If..Else Log

A brief history of names

I wrote a short post earlier today regarding names and I thought that this would be an interesting topic to delve into and talk about.

A rose by any other name

“Names are easy to understand, right? Forename, Surname; what’s so difficult about that? OK, so sometimes, there’s a middle name in there but that’s about it, right?”

The fun starts when you consider that there are a variety of cultural naming conventions. Lets start with the basic western naming construct.

Personal Name, Family Name

The dominance of English as the dominant form of communication has also indirectly meant that the above construct is familiar to most. However, looking beyond the anglicised form, it’s easy to see various divergances. Firstly, in China and other eastern countries, the order would generally be family name, given nameI’ll use given name to denote what is commonly thought of as the forename/personal name so as to avoid confusion. i.e. Ly Phu Cuong, Wong Fei Hong.

Even the two phased construct isn’t a given as the Arabic system follows a more sophisticated naming in which an individual would be addressed as a chain of namesThough as is the case with Eastern naming conventions, for practical purposes, a westernised naming convention is now commonly followed. An example of such would be Osama bin Laden; an expanded form of his name would be Usamah bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Ladin. This would allow you to trace back an individuals family history; the bin (also spelt as ibn) means ‘son of’. Hence you can, for example, work out that he’s the son of Muhammad Awad bin Ladin. A similar construct is also used countries in Irish speaking countries e.g. John Michael Patrick Reilly; John son of Michael son of Patrick Reilly.

Family Name

“So, maybe I was a bit hasty there but at least I can’t go wrong with saying that everyone has a Family Name, right?”

Well, step back a couple of years and you’d be wrong. Until 2004, most people in Mongolia were identified strictly on a firstname basis. This lead to a lot of confusion and severely pushed back many forms of census analysis. Upon attaining power, the communist goverment had abolished the use and record of family name, fearing that tribal loyalty would provide a power challenge.

The results of the 2004 election swung the seat of power away from the communist party and one of the more progressive legislations was to reinstigate the use of Family Names.Rather ironically, the (perhaps predictable) dominance use of Borjigin, Genghis Khan’s tribal name, mitigates some of the advantages of this new law.

Moving westwards, Russian surnames generally differ depending on the individual’s gender; compare Boris Yeltsin with his wife, Naina Yeltsina. The use of grammatical gender is repeated across many other Eastern Slavic countries, though often each with their own regional variations; for example, whilst Russian names generally end with the masculine ov or the feminine ova, the suffix enko is generally restricted to Ukraine.

In Iceland, the last name is usually a patrynomic. I’ll talk a bit more about what patronymic are in the next section.

The etymology of family names.

Before we move on, lets have a look at the etymology of family names. With English names, the derivation of the name can be broadly sorted into five categories:

  • Occupation (Baker, Smith),
  • Descriptive (Brown, Young),
  • Location/Geographic feature (Hill, Rivers),
  • Aspiring trait/expression (Hope, Goodspeed)
  • and Ancestry.

Ancestry is an interesting one; generally, this would take the form of a Patronymic. A patronymic is component based on the name of one’s father; for example, thtere is Richardson (son of Richard), and Wilson (son of William). Patronym are a popular cultural construct and arise all over the world. In Netherlands, you’d have Pietersen; in Iceland, you’d have Karlsson. There are patronymic such as di Marco (son of Mark) in Italy, and the Hiberno-Norman prefix fitz manifests itself in FitzGerald and FitzroyAn interesting aside; Fitzroy would mean King’s son and would be used by an acknowledged Royal bastard.. Mac, the common surname prefix is also a patronymic (Mac being gaellic for son of).

In East Slavic countries, the patronymic would generally be used as the ‘middle name’; for example, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, who is the son of Sergey.

The other form of derivation through ancestry is the direct use of an ancestors name as the surname. For example, the Chinese family name of Yuan is believed to be descended from Yuan Taotu’s use of his grandfather’s name, Boyuan, as his surname.

Given name

“OK, you’ve beaten me over the head with your talk of family names. But I bet you can’t do the same with first names. I mean, people just choose a name for their kid that they think sounds nice.”

Popular opinion does have a big impact on the choice of first names. Names fall in and out of favour as time goes by. The big screen often plays a large role with many children being named after the current big star. For example, in recent times, names such as Keira and Leo rose up the charts; even Prime Ministers aren’t immune.

The choice of name for a child is rarely an easy one. Chinese names are often chosen by consulting other family members (esp. Paternal Grandparents) and with extensive research. An interesting aside is that many Chinese also take up a western name as well e.g. Tony Leung Chiu Wai. I use my Chinese name as my forename (there’s an interesting aside which I’ll talk about later) whilst my kid brother uses his western name Michael as his forename.

The etymology of given names

“What, etymology again?!?”

OK, I’ll try to be brief but personally, I find this interesting. However, we cannot reasonably summarise or encapsulate this in a tiny paragraphActually, the same applies with this whole entry in general, so I’ll just give a quick introduction to this.

The popularity of many names stem from their roots in Religious texts; Michael (Hebrew, Old Testament), Muhammad (Arabic, Qur’an), Luke (Latin, New Testament). The origins of the words however, are often found everyday language. Many names derive from desirable titles or properties such as Sophia (Sofia, Wisdom). This can sometimes be in the form of multiple words or expressions such as Alexander (“Protector of men”: Alex, protect; Andros, men) or Albert (Bright nobility). The decision to name the child in this manner was, perhaps, an attempt to shape the life of the child; that is, via a name, the child would be bound to a virtue or destiny. The other reason, which follows on from this, is that a name can provide legitimacy or purpose. There are certainly names that derive from titles/occupation such as Sarah (Sara, Princess) or George (Georgios, farmer).

Another popular source of names are Objects; for example, we have Peter (Petra, rock) or Steven (Stephanos, Crown). Another common example of such is in the popularity of flowers as female names e.g. Lily. Other origins include Locations e.g. Britney (Brittany) and Paris or Weather e.g. Fong (Cloud).

Another interesting thing to note about names is how they can evolve so as to jump across barriers. For example, the popular name Michael can be seen in other forms as Mikel, Mikael, Miguel as well as in the feminine name Michelle. There are always transliterations, of course. My western name is a romanisation of my Chinese name. This also works the other way, and often with humourous consequence; for example, Charlie would be transcribed as Tea Pot (Char Lae).

Middle Names

“That’s the unimportant part of your name, isn’t it?”

Not always so. We’ve spoken about the use of patronymicThis can informally manifest itself in Western culture by the choice of the Father’s name as the middle name but in Chinese names, the ‘middle name’I hesistate when using this terms as the order often depends on the cultural convention as discussed above. is often a generation name. As far as I can tell, there’s no analog to this in Western languages. The generation name, is as the term suggests, a name shared by all those in the same generation. For example, all my brothers share the same generation nameI chose these words carefully; read on.. The generation name is usually derived from a family’s generation poemI have a different generation name to my brothers because of an accident; the wrong generation name was picked in my case; an off-by-one error:).

My name

OK, enough. Let’s wrap this up with your name?

Everyone knows me as Phu; using the western convention of Forename, Family name, it’s Phu Ly. No surprises there; it’s emblazoned all over my site.

In Chinese, I’d announce myself using the eastern system of Family name, Generation name, Given name as Ly Phu Cuong (pronounced Li Fu Keung). Phu means ‘fortune’ or ‘prosperity’ in chinese; Cuong means ‘Strong’ or ‘Strength’. The transliteration of my name chosen by my Grandfather gives it a Vietnamese slant (which is not surprising as my Grandfather worked in Vietnam and is fluent in Vietnamese).

A rose by any other name

Since, in Chinese, my given name is Cuong, why Phu as my forenameIt’s everywhere; all my official documents use Phu as my forename? Well, I’ve already given away the answer. If you write my name in the eastern style, it’d be Ly Phu Cuong. Ly’s my family name so Phu-Cuong must be my given name. And what happens when you write that on a form? Cuong is abstracted away as the middle name (as per western convention).Yes, a bit of a cockup. But I’ve learnt to live with it:)

My family all call me Cuong (pronounced Keung) and when I speak Chinese, that’s the name I give. However, in English, I’m Phu and that’s the name I use in public.

Wrapping things up

So, this was a brief walk into the world of names. What’s your name? How was it chosen? Do you have any information on the origin of your name or any interesting rules/information of your own? Feel free to add a comment:)

-30-

138 Responses to “A brief history of names”

  1. Gravatar Zach Inglis

    My full name is: Alasdair Zachary Hamilton Inglis

    Alasdair after another family member, Scottish spelling.
    Zachary, no reason.
    Hamilton is the name of my grandfather and my dad and 3 brothers all have the same third name as me.
    Inglis, now this is Geographical. We are a Scottish family and I presume my ancestors were English and moved into Scotland and thus Inglis(which was Scottish for English I beleive)

  2. Gravatar Phu

    That’s interesting; is there any reason why you’ve taken Zach as your personal name instead of Alasdair?

    Incidentally, there’s a town in Scotland called Hamilton (named after the family or vice versa?).

  3. Gravatar lr

    Very interesting. So, my surname would be Patronymic: Robyn’s son (though *I’m* a gal) and – yes – lines up with the teeny English line of the family tree, though to look at me, you’d know right away the strong genes were Scottish (the maternal surname aka Proudfoot).

    And the first, a variant of Lorraine, a province – a relative’s nickname which became my name. (Hint: It’s not Laura.) But, that’s cool because it means “victorious”.

    So… this all reminds me that I’m a Scottish-Irish-English-French-German-American (in that order) mutt. :)

  4. Gravatar jmweirick

    My full name is James Micah Weirick.

    James-after my grandfather, means “supplanter”
    Micah-after the prophet, mean “who is like God”
    Weirick-Americanized German name coming from the German words for “war” and “power”

    I especially like my middle name.

  5. Gravatar Zach Inglis

    Phu,

    Everyone in my family are called by their second names. The idea was if we didn’t like our names we could fall back on our first, although that works the other way around, go figure. I prefer Zach over Alasdair but am not thrilled about either though.

    As for Hamilton, I don’t know,

  6. Gravatar Joe Philipson

    I have to say, very, very, interesting article on names. My name is Joseph David Philipson. My father’s name is David Joseph Philipson and my Grandfather’s name is Joseph Philipson (I don’t know his middle name) My Aunt’s and uncles are Jean, Alice, and David. My grandmas name is Amy. My brother’s name is Danny and Jimmy and Andrew.

    The first born’s in the family, like me, get either Joseph David Philipson, or David Joseph Philipson, depending on what their dad has. So my first son’s name will be David Joseph Philipson. Otherwise, everyone elses name in the family will start with either an A, J, or D. Initials are usually all the same in my family. David Philipson, my great great (not sure how many greats) was and American Rabbi who took part in creating Reformed Judiaism. Wierd huh?

  7. Gravatar Inside Joe’s Head » Blog Archive » A brief history of names

    [...] Found the article ‘A brief history of names’ and thought it was very intersting. Read it, digest it, learn from it. Just kidding. [...]

  8. Gravatar Koray

    Koray Alexander Ataman.

    Both Koray and Ataman play to the turkish side of my family, my father’s side. Koray meaning Ember Moon, and Ataman being a family name. I know it has it’s root in a rank, commander or some such. But I am not entirely sure. A shame I know.

    Koray, pronounced properly, is “Core – Eye”. But growing up American, it became pronounced the same as “Corey”. I never really protested, because I like Corey better. So it stuck.

    Alexander on the other side, is a family name from my mother’s side. The Scottish side.

    Great article by the way.

  9. Gravatar Dana

    Interesting information- thanks for sharing.

  10. Gravatar tolak

    Single names are also common in Indonesia.

  11. Gravatar Bystander

    What about African-Americans who had their names changed by the slave owners and are basically left without a trace of their family lineage?

  12. Gravatar Chris

    Ok, that was a ton of info. Now, I have questions. :) Why on earth do Asians (chinese, vietnamese, japanese, all the -eses) go about switching your names hither and thither? It’s completely baffling. If the convention in your ancestral country is to write and present your name a certain way then why not present it that way to the West? I really don’t see the need to go switching things all over the place.

    It’s not that difficult for me to be introduced to a person of Asian descent, hear their name, do the math in my head, and figure out that I shouldn’t call every Chinese person I meet, Lee.

    So, when we call you Phu, we’re actually calling you by your generational name, then? What happens when we meet your siblings? Dinner with the Ly Family must get crazy when a westerner has to ask a Phu to pass the potatoes.

    Next, would you prefer that we just call you Cuong? Or should we just stick with Phu until we meet your siblings? Am I a barbaric westerner when I meet your folks and say “Phu’s pretty hot on the web” and they look at me like I’m trying to accost your sister? It’s all very confusing. Definite head popping material.

    Now, to add to what you mentioned about names. There’s a reason there are so many O’Brians in the world. In Irish family names the O’ means “of”. So, someone named O’Brian is of Brian. Now, there can’t be that many Brians can there? No. Specifically there was one Brian that everyone likes to claim they’re of. Brian Boru the first Ard Righ (could be totally misspelling that) of Ireland. Basically meant High King that united the tribes a long damn time ago. Everyone wants to be of him.

    Now, this post, believe it or not, was much longer but I figured I was taking up too much room so I left the analysis of my own name to my site. Not to whore myself too much but here’s a link to that: What’s in a name?

  13. Gravatar Phu

    Just call me Phu:) What I meant to say (and I should have been clearer) was that a bit of a cockup was made and my generation name instead of my actual personal became used.

    “Dinner with the Ly Family must get crazy when a westerner has to ask a Phu to pass the potatoes.”

    No big deal; everyone just calls me Phu in that instance:)

    “If the convention in your ancestral country is to write and present your name a certain way then why not present it that way to the West? I really don’t see the need to go switching things all over the place.”

    Once again, it’s pragmatism. It’s just easier and more convenient to present a name in a familiar system.

  14. Gravatar Phu

    “What about African-Americans who had their names changed by the slave owners and are basically left without a trace of their family lineage?”

    That’s actually a good point; in fact, I’d also failed to mention information on how family names are inherited.

    Maybe, a part two is in order:)

  15. Gravatar Joe

    Nice…

  16. Gravatar Devlin Palmer

    My name is Devlin William Palmer. (Palmer Devlin William? :P), Devlin means ‘bravery’, and is Irish, I’m not quite sure what William means, but ‘Palmer’s were those who fanned Jesus with palm leaves.

    There’s much more to a name than just what you address someone, and you can tell a lot about someones history from it. I also believe that, for example, if a persons name means ‘wise’, that they .. are wise, and it’s not just a name given to them by their parents, but your name defines your personality, or vice versa. :S

  17. Gravatar Tore Darell

    Very interesting read. I find etymology in general quite interesting.

    First name Tore, derived from the name of the Norse god Thor (or Tor, as we call him). Family name Darell, I have no idea about that. Supposedly, my family’s been traced back to France a long time ago.

  18. Gravatar Rodrigo

    In portuguese speaking countries it goes like this: forename, mother’s family name, father’s family name. In Portugal, it’s very common to take two family names from each parent in order to please the grandparents (except if you want to please the greatgrandparents to, and then things get really messy). And when you are a girl and get married you usually get a couple of your husband’s family names as well. For extra fun, almost everybody has two forenames, so you can easily end up with forename1, forename2, momma’s mom surname, momma’s dad surname, daddy’s mom surname, daddy’s dad surname, sweety’s daddy’s mom surname, sweety’s daddy’s dad surname.
    My parents being anti-bourgeois revolutionaries before turning into bourgeois themselves, I just got 3 names and two of them are basically the same: so I got Rodrigues (son of Rodrigo) from my father, Eliseu (that would be Elisha, your old style, fire-throwing, river-parting, dead-people-raising, enemies-mass-blinding miracle worker from the old testament) from my mother and Rodrigo for myself.
    Every Rodrigo in the world is named after Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, el Cid Campeador, a 11th century warlord widely celebrated for his butchering of moors during the Iberian Reconquista. My father claims I was named after the original 8th century Rodrigo, the visigoth king that after piercing his antecessors eyeballs, raping an ally’s daughter and doing everything he possibly could to turn every christian and jew in the peninsula against him, ended up losing it to the above mentioned moors (duh!). Etimologically speaking, Rodrigo has its roots in the germanic for “rich in glory”, even though it seems every important Rodrigo in History was a major asshole.

  19. Gravatar Matt Schinckel

    Hey Zach, my middle name is Hamilton too! This is also a family name – my father, uncle and nephew all have this as their middle names. It was also my paternal grandmother’s middle name, and was her father’s first name.

    And, the irony for me is that I went away to boarding school in a town called Hamilton. Where my nephew, whose name is Jack Hamilton Lewis, now lives.

    And, there is a Hamilton in Scotland. There’s also one in Western Victoria (Australia), and North Island (New Zealand). I suspect there’s a couple more around as well.

  20. Gravatar Osman J A Khan

    Thats the most concise blog I’ve read in a while! Also one of the more informative :-)

    My full name is Osman Jahangeer Arif Khan, the “Jahangeer” part being a national sports hero (squash player) and the “Arif” part being my dad’s name. Conversely, my sister has mum’s name in her name.

    Unconventional, perhaps, but makes things more interesting!

    Once again, great post!

    *links to it straight away* :-)

  21. Gravatar Anderson

    My great great grandmother was named Matilda Anderson. Her mom’s maiden name was Boid. She named her kid Anderson Boid Collins. My mom named me Anderson Boyd after him. So basically, I have three last names. I go by Andy, though. I guess my kid would be Andersonson? MacAnderson? Andergrandson?

  22. Gravatar molly

    Very interesting, and I’ll add a tidbit: my last name is Maguire, seemingly Irish–and so it is, but it contains the history of Ireland within it. The Ma = Mac, meaning: son of. The -guire is the interesting part: it is derived from: aguirre, or: farmer in Spanish. How did that happen? Long ago, the Vikings sailed down to Spain to capture slaves to work in Ireland’s bogs, and the rest is history & nomeclature. The Spanish slaves are also the source of the “black Irish” look of pale skin, light eyes and black hair (my mother).

  23. Gravatar Tom

    My first name and middle names are unremarkable for a person of my descent (Anglo-Saxon-ish) but it’s my last name that interests me – as with many people with Scottish heritage, the name comes not entirely from the family but from the clan – in this case clan Creighton (or Crichton, depending on your spelling).

    I find it very interesting to trace the lineage back, as the clan Creighton was (apparently) part of clan Stuart, that of Mary, Queen of Scots. Interesting stuff and an interesting post.

  24. Gravatar Beth

    Not a generational name, rather a geographical name….

    My friend’s father is Indian, and apparently in his village in India all of the women have Khor (princess) as a middle name and all of the men have Singh (tiger). Their family has followed this tradition.

  25. Gravatar Bill

    Very informative and interesting. I have had an interest in the what, whys and where of names for as long as I can remember. I think I first became interested because of my name…
    William Owen Funston……very Anglo-Saxon Isle name….

    Reverse Order: (=nickname)

    My 9 yr old Son : William Owen Funston (Will)

    Me : William Owen Funston (Bill)

    MY FATHER : William Owen Funston (Bill JR) [imagine the fun we had when I was a boy living at home and someone would phone for Bill or William Funston, I’d say “This is Bill”, they’d say “no your dad”, I’d say “Oh you want Junior” they :”no your dad” “Oh Junior…” “no your dad”, and so on – we had alot of fun with it)

    Grandpa : William Owen Funston (Billy)

    Great Grandpa : Rolla William Funston (William JR)

    Great Great Grandpa : William Owen Funston (William SR)
    There are more going back, but not this close in order.

    When my wife and I applied for our first home loan, the credit report showed that I had paid off a loan in 1949 for a couch and a washer & dryer loan in 1960…..I WAS BORN IN 1959!!

    The middle name Owen….my grandfather said it originated because “you come from a long line of poor people, the Funston’s were always ‘Owin’ (owing) somebody” :-)

    I guess the generational naming system was over our heads!!

    My 2 cents worth,
    Bill

  26. Gravatar Laura Bora

    My name is Laura Elizabeth Sanger.

    My mother named me Laura because she loved that name, it was a character in a book called “White Birds Flying”…I like that it means “Victorious” – the original meaning was “laurel” but Romans used laurel wreaths to crown their victors, so voila.

    My middle name was a nod to my father’s favorite Aunt, and my mother wanted a biblical name. My siblings all have biblical middle names.

    My father said my last name is a German name that goes way back. We’re also a long line of musicians. My great grandfather was a musician on an ocean cruiser when WW1 broke out and he decided to stay in New York City rather than go back to Germany. It is said my great-grandfather changed the spelling from von Saenger (with umlats over the a!) to just Sanger to appear less Germanic. “Von” is akin to “van” in the Netherlands. Like Mac or O’ or Fitz.

    I loved this article!

  27. Gravatar Mea Culpa » links for 2006-01-18

    [...] A brief history of names A small history of names and their meanings and usefulness. (tags: culture history) Tags [...]

  28. Gravatar David

    I learned from a Japanese friend that often their names are chosen based on the number of “parts” in the symbol(s). Appartently, they try to avoid unlucky numbers.

  29. Gravatar cory alan

    cory–high rock wall/headland–also U shaped valley,typically glacial.Modern english circe a glacial valley headwall. Gaelic Cwm. American natives frequently were renamed 2or3 times after accomplishments ie ‘rides the buffalo calf’ might become ‘crazy horse’. sometimes names were handed down so old’crazy horse’would change to ‘worm’ and his son become ‘crazy horse’. One historian thought because chief Washikee of thebannocks was 40+ in1813 he must of been old when he led braves to battle in 1876… hello..his son duh

  30. Gravatar David

    Phu, you are going to love this. My last name is Peralty. That name is really meaningless since my father’s brother’s last name is Perralty, and my father’s sister’s last name is Perraulte. My grandfather’s last name was Perralte.

    The origin of my last name does have some history though. As far as we can tell, my granfather, who died when my dad was young, came to Canada escaping being a slave in the US (he was African American). When he came, he took on what was probably a French last name (we don’t know what his real last name was).

    Unfortunately, he was illiterate, and thus when his children were born, and he was asked their last name, he said it allowed and asked others to spell it, which meant that different people, spelled it different ways for each of his children.

    So really, my last name is completely meaningless, though pretty unique.

  31. Gravatar Hyde

    I had my name changed because I disliked it as a whole — and so, I’d not post it here. I changed it to “Edward Hyde”, as in, “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. I could’ve gone with “Henry Jekyll”, but “Jekyll” is supposed to be pronounced “gee-kill” and I didn’t like the sound of that. Honestly, I don’t like the name “Edward”, I usually insist on being referred to as “Hyde”.

    Though, my #1 interest is in word and name etymologies — I spend a lot of time looking up the etymologies and meanings of names and words, so, it’s rather ironic that I didn’t choose a name with some kind of “meaning” that I liked…

    I changed my middle name to “Almasy”, just because “Almasy” is a name that sounds good with pretty much everything. It’s got a natural flow to it.

    I’d include the meanings of the names, but, they’re all rather common, so, they’d be easy to find out.

  32. Gravatar drac

    That was a fascinating read – thanks for tying all the pieces together.

    My mother’s side of the family is big on naming siblings with a pattern.

    A common theme with my cousins, for example, is that siblings are given a forename with the same initial letter. So, I have four cousins whose name begins with a D, and two more with first names starting with N, two more who have S fore names and so on. (Yeah, large family, lots of cousins)

    In my own family though, it’s slightly weirder.
    My three elder sisters are all named after flowers :) In my native language, that means the three forenames all end with -mal (mal -> flower)

    When I was born (so the story goes), my parents were racking their brains for another -mal name for me, so they could preserve the pattern. Then one of my cousins apparently said – hey, he has three sisters, why not call him “three flowers” ?

    So, my first name ends with -mal, as do my sisters – and it translates to “three flowers” :) – thimal

    My middle name is the same as my maternal grandfather’s first name. All the male cousins on my mother’s side have my maternal grandfather’s name as a middle name. We never knew him, though – my grandfather died 50 years ago this year.

  33. Gravatar Joe Philipson

    All very interesting…I’m glad I’m subscribed to this post…

  34. Gravatar Anonymous

    [Comment removed at the behest of the author]

  35. Gravatar Soo

    Hi That’s one great post! I come from India, where most names are derived from Sanskrit – which is a dead language, though people still study it. Usually for Hindus it’s first name and last name. The last names were derived from the Vedic times – that’s 1500 BC – and no one really remembers what they mean! :)
    Anyway, my parents had many aspirations for me and they chose to call me my first name, which means “good girl”. I tell you, it’s difficult to live up to it! My sister’s name means “dusk” as she was a dark skinned baby. Other names are usually after gods, and the Hindus have a million gods in their celestial universe!

  36. Gravatar Wendell

    Great post. Adding to your Mongolian point — you noted the recent move to re-establish family names there. I lived there for 2 years and I certainly experienced the confusion! Most Mongols still use a sort of patronymic to distinguish one Altantsetseg from another, ie “Dorjiin Batbold” would mean literally Dorj’s Batbold, Dorj being the father.

    Given names in Mongolia are fascinating. Many express desirable qualities like Batbaatar (steel hero) or Bayarmaa (wealth). They also draw on Tibetan names like Dorj due to the shared Yellow Cap Buddhist religious tradition (a Mongolian khan appointed the first Dalai Lama, by the way).

    One fascinating tidbit is that traditionally Mongolians don’t name kids until they are like 18 months old — once they are sure the kid will survive. And they sometimes give names to avoid attracting attention of evil spirits. One name is “Nergui” which means literally “no name”, designed to avoid such attentions. Another is “Terbish”, which means “not this one.”

    Your discussion of Chinese names is interesting, I didn’t know about generational names. Japanese don’t have any middle names, just familyname/givenname. An interesting aside is that most Japanese were not allowed to even have family names till the Meiji era in the 19th century. When forced to come up with family names, many used simple geographical things, which is why names like Tanaka (middle of the field) or Yamashita (under the mountain) are so common.

  37. Gravatar Boro Bob

    In response to Tom Creighton, it might interest you to know that clan Creighton is alive and well. The clan chief is a guy called Dave Creighton (I used to know him at university), and he lives in a castle in Crieff, just west of Perth in Scotland. I was told (though this may be wrong) that under Scottish law, he has the right to demand fealty money from any member of the clan!

  38. Gravatar Anna

    Great post – originally visited your site for Web design inspiration but stayed for this article – very good.

    Just thought I’d drop you a line to mention that in Wales we also have an intermediate between the first and family names: ap, which roughly equates to ‘son of’. For example a boy’s name might be Gwilym ap Dafydd, which would translate into English as William Davidson.

    It can also change to ‘ab’ with the frustrating (to the learner) habit of Welsh to mutate almost at random…!

  39. Gravatar Tom

    Dammit, quality posts like this are just way too rare. Keep it up!

    As for my name, it’s Tom Maisey. Maisey is a name that came over to England with the Normans in 1066 – in fact I once visited a village in Northen France called Maisey. They gave me a free pint in the pub, sweet.

  40. Gravatar Anonymous

    Hey Zach, my middle name is Hamilton too! This is also a family name – my father, uncle and nephew all have this as their middle names. It was also my paternal grandmother’s middle name, and was her father’s first name.

    And, the irony for me is that I went away to boarding school in a town called Hamilton. Where my nephew, whose name is Jack Hamilton Lewis, now lives.

    And, there is a Hamilton in Scotland. There’s also one in Western Victoria (Australia), and North Island (New Zealand). I suspect there’s a couple more around as well.

  41. Gravatar drew

    I’m a nigerian (which also makes me an african for people who don’t know). I actually have 7 names that i know of. Traditionally, during naming ceremonies, everyone that’s of importance in the family gives the new born a name. Grandparents on both sides, your parents, and any other ‘elder’ in the house.
    As I can’t fit all my names on a birth certificate, I’m known by Andrew Oluwatoyin umotosho.

    Andrew – because my parents are christians

    Oluwa-to-yin – ‘Oluwa’ means God, ‘to’ means worthy, ‘yin’ means praises. All together, God is worth praising/praises. Apparently, I was born inspite of complications, and if that’s not worth praising God about, i don’t know what is.

    Omotosho – My surname, ‘Omo’ means a child, ‘to’ means worthy, ‘osho’ means treasure. All together, A child is worth treasuring or a child is as worthy as any treasure

    The favorite part of my many names though is something called ‘oriki’. My oriki name is Akande. This is hard to explain. But this is sort of my endearing name. Oriki roughly translated means ‘to psyche someone up, to build someone up, to incite someone’. I like oriki for this reason…whenever I see my grandmother, i greet her, and she greets me, but she doesn’t stop at the ‘hello my son, how are you doing’, she starts with my oriki and goes on and on for about a minute, about my ancestors, and my lineage. Something like ‘Akande, omo ekun, omo ile ofele….’ This means something like ‘Akande, the son of a lion, the son that hails from the house of ofele…’. I wish I knew the rest, but it goes on and on. Whenever I hear this I feel like I’m a heavyweight boxer that’s making an entrance into the ring, and the announcer is going through the list of people that I’ve defeated. It’s awesome!, and it never gets old, needless to say, my head swells, metaphorically speaking ;-p

  42. Gravatar Moaki Critchlow-Castro

    Names are a fascinating subject as they are one of the first factual items that people can relate to you… it has often struck me how people relate to me because of my name…it seems to incite intrigue and questioning.

    My first name was made up for me by my father as both of my parents wanted me to have a unique and unusual name..this was one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given..for myself as an individual and in life.

    The basis was Native American Indian names as the cherokee called the Hopi tribe the ‘Moki’(the Protectors of Peace) this was co-joined with ‘chi’ from the east with the association of its ‘life force’ meaning and is pronounced Mo’uh’key (the literary spelling and phonetic pronounciation are different which confuses some – especially in english as’a'is a hard sound.)

    Critchlow comes from anglo-scot decent and Castro from my Andalucian Grandfather. Jemma is my middle name – the simple reasoning here that my mothers initials were AJC and my father DJC so I became MJCC!

    My first name I am very proud of, and whilst I have found internet references to Moaki in Australasia, I have yet to meet another Moaki. I can say for certain that I am the only Moaki Critchlow-Castro alive in this world today, so out of the 6bn people that live on this planet I do feel truly unique.

    This has been an interesting topic to think about, and Thank you Phu as this site has reminded me about something so simple, yet so defining in my life.

  43. Gravatar João Craveiro

    Shame on me, I’ve been delaying an extensive reading of this post for one month now! It sure was worth it — I was quite surprised with that issue with the Mongolian abolition of surnames.

    As for me, my full name is: João Pedro Gonçalves Crespo Craveiro. In detail:
    - João is my father’s first name; fatefully, my sister is called Joana (the feminin for João — in Portugal, this João–Joana combination with siblings is incredibly common)
    - Pedro is my uncle’s (mother’s brother) second name
    (this would alternatively have been the other way around, making me António Manuel instead of João Pedro ;) )
    - Gonçalves Crespo is one surname only, and is from my mother’s side; used to have a circumflex on the ‘e’ (Crêspo), and comes from a well-known poet
    - Craveiro, from my father’s side; there’s already have been a President to my country with this surname. :)

  44. Gravatar Moshu

    Hungarians also have their names in the opposite order: family name – given name. E.g. while everybody in Canada expects to hear my name as Istvan Horvath, the original is Horváth István.
    And an insteresting addition to the etymology of family names: in Hungarian there is quite a huge group of ethnicity/people names, like Orosz (Russian), Tóth (Slovak), Rácz (Serbian), Németh (German), Olasz (Italian), Lengyel (Polish), Cseh (Czech), Oláh (Romanian), Görög (Greek), Török (Turkish) and, of course, my name Horváth (Croatian).
    I guess it’s due to the constant mixing with the neighbouring ethnic groups since the time we arrived from Central Asia – cca. 800-900 AD :)

    And a side note for “Hyde” above: Almasy (alt. Almásy, Almási, Almássy) is a Hungarian family name: geographical, since “almás” = place with apple(trees) and -i is the suffix for adjective (like Toronto => Toronto-nian).

  45. Gravatar greer molseley

    my name is greer moseley what does greer mean?

  46. Gravatar Oliver Lake

    I have a question that is disturbing me.

    When people marry, the bride normally inherit’s her husbands surname. This often leads to her maiden name becoming extinct, assuming that she has no brothers to carry on the name.

    Assuming that we are constantly losing names, is it not the case that we will eventually end up with the same surname.

  47. Gravatar YGG

    my name is Yves Georges (with an ‘s’ in French) Marie Granger.
    ‘Yves’ is from brittany, it’s the Yew tree (sacred tree found in the graveyards, carries the decesed souls to heaven); Georges you explained; ‘Marie’ is for the ‘Holy Virgin’ I come from a very catholic family; ‘Granger’ is a function : ‘grange’ means ‘barn’ so ‘granger’ is the one who takes care of the barn…(supposed to close it _before_ the horse etc.) right.
    Some Grangers must have crossed over in 1066 with William the Bastard (later to become ‘the Conqueror’) because it’s a very common name in English speaking countries.

  48. Gravatar YGG

    To : David (#30) — the name ‘Perrault’ is derived from ‘Pierre’ (=Peter) it’s a diminutive similar to ‘Pierrot’ litterally ‘little peter’.
    Phu, thanks for a great post & a great blog!

  49. Gravatar Dino

    Nice article with an interesting theme.
    My name is Dino Fahrudin Avdibegović, coming from Bosnia. Fahrudin is a name originating from Arab, meaning something like “stately”, “proud” and “lord-like”. The funny thing is that my family name reveales the “noble history” of my family, since “Avdibegović” means “son of Avdibeg”, where “beg” (or bey in English) means something like duke or chieftain. My family had large land properties in northern and central Bosnia under the Ottoman Empire. I got my name from my grandfather, the last official “beg”.

  50. Gravatar rimmi

    The basis was Native American Indian names as the cherokee called the Hopi tribe the ‘Moki’(the Protectors of Peace) this was co-joined with ‘chi’ from the east with the association of its ‘life force’ meaning and is pronounced Mo’uh’key (the literary spelling and phonetic pronounciation are different which confuses some – especially in english as’a’is a hard sound.)

  51. Gravatar lyn_fairless@hot mail.co.uk

    can any one tell me where the surname Lazzarie comes from?

  52. Gravatar dudboi

    Chris wrote ” Why on earth do Asians (chinese, vietnamese, japanese, all the -eses) go about switching your names hither and thither? It’s completely baffling. If the convention in your ancestral country is to write and present your name a certain way then why not present it that way to the West? I really don’t see the need to go switching things all over the place.”

    See, now if we were to do that, then, based on Western interpretation, our names will get all mixed up. My name is Joel Kang Yi Han, so if I were to present that in a western society, I’ll end up having the first name of Kang, middle name of Yi, and surname of Han. But my surname is Kang, and I have two given names, Yi Han, and Joel (of which I prefer using the latter), neither of which are middle names. (This happens when you come from a family which is bilingual) I’d rather be called Mr Kang than Mr Han, because that would mean I’m from a different clan altogther. I mean, would you rather people call you Mr Chris?

    Thankfully for me, I have an English-type given name, so I use that, for some of my friends, it’s a lot easier to rearrange it such that people call your first name correctly, and not one half of your given Chinese name, which sometimes can come out pretty weird.

  53. Gravatar Dan

    Greer is Celtic/Gaelic and means: watchful, guardian

  54. Gravatar YGG

    To: Lyn_fairless
    ‘Lazzarie’ should come from the Hebrew name ‘Lazarus’ (From ‘Eleazarus’ = ‘God helped me’)

  55. Gravatar kathleen ann beckesh

    my mother was cherokee,Im half and was wondering what my indian name was,where i can find my reservation,she was from tenn.My granfather was 100%

  56. Gravatar Syed CAPUA

    Dear Mr Ly Phu Cuong,

    This is Syed CAPUA. I have read your article “A Brief History of Names” with great deal of interest. Worth mentioning, the article was of great help to me at a time when I was looking for something like this.

    Currently I am doing a research to find out when and how human being first started naming themselves. I mean, by the record, when we first find human being with some names?

    Given the above, I would be grateful you referring me to online resources where I may find the answer to my aforementioned question. Also, I would be very happy to learn from you, if you have any answers yourself to my question.

    Best regards
    Capua
    capuas@yahoo.com

  57. Gravatar Moshu

    It’s a question almost impossible to answer…
    http://www.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/names/namehist.html

  58. Gravatar Elmina

    ive always wanted to know what my bosnian name means i hope i finaly find out

  59. Gravatar Moshu

    Elmina, I have to dissapoint you: there is nothing “Bosnian” in your name. It is of Teutonic origin and it means intimidating fame.

  60. Gravatar lisa

    Phu, thanks for the great writeup on names. I’ve always wondered how the Asian names were supposed to be ordered.

    My name only has slight history. Lisa because my mom liked it, Lynne because my dad liked it (spelling because my grandpa instructed it. Thank god, or I’d have ended up with a man’s name) and Hightower as the family name.

    But, for the commenter who wondered what happened to the maiden names of families who have only girls, I think a lot of families do what we’ve done. My grandma had no brothers, and her family is first generation from Denmark. The last name is Jenson, which is there version of “Smith,” as it’s extreamly common. In fact, both my great grandparents had the same last name before they were married.

    Anyway. My brother’s middle name is Jenson to carry it on. He, my sister and I will give any male children we have the middle name Jenson to carry it forward. And really, I feel bad–sorta–for any future son I may have. He’ll be named Bradshaw Jensen Stidham, to carry forward all the names that have been lost to marriage. Bradshaw for the fiance, as it’s his middlename, Jenson for my family, and Stidham for the family name.

    Good thing we plan on calling him Brad.

  61. Gravatar princess

    sorry

  62. Gravatar Anonymous

    no i dont like this

  63. Gravatar Beau

    Hey Phu,
    Great Blog, I was just wondering if you or any of your visitors could direct me to a site that explains the use of suffixes like Sr. Jr. and Ordinals like 1st 2nd 3rd. etc Thanks, Beau

  64. Gravatar najma

    i can not fand the five rolay family name

  65. Gravatar Tiara

    I have heard of a website that contains indian reservation logs. If you have enough indian in your blood, then your name will be found on one of these lists. If your name is on a list, you are suppose to get money. Does n e one know the name of this site?

  66. Gravatar Ken Malone

    I am researching my family history.I have an ancestor (mid 19c),a female with the forename :-
    Reab or Rahab.
    Any idea of derivation,please?

  67. Gravatar amerette

    i would like to nsee what my name means and were it came from

  68. Gravatar Jeremiah Garcia

    hey

  69. Gravatar Jeremiah Garcia

    whats the backround to this name

  70. Gravatar Bradley Marvin Weatherhp;tz

    what does this mean?

  71. Gravatar Curty

    Amazing article. I was actually very intreagued!

    My name is Curtis David Anderson.
    Curtis from “courteous.”
    David was my father’s name.
    I’m not sure about HOW we got Anderson (I would imagine because we came from some Andrew guy a long, long time ago) but the one S in the name indicates that my family Americanized when they immigrated from Europe.

    To add to your article, I have heard of quite a few instances in America, at least, in which families will give the father’s first name as the son’s middle name, while the first name will be totally random. Also, many girls I know share their middle names with their mothers, indicating some sort of commonality there as well.

  72. Gravatar sofie

    Hey,

    I really want to know the meaning of the second name: McCartney.
    I’m searching for it since a long time but I can’t find it.
    Please,can you help me?
    Can you send a mail please if you know it.
    And if you don’t, will you also send it then?

    Really thanks for helping me!!!!

    GReetz Sofie

  73. Gravatar eline

    Hi,

    I’m searching for the name, Cassidy.
    Are you able to give me the meaning please?
    Please send a mail and let me know the meaning.

    I thank you to help me!!!

    Big kisses
    Eline

  74. Gravatar Gorg

    Hi That’s one great post! I come from Polen, where most names are derived from Sanskrit – which is a dead language, though people still study it. Usually for Hindus it’s first name and last name. The last names were derived from the Vedic times – that’s 1500 BC – and no one really remembers what they mean! :)

  75. Gravatar Liz Carolina Scaburi

    Hi…
    I love my name! I think Liz comes from the flower. And my last name is Italian, but I don´t know what it means.

    ;)

  76. Gravatar Patrick Michael Nazim

    Hi I have question… My father was once on a trip and he met a man with the same exact last name as he did. The only thing was he was from Afghanistan and my father is from Poland. So here is my question how could two people whose ancestors lived so far apart have the same last name? Could we be related? Also it would be very nice if you could tell me the meaning of my name.

    Thank you

    Patrick Michael Nazim

    PS I’m Polish will my heritage make my name mean something different then?

  77. Gravatar McShane

    What does this name mean, and where does it derive from?

  78. Gravatar Luceo

    Thanks for a very clearly-written and absorbing article. If only everything on the internet was so informative! :)
    My name has given me moments of hilarity and/or grief my whole life, largely thanks to bureacracy. Family members have always called me by my double-barreled given name, but any paperwork demands I split it into ‘first’ and ‘middle’ names.
    To make matters worse, my mother’s maiden name happened to match my father’s surname. I realize this means somewhere back in misty time they have a common ancestor, but her ancestors had lived on the East coast for generations — at least as long as his ancestors had lived in central Canada.
    Still, years of bureacrats have assumed I’m either a) an idiot or b) inbred, just because what I print in the ‘Mother’s Maiden Name’ field is identical what I have to put the ‘Surname’ field. Great…

  79. Gravatar Nitisha

    Hi..

    This is regarding a 2006 January post by someone named Soo. I am sorry to say your knowledge of your own culture sucks… Sanskrit as a language is very much alive and well… There is an entire area in South India that speaks Sanskrit as a first language… Also most Indian languages, especially south indian languages derive many words from the Sanskrit vocabulary… Not only that Sanskrit has German as one of her sister languages.. The grammar of the two languages is so similar that if you have learnt one, understanding the others is literally child’s play..

    Names in India are usually dependent on various factors: last names such as Sing/Kaur are religious dictates, names like “Patil” are derived from the job held by ancestors..Usually careers were family tradition… so a carpenter’s son was a carpenter and they ended up getting the last name “Sutar” meaning “Carpenter” or a goldsmith/jeweller may have the last name “Sonar”…In colonial times, servants usually ended up taking the names of their colonial masters when they converted to Christiantity, that is why the abundance of Johns, Josephs and D’Souza’s among Christians… so on and so forth..

    The tradition of taking a middle name was generally established in the British-era, when the British were boggled by so many common first and last names that they mended the system to include father’s of Husband’s first name as a middle name…

    First names are usually religious (gods names, places, specific traits etc.)…

    For Soo, with her lost Indian heritage, you need to know girl that Hindus have a ton of celestial creatures as gods and goddesses because Hinduism is a culture, not a religion…People worshipped nature and every aspect of it and therefore each element was considered holy…Because what today is considered a religion was actually a way of life, Hindus have been able to adapt and sustain through the ages…

    A lil history for ya…

  80. Gravatar anna

    i just want to ask if someone can tell me the meaning of my name, its annalyn, i’ve search the net for it but it doesn’t have anything.. it has to broken into anna and lyn .. help me please.. tnx

  81. Gravatar helly avard

    My forename is Helander. I have discovered this to be a Swedish surname. I would like to know what it means and if anyone else has this name for the first name. I have thoroughly enjoyed this sight and all the comments about names,thanks Phu

  82. Gravatar Sveta Celine Pais

    My name is Sveta Celine Pais. Currently residing in Austin, Texas, I am an Indian Catholic. Indian Catholics have family names that are Spanish / Portuguese sounding as when our ancestors converted to Catholicism, they usually took on the name of the priest who baptized them. My first name “Sveta” is derived from Sanskrit and means ‘pure’. My middle name is my grandmother’s first name, she is also my godmother.

    ANNALYN – I suggest you visit http://www.behindthename.com

  83. Gravatar second life 4 eva

    my last name is “partoki”, which seems to relate to the old-slavic word “patoča”: a dark brew – something like beer. so my antecedants must have been bohemian brewers or someting linke that… :)

  84. Gravatar junilyn

    interesting info. thanks for sharing. my name is from JUN (my father) plus NIDA and just add lyn to make sound female.

  85. Gravatar Herb Craft

    I have always been intrigued by the possibility that, one day, everyone be be named Lee.(or something)
    My reasoning is that in our culture, the female looses her family name upon marriage.
    If there is no male issue, that family name dies.
    But other than the few odd name-changers, no new names are regularly created.
    So, if names are only perpetuated or die, then there are going to be fewer and fewer different family names as time goes on.
    Your thots?

  86. Gravatar Faris

    Interesting piece. I have three pieces of names, but no family name. My culture (that is javanese) don’t have family name. It confuses a lot of other culture, and make things rather complicated when writing forms, especially international ones. Maybe I would invent one or take my wife’s family name if I gt married.

  87. Gravatar Mercedes

    Hi!
    I am a student at a University in Costa Rica, Central America. I have been assinged with a presentation about “names”, and I was wondering if you could give me the history or meaning of 10 different latin-spanish names. Is that possible? If so, please let me know at my email address and I will send you the list! Thank you! merimamechux@hotmail.com

  88. Gravatar April

    Hi! I love names. Pho, I liked your article and all the interesting comments.

    It’s sweet to see how attached people are to their heritage and how comforting it is. (I’ll put in a plug for The Journey of Man” which gives a facinating look at our collective heritage as our ancestors wandered across the globe.)

    I’m April Allison Foiles
    The “April” because I was born in April on a sunny day. (It was going to be another name if it was a stormy day.)
    “Allison” is a family name going back several generations. My only female cousin has the same middle name.
    “Foiles” is Irish and Spanish and that’s pretty much all I’ve been able to find out. I never understood how it was both Irish and Spanish until I read the comment above, so thank you for the insight Molly!

    That must mean I have a little Spanish blood as I also have the black Irish look and have (surprisingly to me) had people in my new town think I am hispanic. I’ve also had someone think I was part Chinese which I think comes from my native American ancestor.)

    To Moaki who has a unique name: Foiles is a pretty uncommon name (I’ve never met a Foiles I wasn’t related to)and “April Foiles” is fairly uncommon because most parents aren’t such jokesters, so I thought I was the only one! until I recently found another one online. Drat! :)

  89. Gravatar darren lewis gregory

    info on all names aaron jasmine and Darren Lews Gregory

  90. Gravatar Meteko

    We chinese chose our names base on our zodiac, we love to associate our names to auspicous wording like luck, properity, gold etc.

  91. Gravatar Adrienne

    Hello, Im searching for the true meaning and history of my name. I wounder if you may help me? Thanks for you time.
    Best regards, Adrienne

  92. Gravatar oyun

    like you

  93. Gravatar Web Tasarım

    Would appreciate any help you can give. Thank you.

  94. Gravatar andy

    can you tell me history and where it comes from the name is moffitt.

  95. Gravatar kız oyunları

    Like you

  96. Gravatar cooldown

    Like you

  97. Gravatar Betsy

    My name is Elizabeth Jessie Molyneaux, but most people (except for family) call me Betsy. Elizabeth can be a bit long at times, and Betsy sounds more Scottish than Liz. I like to show off my Scottish roots!

    Jessie is a family name; at least one woman in every generation of my maternal grandmother’s family is named Jessie. It’s *very* Scottish.

    And Molyneaux comes, ironically, from the Irish part of my heritage. (We had French ancestors a very, very long time ago, but that is mostly wiped from family memory.)

    So that’s my name!

  98. Gravatar automotive repair manual

    Both Koray and Ataman play to the turkish side of my family, my father’s side. Koray meaning Ember Moon, and Ataman being a family name. I know it has it’s root in a rank, commander or some such. But I am not entirely sure. A shame I know.

    Koray, pronounced properly, is “Core – Eye”. But growing up American, it became pronounced the same as “Corey”. I never really protested, because I like Corey better. So it stuck.

    Alexander on the other side, is a family name from my mother’s side. The Scottish side.

    Great article by the way.

  99. Gravatar Atlanta Real Estate

    Very good post here. I found you while doing research about my family history. Nice blog with good information you have here.

  100. Gravatar radyo dinle

    We chinese chose our names base on our zodiac, we love to associate our names to auspicous wording like luck, properity, gold etc.

  101. Gravatar lil do

    pls give me areason why u took zach as ur name instead of alasdair
    Incidently there is a town in scotland called hamillton was it named after your family zach!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…

  102. Gravatar minikperi

    I have heard of a website that contains indian reservation logs. If you have enough indian in your blood, then your name will be found on one of these lists. If your name is on a list, you are suppose to get money. Does n e one know the name of this site?

  103. Gravatar AÅŸk ÅŸiirleri

    Seocu Ferhat

  104. Gravatar Anonymous

    In the American South it was a tradition to name the first son after his father and the second son after his mother’s father. For example, if the father’s name was Harold Alan Hatfield and the mother’s father’s name was Thomas Joseph McCoy, the first son would be Harold Alan Hatfield, Jr., and the second son would be Thomas McCoy Hatfield. Sorry about the unlikelihood of the example ;)

  105. Gravatar Picture Frames

    interesting read, especaily “What about African-Americans who had their names changed by the slave owners and are basically left without a trace of their family lineage?” good ponit.

  106. Gravatar evden eve nakliyat

    thank you

  107. Gravatar dizi izle

    #

    In portuguese speaking countries it goes like this: forename, mother’s family name, father’s family name. In Portugal, it’s very common to take two family names from each parent in order to please the grandparents (except if you want to please the greatgrandparents to, and then things get really messy). And when you are a girl and get married you usually get a couple of your husband’s family names as well. For extra fun, almost everybody has two forenames, so you can easily end up with forename1, forename2, momma’s mom surname, momma’s dad surname, daddy’s mom surname, daddy’s dad surname, sweety’s daddy’s mom surname, sweety’s daddy’s dad surname.
    My parents being anti-bourgeois revolutionaries before turning into bourgeois themselves, I just got 3 names and two of them are basically the same: so I got Rodrigues (son of Rodrigo) from my father, Eliseu (that would be Elisha, your old style, fire-throwing, river-parting, dead-people-raising, enemies-mass-blinding miracle worker from the old testament) from my mother and Rodrigo for myself.
    Every Rodrigo in the world is named after Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, el Cid Campeador, a 11th century warlord widely celebrated for his butchering of moors during the Iberian Reconquista. My father claims I was named after the original 8th century Rodrigo, the visigoth king that after piercing his antecessors eyeballs, raping an ally’s daughter and doing everything he possibly could to turn every christian and jew in the peninsula against him, ended up losing it to the above mentioned moors (duh!). Etimologically speaking, Rodrigo has its roots in the germanic for “rich in glory”, even though it seems every important Rodrigo in History was a major asshole.

  108. Gravatar San Francisco Lawyer

    Very interesting article about names. i never knew that how the are used changed so much. Entymology of names really says a lot about our culture and history. In many respects names are a window into our culture.

  109. Gravatar Bay Area Lawyer

    Never would have thought that so much information could be derived about a culture simply by looking at their names. Entemology, although not the most interesting subject to me, is very inteeresting. Great job on the article. It was very interesting and enlightening.

  110. Gravatar Jenny Legrand

    My name is Jenny Legrand… Maybe some of my ancesters was very big :)

  111. Gravatar Julian Forster

    My name is : Julian Förster (like the forster)

  112. Gravatar kreditrechner

    In response to Tom Creighton, it might interest you to know that clan Creighton is alive and well. The clan chief is a guy called Dave Creighton (I used to know him at university), and he lives in a castle in Crieff, just west of Perth in Scotland. I was told (though this may be wrong) that under Scottish law, he has the right to demand fealty money from any member of the clan!

  113. Gravatar Toplist

    Everyone in my family are called by their second names. The idea was if we didn’t like our names we could fall back on our first, although that works the other way around, go figure. I prefer Zach over Alasdair but am not thrilled about either though.

    As for Hamilton, I don’t know

  114. Gravatar Lammfell

    I have always had any problems with my name, because the people couldn´t write it as it has to be written.

  115. Gravatar water damage miami

    I know that my name is from the irish (last name) but not sure about the rest, great articles anyway, thanks for the great read.

  116. Gravatar Water Damage Restoration

    Parents really should consider the repercussions of the given name for their child. My given name is Terressa. All of my life I had to re pronounce it almost every time I introduced my self and always, always had to clarify the spelling. They even misspelled it on my birth certificate and my parents never had it corrected. It caused me so much aggravation as an adult. I finally threw out the spelling my parents invented when I was 43 and went with Teresa, which is easier for people to understand and spell.

  117. Gravatar Pink Glitter

    NAMES, i have plenty of them. My mom call me one name and my dad call me by other name, my sister call me another name, primary school friends call me other name, secondary school friend another name and so on..

    So, NAME is just a way how ppl know who you are.

  118. Gravatar Estetik

    Thanks for posting about the Domain Mirror plug-in. I was looking for something like this over the weekend, but couldn’t think of the proper search terms to use :-).

  119. Gravatar Under microscope

    “First names in Mongolia” Comunist regimes before 2004 erased people’s family tree! Thank God they returned them, if they kept that for 100 years, the country would have no personalitis!!

  120. Gravatar lida

    “First names in Mongolia” Comunist regimes before 2004 erased people’s family tree! Thank God they returned them, if they kept that for 100 years, the country would have no personalitis Thanks You

  121. Gravatar Flookie

    In many Westernized Chinese locations, many Chinese also take on an unofficial English given name in addition to their official Chinese given name. This is also true for East Asian students at colleges in countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia, and people who wish to do business internationally

  122. Gravatar battery

    This is also true for East Asian students at colleges in countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia, and people who wish to do business internationally.

  123. Gravatar Suchmaschinenoptimierung

    My mother’s girlname meant something like honey bush. I like it, when names have a meaning…

  124. Gravatar Partnersuche

    My name “Kaczmarek” doesn’t have any meaning. Or has anybody an idea?

  125. Gravatar Magdiel from Street Fairings

    My name is hebrew and means a selected by god. At least is what I know. lol.

  126. Gravatar Forex

    This is amazing… I never spend a thought on the fact, that names can have a history.

    Okay, now I can imagine, that a name like Miller or Smith came from the professions the people worked in…

    Very interesting article. It makes me think about it and it’s really funny, when thinking about names like Brad PITT or so… :O)

    Keep on writing! I’m curious to read more about that…

    Forex from Germany

  127. Gravatar Seitensprung

    Your article and the comments are really interesting. Great facts and infos about the history and meaning of names. I’m gonna bookmark your site!

  128. Gravatar Jenny

    There are many useful informations in this great articlel really enjoy reading the whole blog that you write. Thanks!

  129. Gravatar Adidas

    Well it would be also interesting to know, where the name “Dassler” came from. I don’t have any idea and would be glad to know more about this name.

    I’m thankful for any help…

  130. Gravatar Babymode

    My name is easy to guess, where it came from: “Miller”. :-)

  131. Gravatar Mike Spieler

    Hi, my name is Mike “Spieler”. The name Spieler comes from Germany and means “Player”. Does it mean, that I’m the grand-son of a Player? Or has it another meaning?

  132. Gravatar Nona

    This is definitely one of the most concise, easy to follow blogs on the topic that I have found to date.

    My surname is Ruf. I’ve looked in a lot of different databases, but I can’t find the meaning of it anywhere. I’ve also looked for it under Ruff and Woodruff, thinking that it might be a shortened form another name. Could you possibly point me in the right direction for finding the meaning? I know the meaning of my first and middle names and I would like to see how the three tie together, if possible.

    Thanks,
    Nona

  133. Gravatar Werbeartikel

    This is an excellent article about the history of names. It makes the people think about their familynames…

  134. Gravatar club penguin

    The basis was Native American Indian names as the cherokee called the Hopi tribe the ‘Moki’this was co-joined with ‘chi’ from the east with the association of its ‘life force’ meaning and is pronounced Mo’uh’key.

  135. Gravatar Tom Maise

    Dammit, quality posts like this are just way too rare. Keep it up!

    As for my name, it’s Tom Maisey. Maisey is a name that came over to England with the Normans in 1066 – in fact I once visited a village in Northen France called Maisey. They gave me a free pint in the pub, sweet.

  136. Gravatar santorini

    In germany its the same, all names are from occupation, description or location. I think my name is from a location, but nobody of my family ever lived there :-)

  137. Gravatar Caitlin

    If I were identified on a first name basis, I would be called pure and innocent all the time. I like that.

  138. Gravatar Georgia

    I get the whole being named after a region thing. C’mon Mom and Dad… Georgia? Lets get a little creative here.