cypriot
Most Greek surnames are patronymics by origin, albeit in various forms depending on ancestral locality. Diminutive suffixes which denote "son of", or more generally "descendant of", are produced as follows: starting with the given name Δημήτριος, Dēmétrios, for example, the patronymic surnames Dēmētrópoulos (Peloponnese), Dēmētrákos (Laconia), Dēmētréas (Messenian Mani), Dēmētrátos (Cephalonia), Dēmētrákēs (Crete), Dēmētriádēs/Dēmētr-ídēs (Pontus, Asia Minor), Dēmētréllēs (Lesbos), Dēmétroglou (Asia Minor) (identical to Turkish patronym -oğlu), or simply Dēmētríou (esp. common in Cyprus, the first name in the Genitive) are formed. The same principle can apply to surnames deriving from professions, for example from παπάς, papás, priest, one derives the surnames Papadópoulos, Papadákos, Papadéas, Papadátos, Papadákēs, Papadéllēs, Papazoglou etc., all of which signify a "priest's son". The same principle(s) may apply in combination, e.g. Papanikoláou, Papanikolópoulos, "the son of the priest Nikolaos". A daughter's family name is the same as the son's, but always declined in the Genitive, e.g. Dēmētropoúlou, Papanikoláou etc.
In addition to these surnames, actual patronymics are used in official documents as "middle names" preceding the surname. For example, the children of a Ioánnis Papadópoulos are, say, María Ioánnou Papadopoúlou and Andréas Ioánnou Papadópoulos (Ioánnou is the genitive case form of Ioánnis). Traditionally, a married woman would adopt her husband's family name. Now, however, women in Greece can keep their own surname if they so choose.
In Hungarian, patronyms were traditionally formed with the ending -fi (sometimes spelled as -fy or -ffy). This system is no longer in common use, though traces of it can still be found in some frequent present-day surnames such as Pálfi (son of Paul), Győrfi, Bánfi or in the name of the famous poet Sándor Petőfi (who chose this Hungarian form instead of his Slavic birth name Petrovics). In the Old Hungarian period (10th−16th century, see History of Hungarian), when surnames were not in common use, the full genitive was represented as in Péter fia András (Peter's son Andrew); these forms are in frequent use in charters and legal documents dated back to that time. Note that, in Hungarian, the surname precedes the given name.
In Romanian, the endings -escu and -eanu were used, as in Petrescu, 'son of Petre (Peter)'; many modern Romanian family names were formed from such patronymics. Less commonly, matronymics formed with the genitive form (using the prefix a-) were used, as in Amariei, '(son/daughter) of Maria'.
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In East Slavic languages, the endings -ovich, -evich and -ich are used to form patronymics for men. It would be cognate to the Latin genitive -ici, used for marking family line, and also as equivalent to: 'little' -Vladic= 'the little Vlad'-. For women, the ending is -yevna, -ovna or -ichna. For example, in Russian, a man named Ivan with a father named Nikolay would be known as Ivan Nikolayevich or "Ivan, son of Nikolay" (Nikolayevich being a patronymic). Likewise, a woman named Lyudmila with a father named Nikolay would be known as Lyudmila Nikolayevna or "Lyudmila, daughter of Nikolay" (Nikolayevna being a patronymic). For masculine names ending in a vowel, such as Ilya or Foma, when they are used as a base for patronymic, the corresponding endings are -ich (for men) and -inichna (for women). Examples in titles of classical Russian literature include The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and "The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich".
In Russia, the patronymic is an official part of the name, used in all official documents, and when addressing somebody both formally and among friends. Use of name with patronymic in Russian is always correct and polite way to address to any person except close friends, family members, or children - in such cases usage of patronymic adds humor intonation. When addressing to a much younger person, only the first name is commonly used. Individuals are addressed by their given name followed by patronymic (e.g., "Mikhail Nikolayevich") in many situations including on formal occasions, by colleagues at work, by acquaintances, or when addressed by someone younger in age. It is becoming more common for younger individuals (under 50) to drop the patronymic at work. In informal situations, if a person is called by a diminutive (such as Misha for Mikhail or Nastya for Anastasia), the patronymic is not used.
In colloquial, informal speech, it is also possible to contract the ending of a patronymic: thus Nikolayevich becomes Nikolaich, and Stepan Ivanovich becomes Stepan Ivanych or simply Ivanych as the given name may be omitted altogether. In this case the contraction, if possible, is obligatory: Ivan Sergeyevich Sidorov may be called "Sergeich" or, more rarely, "Sergeyevich". In contrast to male names, if a woman is called by her patronymic name without a given name, the patronymic is usually not contracted: "Ivanovna" but "Mar' Ivanna"; "Sergeyevna"/"Sergevna" is one exception, where both forms are fine. Typically, a patronymic name alone is a familiar form of addressing an older female.
Vuk Karadžić reported in the 19th century that Serbs sometimes used their old family names, and sometimes patronymics. Vuk Karadžić himself used patronymic Stefanović (son of Steven), and sometimes Karadzić, old family name. However, nowadays, the patronymic names in Serbia are mostly used on legal documents, and have the form of the father's name that says the child is 'of so and so'... example: Marija Dragoljuba Pavlovic, where Dragoljub is the father's name and 'Dragoljuba' literally means 'of Dragoljub'.
In Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, the patronymic names do not change form between masculine and feminine. Example: Marija Dragoljuba Pavlović (Dragoljub is the father's name; Dragoljuba is the form that says she is his daughter, or literally 'of Dragoljub').
In Turkish, the suffixes used to indicate paternal ancestry are -oğlu and -zade, which indicate the ancestry as coming from a certain man. Like many other patronymics in other languages, with the formalization of naming conventions by laws in the late modern contemporary age many turned into surnames. After the 'Surname revolution' in 1934, many people chose professions or habitat as surnames with or without the suffix -oğlu, such as Elbeyioğlu, Bakkaloğlu or Giritlioğlu and with -zade such as Beyzade, Mehmedzade, Yusufzade.
In Ukrainian, the female patronymic always ends with -івна (-ivna) or -ївна (-yivna). The male patronymic always ends with -ович (-ovych) or -йович (-yovych). Exception: Illia (Ілля) -> Illich (Ілліч) (e.g. Illia Illich Mechnikov), Sava (Сава) -> Savych (Савич), Iakiv (Яків) -> Iakovych (Якович).
Patronyms are part of full name and obligatory in formal messages. They're frequent in common speech, e.g. to call a person in respectful manner (in form of name followed by patronym) and to accent an informal message in formal environment, such as between colleagues who have good relationships at work (in form of patronym without name and family name).
- The Oxford English Dictionary records the corresponding metronymic and metronym, alongside matronymic but not, however, matronym.
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- Eichler, Ernst et al. (eds.). 1995. Namenforschung. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, p. 488.
- πατήρ. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
- ὄνομα in Liddell and Scott.
- πατρώνυμος, πατρωνυμικός in Liddell and Scott.
- "patronym, n."; "patronymic, n. and adj.", OED Online (3rd edn). March 2018. Oxford University Press.
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