A Lithuanian personal name, as in most European cultures, consists of two main elements: the given name (vardas) followed by the family name (pavardė). The usage of personal names in Lithuania is generally governed (in addition to personal taste and family custom) by three major factors: civil law, canon law, and tradition. Lithuanian names always follow the rules of the Lithuanian language. Lithuanian male names have preserved the Indo-European masculine endings (-as; -is; -us). These gendered endings are preserved even for foreign names.
Vardas (given name)
A child in Lithuania is usually given one or two given names. Nowadays the second given name is rarely used in everyday situations, the use of a middle name being considered pretentious. As well as modern names, parents can choose a name or names for their child from a long list of traditional names; these include:
- Lithuanian names of pre-Christian origin.
These are the most ancient layer of Lithuanian personal names; a majority of them are dual-stemmed personal names, of Indo-European origin. These ancient Lithuanian names are constructed from two interconnected stems, the combination of which has been used to denote certain beneficial personal qualities, for example Jo-gaila means "a strong rider". Although virtually extinct following the Christianization of Lithuania, they continued to exist as surnames, such as Goštautas, Kęsgaila, Radvila or in their Slavicised versions, as well as in toponyms. The existing surnames and written sources have allowed linguists such as Kazimieras Būga to reconstruct these names. In the period between World War I and World War II these names returned to popular use after a long period of neglect. Children are often named in honor of the most revered historical Lithuanian rulers; these are some of the most popular names. They include Vytautas, Gediminas, Algirdas, and Žygimantas. In line with the double-stemmed names, shorter variants containing only one stem were also used, such as Vytenis and Kęstutis. Since there are few pre-Christian female names attested in written sources, they are often reconstructed from male variants, in addition to the historical Birutė, Aldona, Rimgailė etc.
The use of Christian names in the Lithuanian language long predates the adoption of Christianity by Lithuanians. The linguistic data attest that first Biblical names started to be used in Aukštaitija as early as the 11th century. The earliest stratum of such names originates from Old Church Slavonic; they were borrowed by Eastern Orthodoxy in their Byzantine versions. Examples of such names are Antanas (St. Anthony), Povilas or Paulius (St. Paul), Andrius (St. Andrew) and Jurgis (St. George). The later influx of Christian names came after the adoption of Christianity in 1387. They are mostly borrowed in their Polish versions: Jonas (St. John), Vladislovas/Vladas (St. Ladislaus), Kazimieras/Kazys (St. Casimir), etc.
There are popular names constructed from the words for celestial bodies (Saulė for the Sun, Aušrinė for Venus), events of nature (Audra for storm, Aušra for dawn, Rasa for dew, Vėjas for wind, Aidas for echo), plants (Linas/Lina for flax, Eglė for spruce), and river names (Ūla, Vilija for River Neris).
- invented names from literature.
Some names were created by the authors of literary works and spread in public use through them. Such names followed the rules of the Lithuanian language; therefore it is sometimes difficult to tell whether the name is fictitious and had never existed before. Notably, Gražina, Živilė by Adam Mickiewicz, Daiva by Vydūnas, Šarūnas by Vincas Krėvė and others.
- names of Lithuanian pagan deities and mythological figures.
There are some popular names of gods and goddesses from Lithuanian mythology that are used as personal names, such as Laima, goddess of luck, Žemyna, goddess of earth, Gabija, goddess of fire; Žilvinas, a serpent prince from the fairy tale Eglė the Queen of Serpents, Jūratė, goddess of the sea, and Kastytis, from the legend about Jūratė and Kastytis.
A distinctive practice dominated in the ethnic region of Lithuania Minor, then part of East Prussia, where Lithuanized German personal names were common, such as Ansas (Hans), Grėtė (Gretchen), Vilius (Wilhelm) among Prussian Lithuanians. Some of them are still in use among Lithuanians.
The choice of a given name is influenced by fashion. Many parents may name their child after a national hero or heroine, some otherwise famous person, or a character from a book, film, or TV show. However, many names used in today's Lithuania have been in use since the ancient times.
Lithuanian male and female names are distinguished grammatically. Almost all Lithuanian female names end in the vowels -a or -ė, while male names almost always end in -s, and rarely in a vowel -a. If a masculine name ending in -a has a feminine counterpart, it ends in -ė, e.g. Jogaila and Jogailė. Female double-stemmed Lithuanian names always end in -ė.
Diminutives are very popular in everyday usage, and are by no means reserved for children. The Lithuanian language allows for a great deal of creativity in this field. Most diminutives are formed by adding a suffix. For female names this may be -elė, -utė, -ytė, or -užė; certain suffixes are more common to specific names over the rest.[clarification needed]
Also, as in many other cultures, a person may informally use a nickname (pravardė) in addition to or instead of a given name.
Lithuanian surnames, like those in most of Europe, are hereditary and generally patrilineal, i.e., passed from the father to his children.
A married woman usually adopts her husband's name. However, other combinations are legally possible. The wife may keep her maiden name (mergautinė pavardė) or add her husband's surname to hers, thus creating a double-barrelled name. It is also possible, though rare, for the husband to adopt his wife's surname or to add his wife's surname to his family name.
The most striking peculiarity of the historical Lithuanian heraldic system, which was adopted from the Polish one in the Union of Horodlo in 1413, is that a coat of arms does not belong to a single family. A number of unrelated families (sometimes hundreds of them), usually with a number of different family names, may use a coat of arms, and each coat of arms has its own name.
The use of family names gradually spread to other social groups: the townsfolk by the end of the 17th century, then the peasantry. People from the villages did not have last names until the end of the 18th century. In such cases their village of origin was usually noted in documents. The process ended only in the mid-19th century, and due to the partial Polonization of society at the time many names were influenced by Polish form of the name.
Based on origin, several groups of Lithuanian family names may be recognized.
A cognominal surname derives from a person's nickname, usually based a physical or character trait.
- Naujokas, Naujokaitis – from naujas ("new one")
- Kairys, Kairelis, – "leftie", from kairė ("left side")
Examples of occupational surnames:
- Kalvis, Kalvelis, Kalvaitis – from kalvis ("blacksmith")
A toponymic surname usually derives from the name of a village or town, or the name of a topographic feature.
- Užugiris – from across the forest (už girios);
- Kalnietis – from the mountains (kalnai).
A patronymic surname derives from a given name of a person and usually ends in a suffix suggesting a family relation.
- Jonaitis, Janavičius, Januitis – derived from Jonas (John);
- Adomaitis, Adamonis, Adamkus – derived from Adomas (Adam);
- Lukauskis, Lukša, Lukošius, Lukoševičius – derived from Lukas (Luke).
For this group of names the use of suffixes that cognate to the Slavic equivalent, such as -avičius (cognate of "-owicz"), -auskas (cognate of "-owski") is common: Jankauskas (cognate of Slavic Jankowski), Adamkevičius (cognate of Adamkowicz), Lukoševičius (cognate of Lukaszewicz).
Lithuanian surnames have specific masculine and feminine forms. While a masculine surname usually ends in -as, -ys or -is, its feminine equivalent ends in -ienė or rarely -uvienė for married women and -aitė, -utė, -iūtė or -ytė for unmarried ones. Examples:
|Father / husband||Married woman or widow||Unmarried woman|
In 2003, Lithuanian laws allowed women to use a short form, without disclosing the marital status (ending in -ė instead of -ienė/-aitė/etc.: Adamkus –> Adamkė). These names are used, although traditional forms are still predominant. According to the Department of Statistics of Lithuania, the most popular feminine family names are:
Formal and informal use
Lithuanians pay great attention to the correct way of referring to or addressing other people depending on the level of social distance, familiarity and politeness. The differences between formal and informal language include:
- using surnames vs. given names;
- using vs. not using honorific titles such as Ponas / Ponia;
- using the third person singular forms vs. second person singular;
- using second-person singular personal pronoun vs. second-person plural personal pronoun to address a single person.
Ponas and Ponia (vocative case Pone, Ponia) are the basic honorific styles used in Lithuanian to refer to a man or woman, respectively. In the past, these styles were reserved to members of the szlachta and played more or less the same roles as "Lord" or "Sir" and "Lady" or "Madam" in English. Since the 19th century, they have come to be used in all strata of society and may be considered equivalent to the English "Mr." and "Ms." There is a separate style, Panelė ("Miss"), applied to an unmarried woman.
Given name/surname order
The given name(s) normally comes before the surname. However, in a list of people sorted alphabetically by surname, the surname usually comes first. In many formal situations the given name is omitted altogether.
Informal forms of address are normally used only by relatives, close friends and colleagues. In such situations diminutives are often preferred to the standard forms of given names.
- Notably, Gelgaudiškis from Gedgaudas, Radviliškis from Radvila, Buivydiškės from Butvydas, etc.
- Schmalstieg, William R. (1982). "Lithuanian names". Lituanus. 28 (3). Retrieved 2007-09-06.
- American surnames, by Elsdon Coles Smith, 1986, ISBN 0806311509, p. 83
- "N-2(87) Dėl moterų pavardžių darymo". e-seimas.lrs.lt. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
- Naujoviškos pavardės tradicinių neišstūmė. Veidas magazine, 2008/9 Archived 2008-03-05 at the Wayback Machine
- Jūratė Čirūnaitė, "Lietuvos totorių pavardžių formavimasis XV–XVII a." (The Formation Of Tatar Naming Practices in Lithuania in the 15th–17th centuries), Baltistica, vol. 36, no. 2 (198) pp. 299–306.
- Alfred Senn, "Lithuanian Surnames," American Slavic and East European Review, vol. 4, no. 1/2 (Aug. 1945), pp. 127–137. in JSTOR