Category talk:Surnames

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English-language surnames, not anglicised surnames[edit]

I've just seen a Scottish Gaelic name added to the English, with the edit summary anglicised surname. Just about every name here could be listed as anglicised! So, other than folks added to the special origin categories copied from Wiktionary (mentioned above), let's keep the contents matching the description (Bazian-language origin).
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 16:02, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

Russian-language surnames[edit]

I've covered hundreds (maybe a thousand or more) names by hand so far, and was asked on my Talk about the Category:Russian-language surnames that I've encountered. I've only added this category today, but of those I've encountered, very few have references. Many/most notable people in them are non-Russians, although that may be the sample.

As to the question of "what to do with Russian last names which are also common outside Russia", it's fairly straight-forward. If they have references documenting their Russian derivation, then they go in this category. If they are derived from common Slavic language underpinnings, then they could go in other appropriate language categories, too.

What matters is reliable sourcing! Merely being on a list of popular names in a country (a telephone book, a census) is not enough.
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 18:15, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

Also, as I've found surnames with redirects from other spellings (very common for these), I've been adding {{R from surname}} to them (on the same line), and any additional categories on the lines below:

   #REDIRECT [[Koltsov]]{{R from surname}}
   [[Category:Russian-language surnames]]

They show up nicely italicized in the listing.
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 18:23, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

I was kind of curious as to how the system is going to work in regards to the last names which are very similar and/or related. Since you already categorized "Kryukov", let's look at it as an example. This last name is a variation of (or is it the other way around? I can't recall) "Kryuchkov", both of which stem from the same word and mean generally the same things. Both are considered to be of Russian origin (according to the sources I have access to, anyway). There is, however, also "Kryuchko", which would be Ukrainian (last names ending in "-ko" are generally of Ukrainian origin—I don't have a source handy to support it, but it shouldn't be too difficult to dig up). Unsurprisingly, it has the exact same ethymology. All three are fairly common in both Ukraine and Russia. Now, the crux of the problem—while the intent of the Category:Russian-language surnames is to include the last names originating from Russian, the name of the category is kind of misleading ("Kryuchko" should not really be included, but I bet my ass someone down the road will add it, because the cat name sounds right for that). With that in mind, wouldn't a more precise cat name be a better choice? I would think something like "Surnames of Russian-language origin" should fit the bill (with an added benefit of the possibility of having more generic "Surnames of Slavic origins", which is going to be the case for quite a few last names still in use today). This will also take good care of the "telephone book" problem, as users won't be tempted to use them as sources. Just a friendly suggestion, before too much work is sunk into this.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); 19:06, June 29, 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, the more precise the better IMO. The 'origin' seems makes it more clear what the cat means. As noted a couple sections above, the english wickitionary dived english surnames into origins, sorta like that. This almost goes with the section above, by William Allen Simpson, about the Gaelic names. "MacLaren" isn't Gaelic, it is an Anglicisation of a Gaelic name (MacLabhrainn), so shouldn't a cat clearly reflect that ('Anglicised Gaelic-language surnames')? Anyways precision seems like a good idea and it seems like it could easily be done.--Celtus (talk) 06:27, 30 June 2009 (UTC)
  1. Ezhiki, the title that you suggest is already the exact text of the description in each category: for example, "Surnames of Russian language origin." Generally, the layout of language category titles has been with the primary name first, presumably because that conforms to general English adjective before noun conventions. I'm aware than other languages add strings of adjectives after nouns.
  2. The main reason I'm concerned about your suggestion is that it could lead to convoluted titles to match the Wiktionary, such as Surnames of English-language origin derived from Greek, or some such. I'm hoping that the equivalence will be easier to remember. English-language surnames should not be in "Surnames of Greek-language origin".
  3. Also, I'm opposed to adding generic "Surnames of Slavic origins", "Surnames of Celtic origins", "Surnames of Finno-Ugric origins", etc. These are much harder to document, and highly contentious. Just add the same surname to multiple modern language categories that share the common heritage.
  4. As you note, some names are common in more than one country. This is not a "by country" category. If the references document the exact same spelling for more than one language, add it to multiple categories.
  5. I don't understand how a Russian-language surname category "sounds right" for a Ukrainian-language name ending in "-ko". It seems to me that would obviously not sound right, as it has a different suffix and is presumably pronounced differently. Obviously, somebody with more expertise in Slavic languages should address the issue.
  6. I'm not concerned with finding surnames that mean the same thing in multiple languages. That's for a semantic encyclopedia.
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 08:26, 30 June 2009 (UTC)
These are good points, too. Mine was only a suggestion to consider; I realized it's not ready for adoption as presented.
On #1, however, I would like to point out that (in my sad experience, at least), people tend to act on the name of a category, not on what its documentation says. In my opinion, naming the category as precisely as possible (and practical) would prevent a lot of cleanup further down the road. "Surnames of English-language origin derived from Greek" is possibly an overkill (but then it may be not—I, for one, certainly lack knowledge to make that call), but "Surnames of English-language origin" isn't really all that hard to memorize, especially if all of the categories are named like that.
On #3, I don't see a problem at all. As long as the origins of a last name are referenced, the decision of which generic category to use to place the last name isn't all that hard to make. For those cases when references contradict one another, we can place the last name in multiple generic categories (and possibly to something like "Surnames with contested origins". What matters here is the sourcing. No source—no category; exactly the same way you are approaching this now and exactly the way it should be. Additionally, there is no need to add a surname into a generic category if a more specific one can be referenced (e.g., "Kryukov" would not be in "Surnames of Slavic origins" because we already have a source confirming that it is a Russian last name). Anyway, just a thought.
Finally, on the #5, the last names ending in "-ko" do not just "sound right". It is a fact that they are extremely common in Russia and often signify that a person has some Ukrainian heritage but is not necessarily Ukrainian. There are plenty of "Russians" with such last names. The reverse is also true for the Russian last names common in Ukraine.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); 14:57, June 30, 2009 (UTC)
  1. Celtus, is your suggestion that we eliminate this category, or rename it to "Anglicized Russian-language surnames"? All of the names used here thus far are anglicized as written.
  2. Likewise, that we eliminate Category:Scottish Gaelic-language surnames, even though it has a nicely written main category Category:Scottish Gaelic language and main article Scottish Gaelic language? All of the names used there are anglicized as written.
  3. This will be especially true of Welsh as well.
  4. The concern I raised in the section above is that you added names to the English-language category because they were "anglicised". I'm opposed to that.
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 08:42, 30 June 2009 (UTC)
There's no need to eliminate anything since there will be a few articles on Gaelic names and probably more will be created. Would you be against creating a cat like 'Anglicised Scottish Gaelic-language surnames'? I'd like that. Yeah, i realise my edit was poorly done.--Celtus (talk) 05:53, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
In general, I'm opposed. Almost all Scottish names would be "Anglicised". As for the topic of this section (Russian), all would be "Anglicised", unless we move the articles to the cyrillic originals. Currently, the cyrillic originals are (sometimes) redirects to the anglicized page (but often not present).
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 09:10, 13 July 2009 (UTC)
For one who seems to be obsessed with sources, you are astonishingly ignorant of and oblivious of sources. The category should be "Scottish surnames", and its definition is names characterised as such in, for example,
  • George Mackay. Scottish Surnames. Lomond Books. 
  • David Dorward. Scottish Surnames. Collins. 
  • Donald Whyte. Scottish Surnames. Birlinn. 
SamuelTheGhost (talk) 17:06, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Jewish surnames[edit]

I don t see why there can t be a Category:Jewish surnames under Category:Surnames by culture as there are, obviously, surnames that are Jewish, ones historically used by Jews but that are not Hebrew (but that may, if not always do, have Hebraic ethmological roots), that have been anglicised, germanised, etc. Mayumashu (talk) 04:28, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

This would be permissible. See also Wikipedia:Deletion_review/Log/2009_June_28#Category:Jewish surnames, where I've tried to explain as much. You probably should hold off creating it until that DRV formally closes, though. Good Ol’factory (talk) 05:05, 1 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose -- Jewish surnames was just added to Category:Surnames by culture by Mayumashu, removing more pertinent categories such as Judaism. As explained by the (insufficiently referenced) article itself, most of the surnames are not unique to Jewish culture, but rather were assigned during the diaspora. Just a slippery slope.
    --William Allen Simpson (talk) 09:11, 2 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Strongest possible keep the Jewish surnames category under "Surnames by culture" per an adherence to reasonableness and keeping our users (and their ease of navigation) foremost in our minds. Badagnani (talk) 05:39, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

I didn't know we had a vote going on here, but since we seem to do, I'd like to express my opinion as well. Surnames can definitely be "Jewish", even if they exist in other cultures or languages as well. An article discussing the surname "Muller" e.g. must mention that it is both a German as well as a Jewish surname. This obviously has to do with the Jews living in diaspora. Other surnames, like "Cohen" are probably exclusively Jewish. Debresser (talk) 14:22, 5 July 2009 (UTC)

Qualification as a "Jewish surname" would likely be based on sources, and for this subject the number of excellent sources (including whole books on the subject) is large, and documentation quite good. Badagnani (talk) 06:24, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
You wanted to say "should be based". I know a a Jew with surname Ivanov. This does not make "Ivanov" a Jewish surname. There should be clear distinction between surnames occasionally used by Jews and surnames historically associated with Jews. To avoid possible confusion, I would suggest to find a more specific title: category:Jewish-culture surnames (similarly to "X-language surnames"). Any better suggestions? - Altenmann >t 16:49, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes. As Badagnani says above, for this subject the number of excellent sources (including whole books on the subject) is large, such as Kaganoff, Benzion C. A Dictionary of Jewish Names and their History.  The solution to the problem is to stop this amateur WP:OR, which there is a lot of here, and to define Jewish and all other national surnames in terms given in WP:RS. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 17:07, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Jewish is not a nationality.
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 09:03, 13 July 2009 (UTC)
For the benefit of those who would rather make puerile comments than follow what I'm saying, I'll rephrase: The solution to the problem is to stop this amateur WP:OR, which there is a lot of here, and to define Jewish and all national surnames in terms given in WP:RS. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 12:00, 13 July 2009 (UTC)
Would a category such as "Ashkenazic surnames" or "Yiddish-language surnames" be more appropriate? Also, I don't see why many of these names being assigned during the diaspora should count against them. In many of the countries involved, surnames didn't exist outside the nobility until the time of Peter The Great. So we should include names such as Abramovich/Abramson as well as ancient names like Levi/Levine. I agree that we shouldn't count German surnames if they aren't any more likely to be Jewish than chance. "Schwartz" is probably more than chance, as would "Snyder" but not "Schneider". But reliable sources have gone over these matters, and if there's a question about whether a name belongs in the category you can demand a source. Squidfryerchef (talk) 14:29, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Deletion review[edit]

Important: please see Wikipedia:Deletion_review/Log/2009_July_6#Category:Jewish_surnames, and comment there if you so choose. Badagnani (talk) 00:05, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

An out-of-process retread of Wikipedia:Deletion_review/Log/2009_June_28#Category:Jewish_surnames, notice already given previously here.
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 12:06, 12 July 2009 (UTC)

Changing countries to societies[edit]

In a side discussion at Category talk:English-language surnames, the one word that seems possibly useful to me is changing "countries" to "societies". The previous debates have all been about countries, because the mass deletion was "by country" categories and that colored the thinking.

This currently also affects Category:Portuguese-language surnames and Category:Spanish-language surnames. Are there English, Portuguese, and Spanish speaking societies that are not countries? Should that change be made?
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 13:58, 18 July 2009 (UTC)

In WP:RS the forms "English surnames", "Portuguese surnames", "Spanish surnames" are overwhelmingly the phrases used, as a google search will quickly confirm. Therefore these must be the right category names. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 09:56, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Proposal: be serious about sources[edit]

Proposal: any surname that doesn't have a reliable source (and no, most of the web references used aren't reliable) should be housed at Category:Surnames until such sources are found. I've already started with Aaronson, Aaron (surname), and Aarons (surname), which is why Category:Hebrew-language surnames has those three. I'm asking here because I see plenty of people fighting over keeping those names into the current language categories so I'd like to have some outside views before I start clearing out categories. -- Ricky81682 (talk) 22:24, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

Yep, makes sense to me. That's the way it should be, IMO. Everything should be verified, then there are fewer screwups.--Celtus (talk) 05:18, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
Seems someone disagrees. -- Ricky81682 (talk) 07:21, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
I think this was clear. However, does anyone else think some kind of a original research warning will help? -- Ricky81682 (talk) 07:26, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
I think we are going to run into continuous trouble with this sort of thing. Possessiveness and laziness.--Celtus (talk) 07:54, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
Agreed. It seem to me that the requirement for category sources has always been clear, but obviously some folks need a constant reminder. Where should this be added?
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 09:03, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Actually Ricky, i just noticed that Aaron is stated to be of 'uncertain origin and meaning', but 'more likely' from Egyptian than Hebrew (i've got the Oxford Dictionary of First Names from the library). Certain things in the Harrison book may be a bit dated, as it seems to have been first published in 1912.--Celtus (talk) 04:59, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
The sources are unanimous that Aaronson, Aaron, and Aarons are Jewish surnames, and they should be categorised as such. The ultimate origin of the name "Aaron" is irrelevant to the categorisation of the surname, but could be a proper subject for inclusion within the article. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 17:08, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, i didn't mean the surname. I see what you mean. I should have been more clear, 'the given name is ultimately derived from an Egyptian word', not that the surname has enything to do with Egyptian surnames. Just that he thought the Egyptian thing was automatically bogus since it was unsourced, and i just noticed it happens to be true.--Celtus (talk) 10:04, 2 August 2009 (UTC)


A lot of names are listed in this category at least twice, once under "for example" Schopenhauer then under Schopenhauer (disambiguation) or name (family) etc. I'd be willing to have a go at fixing, but a lot of those people are REALLY proprietary about it. I tried to fix AMO several times but with no luck. Williamb (talk) 10:33, 7 May 2010 (UTC)

I guess Amo was reverted because that has only one entry as a surname at the moment, not yet enough to split to a separate page. If there are more on others, feel free to help by splitting the pages. Come along to WP:Wikiproject Anthroponymy if you would like more guidance on such matters. - Fayenatic (talk) 20:44, 7 May 2010 (UTC)

So how is this category supposed to used?[edit]

It says

"Use template {{Surname}} to populate this category. (However, do not use the template on disambiguation pages that contain a list of people by family name.)"

From that I gather that you would use this category only for articles that describe a family name (origins, etc.). But at Category:Human name disambiguation pages it says

"This category is for disambiguation pages where multiple people of the same name are listed... For pages listing people with the same surname, but different given names, use {{surname}} instead."

So we should probably make up our minds and give consistent advice.

Anyway it seems like hella people are voting with their feet and using {{Surname}} on disambiguation pages, as if it was the (nonexistant) Category:Surname disambiguation pages. And why not. We do have Category:Place name disambiguation pages and this seems like a useful subset of the awfully-broad category Category:Disambiguation pages (which, after all, has over a quarter-million members).

So what do we want to do here?

  1. Nothing. It's not broken.
  2. Remove the proscription at Category:Human name disambiguation pages against using that category on list-of-people-with-the-same-surname disambig pages, and start using it for that.
  3. Remove the written proscription on this Category:Surnames page against using it to categorize list-of-people-with-the-same-surname disambig pages, and include Category:Surnames under Category:Disambiguation pages. Let form follow practice.
  4. Create a separate, new category, Category:Surname disambiguation pages.

Doing the last would allow "Surname disambiguation pages" to be separated from pages that actually describe the origins and variations and so forth of certain surnames. Otherwise these would be lost in the sea of disambig pagess. However, 1) the disambig page usually would have a link to the surname page and 2) anyway there are a bunch of pages that do both (describe the surname a bit and then list people with that surname), so dunno if this is really a problem. Also, doing #3 (or #2 or #1) would require no work while #4 would take a long time to make the changeover with maybe some confusion in the meantime.

What say you? Herostratus (talk) 17:03, 21 April 2015 (UTC)

It's not broken in principle, but there are some lists of people on disambiguation pages. Please help to split any disambiguation pages that include lists of people, see MOS:DABNAME. If there is no other content then, instead of splitting, convert the page from disambiguation page to an anthroponymy (name) article. See WP:WikiProject Anthroponymy for guidance on templates, etc. – Fayenatic London 17:33, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
The template {{surname}} should not be used on disambiguation pages. The category category:surnames, added with option {{disambiguation|surname}} is ok on disambiguation pages that also contain a list of people with the same surname. Category:Human name disambiguation pages should only contain persons known by the same name (usually a given name surname combo, but is also used with persons sharing a mononym). olderwiser 19:39, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
OK, thanks for the clarification. Hmm, MOS:DABNAME says "Articles only listing persons with a certain... surname, known as anthroponymy articles, are not disambiguation pages". It then says "for those articles, do not use {{disambig}} or {{hndis}}, but... {{surname}} instead". OK, this is clear.
So the only thing wrong is the instructions on this page here. For clarity, I'd suggest that the second paragraph
Use template {{Surname}} to populate this category. (However, do not use the template on disambiguation pages that contain a list of people by family name.)
be changed to
Use template {{Surname}} to populate this category. This template is to be used in articles about particular surnames as well as in lists of people that share a particular surname.
This avoids the difficult term "anthroponymy article" without actually calling these disambiguation pages, and removes the wrong instruction so that it follows the intent of the rule as well as actual practice. Any objection to this?
(N.B. I am assuming that "anthroponymy article" and "pages that contain a list of people by family name" can be identical and often are (and when not, "a list of people by family name" is or can be a sub-part of an anthroponymy article. If this is not so, I think we are overcomplicating this.) Herostratus (talk) 17:02, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
I'm not sure what that clarifies. The template still should not be used on disambiguation pages. However the category can be added to disambiguation pages that contain a list of surname holders by using the surname parameter with the disambiguation template. olderwiser`
As disambiguation pages should not contain a list of surname holders, I wonder if pages with the surname parameter in the disambiguation template can be added to a maintenance category or otherwise listed somewhere for splitting? – Fayenatic London 21:57, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
They should not. If a dab page only has one or two name-holders in it, then Category:Disambiguation pages with surname-holder lists is where it belongs. Unless there is sourceable encyclopaedic information to add about the name, one cannot justify splitting off such a short list. —Xezbeth (talk) 06:58, 23 April 2015 (UTC)
So perhaps the {{disambiguation}} template should be updated so the surname parameter adds that category rather than the surname category. olderwiser 12:35, 23 April 2015 (UTC)
It already does, which was a consequence of this CfD and subsequent discussions: Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/Log/2013 January 10#Name disambiguation categories. Dab pages that are erroneously in Category:Surnames can be found on my own list here and will be fixed when I get around to it. —Xezbeth (talk) 15:11, 23 April 2015 (UTC)
Ok,thanks I had forgot about that discussion. Seems at the least the documentation for the surname and given name templates and categories should be updated to reflect this. olderwiser 16:38, 23 April 2015 (UTC)


Until July 2012, the page Lettow looked like this. Whether the changes in the last few days are a valid attempt to add content or out-of-scope is outside my expertise, but I've never seen a Wikipedia page like it. Could someone with more experience in this area please cast an eye on it? -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 10:55, 1 July 2016 (UTC)