Talk:Family name

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The claim in the picture caption at the top of the page, that Frankenstein is a compound family name, is quite mistaken. Its a toponymic surname from any one of several places called Frankenstein in various parts of Germany. -- (talk) 11:14, 26 March 2012 (UTC)

The caption links to Compound (linguistics), and Frankenstein certainly is that: a word composed of two roots. Could be worded better, admittedly. —Tamfang (talk) 07:19, 12 July 2012 (UTC)

Isn't it also offensive? Out of all the examples the poster could have selected, he chose to associate Jews with the name of a hideous fictional monster? Is anyone fooled by this? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:27, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

FML (First, Middle, Last that is)[edit]

Hyacinth, I think your graphic is worthwhile, not least to contribute a very solid basic framework for discussion. Thank you! However, the "Johann" in J S Bach's name is perhaps not the most crystalline example, because it comes from a particular naming tradition in which the majority of male offspring received compound names that began with one of only a very small repertoire of first names. Indeed, J S Bach shared his first name with at least 2 brothers, 3 sons and his father--but also with Mozart, who was baptized Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus, with Sigismundus added at confirmation. Around the house and in much of the world, the various Bachs were disambiguated from other families by their last names and from one another by their 2nd and 3rd names. Nobody ever referred to Mozart as Johann either, aside from the odd moment in church. (Nor as Theophilus, which he preferred to translate in any of a half-dozen ways, Amadeus being none of them except as a jest.)

All of which is to say that there might be a better example to point to. Perhaps "Dwight David Eisenhower," not least because the "David" originally came first, and Ike reversed the names because everyone called him Dwight. Yes, that's a complexity, but a pointed one. And yes, this is an article about family, i.e., last names, but even there, being caused to think about J S Bach as Johann might be distracting to some.

Hmmmm..."Sebastian J Bach"--has a nice ring to it, y'know? I see a series of cheap novels about a hard-boiled musicologist...down these mean staves a man must go... RogerLustig (talk) 11:42, 26 October 2012 (UTC)


I've just read this article for the first time and have noticed a very bad contradiction at the top of the section English Speaking Countries. The current article states:

By 1400, most English and Scottish people had acquired surnames, but many Scottish and Welsh people did not adopt surnames until the 17th century, or even later

In the one sentence I am reading that most Scottish people had acquired surnames by 1400, and also that many Scottish people did not adopt surnames until the 17th century". There are no references for either claim.

Could someone who has some knowledge of the subject and can find suitable references please fix this?

--Savlonn (talk) 13:24, 23 February 2013 (UTC)

Family name in Primorje[edit]

The article mentiones nothing about family names as used in Primorje. You see, e. g. families in Baška traditionally get family names such as Yoshamÿa – see the Mihovil Lovrić article or e. g. Lozini – after Alojz – this is the name of my maternal grandmothers' family in Vinodol; yet, their legal surname remains the same. These family names are recorded on neither church nor state documents; yet, this tradition has existed for centuries, it seems. I do not know where it comes from; I just know that both my paternal grandfathers' and my maternal grandmothers' familites – both of which are from Primorje have such family names. -- Neven Lovrić (talk) 08:29, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Swedish, Not Scandinavian?[edit]

The article currently states: "Later on, people from the Scandinavian middle classes, particularly artisans and town dwellers, adopted names in a similar fashion to that of the nobility. Family names joining two elements from nature such as the Swedish Bergman ("mountain man"), Holmberg ("island mountain"), Lindgren ("linden branch"), Sandström and Åkerlund ("field meadow") were quite frequent and remain common today. The same is true for similar Norwegian and Danish names."

I'm not aware of this method of creating family names ever being common in Norway. In fact, names of this type are generally assumed to be of Swedish origin when encountered in Norway. Unless someone can provide an example of a Norwegian family name created this way, I will remove the claim that "the same is true for similar Norwegian names". I suspect such names were not commonly created in Denmark, either, but I don't know enough about Danish family names to be certain. Maitreya (talk) 09:27, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

Merger proposal[edit]


Consensus to merge of Family name into surname per wp:SNOW. Non-Administrative closure-- GenQuest "Talk to Me" 08:10, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Merge per WP:ENGLISH WP:COMMONNAME and WP:POVFORK. The simple fact is that in plain English, "surname" and "family name" are complete synonyms. Surname admits as much in its lead; family name tries to bury the idea by claiming surnames are "Western". It then proceeds to use "surname" more often than "family name" in its lead, while discussing surnames from all over the world and within historical contexts having nothing to do with the "West". The OED defines their primary current senses as:

surname: The name which a person bears in common with the other members of his family...; a family name
family name: A hereditary name shared by members of the same family, as distinct from a given or personal name; a surname.

There is a minor obsolete sense of surname in the use of "generic epithet" that occurs before the 19th century, but the WP:PRIMARYTOPICs of these two name spaces entirely overlap as is displayed by the repeated attempts to merge them (see below) and by the pages' treatment of identical content.

Merge to surname (despite its article having a shorter history at Wiki) per WP:ENGLISH WP:COMMONNAME. Per ngram, "surname" has been more common than "family name" (usually by orders of magnitude) for the last 400 years; as can be seen at any age of Google Books, that additional usage had very little to do with the sense of "epithet". ("Last name" is on an upswing but obviously does have some WP:BIASy connection to European names.) Google Scholar brings back 85k hits for "family name" (often in its biological sense), 165k generally on-point hits for "last name", and 135k completely on-topic hits for "surname". Google Books and vanilla always break down a little on such common searches, but the estimates are (@books) 1.2m hits for "family name" (mostly on topic), 1.7m hits for "last name", and 3.5m hits for "surname" and (@van) 64.8m, 870m, and 450m, all essentially confirming the ngram.

There have been failed merge attempts before. The voting on those went:

  • merge: Vltava 68, Knillis, RoryEAAS, II, Fgnievinski, Felix the Cassowary
  • fork: Undead, JDM1991, Rajakhr, Carsten12345, Ariadne55, Notwillywanka

Carsten objected because he had his own plan to revamp all Wikipedia's name articles. Undead, JDM, NWW, and Ariadne all objected because they all felt surname was a larger term that included things "family name" doesn't. Except that's untrue both in common usage and specifically: the OED definition of "patronymic" specifically discusses "family names" derived from the father and not "surnames". Meanwhile, any patronym or epithet that is not passed down (as in Iceland, Islamic names, etc.) is not a surname but an epithet, a patronym, a nisba, etc. Even when certain foreign words (like nisba or xing) are translated as "surname", the specifics of their use need to be addressed in a separate article and can't override the PRIMARYTOPIC of "surname".

Felix the Cassowary captured the general confusion by saying he would really like a fork (since family name was considered overlong) but is forced to realize "...a distinction between "surnames" and "family names" is not one that I've ever made; I have long been under the impression (for instance) that Bjork doesn't have a surname, she has a patronym instead." At Talk:Surname, WhisperToMe wondered what information the article could have that wasn't covered at family name; Propaniac replied that he'd just delete the page except "there should be a general article about surnames"

My thoughts? This fork is causing needless confusion and duplication and should be stopped already; family name is overlong and not the actual common name. Your thoughts? — LlywelynII 04:24, 20 December 2013 (UTC)

  • Merge to surname: not enough discernible difference. I was neutral about which to merge to until I checked Wikipedia:Naming conventions (people) where we use "surname" throughout: "Family name" is only used, twice, in the section on articles about families. Let's go for it. PamD 10:06, 20 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname These words are complete synonyms. Even if there were some difference between family names and surnames, it's minute enough to be a note in the surname article. There is no reason for two separate articles. (talk) 00:51, 21 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname. A merged article can easily cope with the nuances in meaning. Itsmejudith (talk) 18:05, 21 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname. Redundant content. Cindy(talk) 10:44, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname. Thank you, MarioNovi (talk) 00:05, 28 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname per nom. -- GreenC 16:17, 28 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname I too am in complete agreement that Family Name and Surname are synonyms and no purpose is served by having them both. To be honest, I wouldn't have even thought that they were being considered different here. Zell Faze (talk) 19:59, 29 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname - any subtleties that distinguish the two terms are far too esoteric for our purposes here. --Orange Mike | Talk 03:46, 30 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname per above and common sense Cliftonian (talk) 11:04, 4 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname per Itsmejudith. --Rosiestep (talk) 16:07, 4 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Merge to surname I see no major issues with creating a merged article. Comatmebro ~Come at me~ 03:39, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

surname != patriname[edit]

The article says at the top

In this article, family name and surname both mean the patrilineal (literally, father-line) surname, handed down from or inherited from the father's line or patriline, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Thus, the term "maternal surname" means the patrilineal surname which one's mother inherited from either or both of her parents. For a discussion of matrilineal ('mother-line') surnames, passing from mothers to daughters, see matrilineal surname.

But the word surname should not be abused in that matter. The word surname should be used to refer to "The name which a person bears in common with the other members of his family" as noted in the definition from OED, patriname should be used to refer to a name from the father's line and matriname should be used for a name from the mother's line. This should be resolved during the merge with Surname. ---Vroo (talk) 06:17, 29 January 2014 (UTC)

Origins of African American Family Names and Slavery[edit]

NYT offers a primary source from 1998. It states:

"After the Civil War, when the passage of the 13th Amendment freed 4 million slaves, most had been barred by their owners from having last names. Many picked the surnames of the former presidents Jefferson and Jackson. Washington also became a popular choice."
See: Knowlton, B. (1998, February 19). Among Blacks, Washington Ranks as the Top Surname. New York Times. Retrieved from — Preceding unsigned comment added by Monyprice (talkcontribs) 20:52, 16 October 2014 (UTC)