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Typical modern Armenian last names (family names) end with the originally patronymic suffix -յան (reformed orthography) or -եան (classical orthography), transliterated as -ian, -yan, or less often '-jan'. Example: Petrosian, meaning "issued from Petros", akin to the English name Peterson. However, an "-ian" or "-yan" ending does not guarantee that a name is Armenian. It might instead be Irish, Persian, Chinese, English, Cornish, or Indian. Some Armenian last names bear the suffix -նց ([nʦʰ]), transliterated as -nc, -nts or -ntz (as in Bakunts or Adontz), or in addition to -yan/-ian (as in Vardanyants), although that is not common.
Some Armenian surnames have a suffix -լի ([li]) preceding the -յան/-եան suffix. This is a suffix of Turkish origin denoting a geographical location. For example, Sivaslian and Vanlian refer to the cities of Sivas and Van, respectively. Other Armenian surnames have a suffix -ճի ([ʤi] or [ʧi]), transliterated as -ji/dji or -chi/tchi, preceding the -յան/-եան suffix. This is another suffix of Turkish origin denoting a profession. For example, Kebabjian and Kahvejian refer to kebab and coffee merchants, respectively. While the -եան suffix already existed in the Classical Armenian period (e.g. Արտաշեսեան Artashesian, Մամիկոնեան Mamikonian), other suffixes, now rarer, also existed. The suffix -ունի (as in Բագրատունի Bagratuni, Արշակունի Arshakuni, [uni]) had a similar meaning to -եան.
The prefix Տեր ([ter]), which comes from how one addresses a priest, is typically Armenian. It might be followed by a space or attached directly to the root. If someone possesses a surname containing "Der" or "Ter" it usually signifies that this person has a patrilineal ancestor who was a priest.
Roots of names
The roots of names ending with -ian/-yan are typically first names, such as Petrosian "issued from Petros", Simonian "issued from Simon", etc. When the name ends in -lian or -(d)jian, the root is expected to refer to a location or a profession, respectively. Thus, the etymology of Vanlian is literally "issued from the man from Van" and that of Kebabjian is "issued from the kebab merchant". However, an ancestor's occupation will not necessarily contain the suffix -(d)ji, thus Vardapetian/Vartabedian (Վարդապետյան/-եան) translates as "issued from the vardapet", Bjishkian (Բժիշկյան/-եան) as "issued from the doctor" and Keshishian (Քեշիշյան/-եան) as "issued from the priest".
The -ian/-yan suffix may also, but more rarely, attach to an adjective denoting a quality. Thus, Bzdigian/Pztikian (Պզտիկյան/-եան) translates as "issued from the small (man)", Medzian/Metsian (Մեծյան/-եան) as "issued from the tall (man)", Ganantchian/Kanantchian (Կանանչյան/-եան) as "issued from the green, i.e. young (man)".
Some former noble Armenian names, such as Artsruni/Ardzruni (Արծրունի) are still in use today. When they moved from Armenia or from the Middle East, some changed their last names to adapt better to their new societies. Sometimes the -ian or -yan ending was dropped and the root kept, such as Charles Aznavour (was Aznavourian), or Andy Serkis (originally Sarkissian). Other times the name was translated, as "Tashjian" becoming (approximately) "Stone".
Common Armenian surnames
- Grigoryan / Krikorian
- Manukyan / Manoogian
- Margaryan / Markarian
- Poghossian / Boghossian
According to Armenia's National Statistical Service most common names for newborn boys in Armenia, as of early 2012, are Narek, Gor, Hayk, Alex, Eric, Arman, Samvel, Tigran, and Aram. For girls, most popular names are Milena, Maria, Mane, Ani, Ellen, Anahit, Mariam, Anna, and Mary.
- Seferian, Nareg (27 January 2011). "Seferian: What’s in an Armenian Name?". Armenian Weekly. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "Which are most common Armenian names?". news.am. 27 August 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2014.