In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name that indicates their family, tribe or community.
Practices vary by culture. The family name may be placed at either the start of a person's full name, as the forename, or at the end; the number of surnames given to an individual also varies. As the surname indicates genetic inheritance, all members of a family unit may have identical surnames or there may be variations; for example, a woman might marry and have a child, but later remarry and have another child by a different father, and as such both children would have different surnames. It is common to see two or more words in a surname, such as in compound surnames. Compound surnames can be composed of separate names, such as in traditional Spanish culture, they can be Hyphen together, or may contain Prefix.
Using names has been documented in even the oldest historical records. Examples of surnames are documented in the 11th century by the Baron in England. Surnames began as a way of identifying a certain aspect of that individual, such as by trade, father's name, location of birth, or physical features. It was not until the 15th century that surnames were used to denote inheritance.
Surnames have not always existed and today are not universal in all cultures. This tradition has arisen separately in different cultures around the world. In Europe, the concept of surnames became popular in the Roman Empire and expanded throughout the Mediterranean and Western Europe as a result. During the Middle Ages this practice died out as Germanic, Persian, and other influences took hold. During the late Middle Ages surnames gradually re-emerged, first in the form of bynames (typically indicating an individual's occupation or area of residence) and gradually evolving into modern surnames. In China surnames have been the norm since at least the 2nd century BC.
A family name is typically a part of a person's personal name which, according to law or custom, is passed or given to children from one or both of their parents' family names. The use of family names is common in most cultures around the world, with each culture having its own rules as to how these names are formed, passed and used. However, the style of having both a family name (surname) and a given name (forename) is far from universal (see §History below). In many cultures, it is common for people to have one name or mononym, with some cultures not using family names. In most Slavic countries, as well as other countries including Greece, Lithuania and Latvia, for example, there are different family name forms for male and female members of the family. Issues of family name arise especially on the passing of a name to a newborn child, on the adoption of a common family name on marriage, on renouncing of a family name and on changing of a family name.
vary around the world. Traditionally in many countries for the past few hundred years, it was the custom or law that a woman would, upon marriage, use the surname of her husband, and that any children born would bear the father's surname. If a child's paternity was not known, or if the putative father denied paternity, the new-born child would have the surname of the mother. That is still the custom or law in many countries. The surname for children of married parents is usually inherited from the father.Kelly, 99 W Va L Rev at 10; see id. at 10 n 25 (The custom of taking the father's surname assumes that the child is born to parents in a "state-sanctioned marriage." The custom is different for children born to unmarried parents.). Cited in Doherty v. Wizner, Oregon Court of Appeals (2005) In recent years there has been a trend towards equality of treatment in relation to family names, with women being not automatically required or expected, or in some places even forbidden, to take the husband's surname on marriage, and children not automatically being given the father's surname. In this article, family name and surname both mean the patrilineal surname, handed down from or inherited from the father, 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.
The study of proper names (in family names, personal names, or places) is called onomastics. A one-name study is a collection of vital and other biographical data about all persons worldwide sharing a particular surname.
Since family names are normally written last in European societies, the terms last name or surname are commonly used for the family name, while in Japan (with vertical writing) the family name may be referred to as upper name (ue-no-namae).
When people from areas using Eastern naming order write their personal name in the Latin alphabet, it is common to reverse the order of the given and family names for the convenience of Westerners, so that they know which name is the family name for official/formal purposes. Reversing the order of names for the same reason is also customary for the Baltic Finns and the Hungarian people, but other Uralic languages traditionally did not have surnames, perhaps because of the clan structure of their societies. The Samis saw no change or a transformation of their name. For example: some Sire became Siri, Hætta Jáhkoš Ásslat became Aslak Jacobsen Hætta — as was the norm. Recently, integration into the European Union and increased communications with foreigners prompted many Samis to reverse the order of their full name to given name followed by surname, to avoid their given name being mistaken for and used as a surname.
Indian surnames may often denote village, profession and/or caste and are invariably mentioned along with the personal / first names. However, hereditary last names are not universal. In Indian passports the surname is shown first. In telephone directories the surname is used for collation. In North Indian states the surname is placed after given names where it exists. In parts of south India, especially in Telugu language-speaking families, surname is placed before personal / first name and in most cases it is only shown as an initial (for example 'S.' for Suryapeth).
In English and other languages like Spanish—although the usual order of names is "first middle last"—for the purpose of cataloging in libraries and in citing the names of authors in scholarly papers, the order is changed to "last, first middle," with the last and first names separated by a comma, and items are alphabetized by the last name. "Filing Rules" on the American Library Association website "MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format" on the Purdue Online Writing Lab website, Purdue University In France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Latin America, administrative usage is to put the surname before the first on official documents.
By 1400, most English surnames and some Scottish people used surnames, but many Scottish and Welsh people did not adopt surnames until the 17th century, or later. Henry VIII (ruled 1509–1547) ordered that marital births be recorded under the surname of the father. In England and cultures derived from there, there has long been a tradition for a woman to change her surname upon marriage from her birth name to her husband's family name. (See Maiden and married names.) The first known instance in the United States of a woman insisting on the use of her birth name was that of Lucy Stone in 1855; and there has been a general increase in the rate of women using their birth name. This has gone through periods of flux, however, and the 1990s saw a decline in the percentage of name retention among women. As of 2006, more than 80% of American women adopted the husband's family name after marriage. "American Women, Changing Their Names", National Public Radio. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
Many cultures have used and continue to use additional descriptive terms in identifying individuals. These terms may indicate personal attributes, location of origin, occupation, parentage, patronage, adoption, or clan affiliation. These descriptors often developed into fixed clan identifications that in turn became family names as we know them today.
In the Middle East, an early form of tribal nisbas is attested among Amorites and Aramaeans tribes in the early Bronze age and Iron age ages. In the Arab world, The use of patronymics is well attested in the early Islam period (640-900 CE). Arab family names often denote either one's tribe, profession, a famous ancestor or the place of origin; but they weren't universal. For example, Hunayn ibn Ishaq (fl. 850 CE) was known by the nisbah "al-'Ibadi", a federation of Arab Christian tribes that lived in Mesopotamia prior to the advent of Islam. Hamdan Qarmat (fl. 874 CE), the founder of Qarmatian Isma'ilism, was surnamed "Qarmat", an Aramaic word which probably meant "red-eyed" or "Short-legged". The famous scholar Rhazes (b. 854 CE) is referred to as "al-Razi" (lit. the one from Ray) due to his origins from the city of Ray, Iran. In the Levant, surnames were in use as early as the High Middle Ages.
In China, according to legend, family names started with Emperor Fu Xi in 2000 BC.
In Japanese name, family names were uncommon except among the aristocracy until the 19th century.
In Ancient Greece, during some periods, formal identification commonly included place of origin. At other times clan names and ("son of") were also common, as in Aristides Lysimachu. For example, Alexander the Great was known as Heracleidae, as a supposed descendant of Heracles, and by the dynastic name Karanos/ Caranus, which referred to the founder of the Argead dynasty. In none of these cases, though, were these names considered essential parts of the person's name, nor were they explicitly inherited in the manner that is common in many cultures today.
In the Roman Empire, the bestowal and use of clan and family names waxed and waned with changes in the various subcultures of the realm. ( See Roman naming conventions.) The nomen, which was the gens name, was inherited much like last names are, but their purposes were quite different. In later Europe, last names were developed to distinguish between individuals. The nomen were to identify group kinship. The praenomen was the "forename" and was originally used like a first name today. In later times, praenomen became less useful for distinguishing individuals as it was often passed down for males along with the nomen (like an entire culture where "John Smith, Jr." was the norm), and females, were often given no praenomen at all or functional names like Major and Minor ("Older" and "Younger") or Maxima, Maio, and Mino ("Biggest," "Middle," "Littlest") or ordinal numbers rather than what we might think of as names: Prima, Secunda, Tertia, Quarta, etc. Around this time, the nomen became followed by one or more additional names called cognomen. It became usual that one of these cognomen was inherited, but as the praenomen and nomen became more rigidly used and less useful for identifying individuals, additional personal cognomen were more often used, to the point that the first the praenomen and then the nomen fell out of use entirely. With the gradual influence of Greek and Christian culture throughout the Empire, Christian religious names were sometimes put in front of traditional cognomen, but eventually, people reverted to single names. By the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, family names were uncommon in the Eastern Roman Empire. In Western Europe, where Germanic culture dominated the aristocracy, family names were almost non-existent. They would not significantly reappear again in Eastern Roman society until the 10th century, apparently influenced by the familial affiliations of the Armenian military aristocracy. The practice of using family names spread through the Eastern Roman Empire and gradually into Western Europe, although it was not until the modern era that family names came to be explicitly inherited as they are today.
In Ireland, the use of surnames has a very old history. Ireland was the first country in Europe to use fixed surnames.
In England, the introduction of family names is generally attributed to the preparation of the Domesday Book in 1086, following the Norman conquest. Evidence indicates that surnames were first adopted among the feudal nobility and gentry, and slowly spread to other parts of society. Some of the early Norman nobility who arrived in England during the Norman conquest differentiated themselves by affixing 'de' (of) before the name of their village in France. This is what is known as a territorial surname, a consequence of feudal landownership. In medieval times in France, such a name indicated lordship, or ownership, of the village. Some early Norman nobles in England chose to drop the French derivations and call themselves instead after their new English holdings.
Surnames were uncommon prior to the 12th century, and still somewhat rare into the 13th; most European surnames were originally occupational or locational, and served to distinguish one person from another if they happened to live near one another (e.g., two different people named John could conceivably be identified as 'John Butcher' and 'John Chandler'). This still happens, in some communities where a surname is particularly common.
In the Middle Ages, when a man from a lower-status family married an only daughter from a higher-status family, he would often adopt the wife's family name. In the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain, bequests were sometimes made contingent upon a man's changing (or hyphenating) his family name, so that the name of the testator continued. It is rare but not unknown for an English-speaking man to take his wife's family name, whether for personal reasons or as a matter of tradition (such as among matrilineal First Nations groups, such as the Haida people and Gitxsan); it is exceedingly rare but does occur in the United States, where a married couple may choose an entirely new last name by going through a legal change of name. As an alternative, both spouses may adopt a double-barrelled name. For instance, when John Smith and Mary Jones marry each other, they may become known as "John Smith-Jones" and "Mary Smith-Jones". A spouse may also opt to use their birth name as a middle name, and e.g. become known as "Mary Jones Smith". An additional option, although rarely practiced, is the adoption of a last name derived from a blend of the prior names, such as "Simones", which also requires a legal name change. Some couples keep their own last names but give their children hyphenated or combined surnames.Daniella Miletic (20 July 2012) Most women say 'I do' to husband's name. The Age.
In medieval Spain, a patronymic system was used. For example, Álvaro, the son of Rodrigo would be named Álvaro Rodríguez. His son, Juan, would not be named Juan Rodríguez, but Juan Álvarez. Over time, many of these patronymics became family names and are some of the most common names in the Spanish-speaking world. Other sources of surnames are personal appearance or habit, e.g. Delgado ("thin") and Moreno ("dark"); geographic location or ethnicity, e.g. Alemán ("German"); or occupations, e.g. Molinero ("miller"), Zapatero ("shoe-maker") and Guerrero ("warrior"), although occupational names are much more often found in a shortened form referring to the trade itself, e.g. Molina ("mill"), Guerra ("war"), or Zapata (archaic form of zapato, "shoe").
Family names sometimes change or are replaced by non-family-name surnames under political pressure to avoid persecution. Examples are the cases with Chinese Indonesians and Chinese Thais after migration there during the 20th century, or the who fled to different European countries to avoid persecution from the Nazis during World War II.
The United States followed the naming customs and practices of English common law and traditions until recent times. Beginning in the latter half of the 20th century, traditional naming practices, writes one commentator, were recognized as "coming into conflict with current sensitivities about children's and women's rights".Richard H. Thornton, The Controversy Over Children's Surnames: Familial Autonomy, Equal Protection and the Child's Best Interests, 1979 Utah L Rev 303. Those changes accelerated a shift away from the interests of the parents to a focus on the best interests of the child. The law in this area continues to evolve today mainly in the context of paternity and custody actions. Joanna Grossman, Whose Surname Should a Child Have, FindLaw's Writ column (12 August 2003), (last visited 7 December 2006).
Upon marriage to a woman, men in the United States can easily change their surnames to that of their wives, or adopt a combination of both names with the federal government, through the Social Security Administration. Men may face difficulty doing so on the state level in some states. In some places, civil rights lawsuits or constitutional amendments changed the law so that men could also easily change their married names (e.g., in British Columbia and California). Québec law permits neither spouse to change surnames. Québec newlywed furious she can't take her husband's name , by Marianne White, CanWest News Service, 8 August 2007 . Retrieved 3 November 2013.
In France, until 1 January 2005, children were required by law to take the surname of their father. Article 311-21 of the French Civil code now permits parents to give their children the family name of either their father, mother, or a hyphenation of both – although no more than two names can be hyphenated. In cases of disagreement, the father's name applies. This brought France into line with a 1978 declaration by the Council of Europe requiring member governments to take measures to adopt equality of rights in the transmission of family names, a measure that was echoed by the United Nations in 1979. Similar measures were adopted by West Germany (1976), Sweden (1982), Denmark (1983) and Spain (1999). The European Community has been active in eliminating gender discrimination. Several cases concerning discrimination in family names have reached the courts. Burghartz v. Switzerland challenged the lack of an option for husbands to add the wife's surname to his surname, which they had chosen as the family name, when this option was available for women. Burghartz v. Switzerland, no. 16213/90, 22 February 1994. Losonci Rose and Rose v. Switzerland challenged a prohibition on foreign men married to Swiss women keeping their surname if this option was provided in their national law, an option available to women. Losonci Rose and Rose v. Switzerland, no. 664/06, 9 November 2010. Ünal Tekeli v. Turkey challenged prohibitions on women using their surname as the family name, an option only available to men. Ünal Tekeli v Turkey, no. 29865/96, 16 November 2004. The Court found all these laws to be in violation of the convention.
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The Icelandic system, formerly used in much of Scandinavia, does not use family names. A person's last name indicates the first name of their father (patronymic) or in some cases mother (matronymic). Many common family names in other Scandinavian countries are a result of this naming practice, such as Hansen (son of Hans), Johansen (son of Johan) and Olsen (son of Ole/Ola), the three most common surnames in Norway.Statistics Norway name statistics, 2009 This also occurs in other cultures: Spanish and Portuguese (López or Lopes, son of Lope; Álvarez or Álvares, son of Álvaro; Domínguez or Domingues, son of Domingo or Domingos; etc.); Armenian (Gregoryan, son of Gregor; Petrossyan, son of Petros; etc.); in English (Johnson, son of John; Richardson, son of Richard), etc.
Patronymic name conventions are similar in some other nations, including Malaysia (see Malaysian name) and other Muslim countries, among most people of the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala (unlike another Indian state Andhra Pradesh, where ancestral origin village names have become surnames for the people), in Mongolian name and in the Scottish Gaelic personal naming system. In Russian name and Bulgarian name, both patronymic and family name are obligatory parts of one's full name: e.g. if a Russian is called Ivan Andreyevich Sergeyev, that means that his father's name is Andrey and his family name is Sergeyev. A similar system is used in Greek names.
In Habesha name, a child adopts the given name of one of their parents, usually the father, as a pseudo-surname. For example, Abraham Mesfin's father's first name would have been Mesfin, while Abraham Mesfin's child might be called "Netsanet Abraham". Just as in Iceland, referring to Abraham Mesfin as "Mr Mesfin" would be erroneous: the correct term would be "Mr Abraham". Very rarely do children adopt their mother's given name, who in any case would retain their "pseudo-surname".
In traditional Hebrew patronymic names, a male's given name is followed by ben (בֶּן, son of), and the father's name, e.g. Ben Adam (בן אדם) or Abraham ben Abraham. A woman's given name is similarly followed by bath, "daughter of" (also transcribed as bat), as in "Elishevah bath Shemuel," where Elishevah's father's given name is Shemuel. Ben also forms part of , e.g. Benjamin. Some modern Israeli last names are formed by using the Aramaic language version of ben, Bar-, e.g. Meir Bar-Ilan. In Israel, traditional patronymic forms have become European-style patrilineal surnames. For example, Yoram ben Yehudah or Hannah Bar-Ilan may not be literally the son and daughter of Yehudah and Ilan, but rather the male and female descendants of men called, respectively, ben Yehudah and Bar-Ilan.
There is a wide range of family name affixes with a patronymic function. Some are prefixes (e.g., Gaelic mac) but more are suffixes.
Location names, or habitation names, may be as generic as "Monte" (Portuguese for "mountain"), "Górski" (Polish for "hill") or "Pitt" (variant of "pit"), but may also refer to specific locations. "Washington", for instance, is thought to mean "the homestead of the family of Wassa", while "Lucci" means "resident of Lucca". Although some surnames, such as "London", "Lisboa", or "Białystok" are derived from large cities, more people reflect the names of smaller communities, as in Ó Creachmhaoil, derived from a village in County Galway. This is thought to be due to the tendency in Europe during the Middle Ages for migration to chiefly be from smaller communities to the cities and the need for new arrivals to choose a defining surname.Bowman, William Dodgson. The Story of Surnames. London, George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1932. No ISBN.
In Portuguese-speaking countries, it is uncommon, but not unprecedented, to find surnames derived from names of countries, such as Portugal, França, Brasil, Holanda. Surnames derived from country names are also found in English, such as "England", "Wales", "Spain".
Many Japanese name derive from geographical features; for example, Ishikawa (石川) means "stone river", Yamamoto (山本) means "the base of the mountain", and Inoue (井上) means "above the well".
Arabic names sometimes contain surnames that denote the city of origin. For example, in cases of Saddam Hussein al Tikriti, meaning Saddam Hussein originated from Tikrit, a city in Iraq. This component of the name is called a nisbah.
During the era of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade many Africans lost their native names and were forced by their owners to take the owners' surnames and any given name the "owner" or slave master desired. In the Americas, the family names of many African-Americans have their origins in slavery ( i.e. slave name). Many of them came to bear the surnames of their former owners. Many freed slaves either created family names themselves or adopted the name of their former master.
Some Slavic cultures distinguished originally daughter surnames from wife surnames by different suffixes, but this distinction is mostly abandoned. In Slavic languages, substantivized adjective surnames have commonly symmetrical adjective variants for males and females (Podwiński/Podwińska in Polish, Nový/Nová in Czech or Slovak etc.). In case of nominative and quasi-nominative surnames, the female variant is derived from the male variant by a possessive suffix (Novák/Nováková, Hromada/Hromadová). In Czech and Slovak, the pure possessive would be Novákova, Hromadova, but the surname evoluted to a more adjectivized form Nováková, Hromadová, to suppress the historical possessivity. Some rare types of surnames are universal and gender-neutral: in Czech language e.g. Janů, Martinů, Fojtů, Kovářů etc., which are archaic form of possessive, related to plural name of the family. Such rare surnames are also often used for transgender persons during transition, because most of common surnames are gender-specific. Some Czech dialects (Southwest-Bohemian) use the form "Novákojc" as informal for both genders. In culture of Sorbs (Lusatians), Sorbian used different female form for unmarried daughters (Jordanojc, Nowcyc, Kubašec, Markulic), and different form for wives (Nowakowa, Budarka, Nowcyna, Markulina). In Polish, typical daughter surnames ended -ówna, -anka or -ianka, while wife surnames used possessive suffixes -ina or -owa. Informal dialectal female form in Polish and Czechs dialects was also -ka (Pawlaczka, Kubeška). Polish language tends to abandon both form of feminized surnames. In Czech language, a trend to use male surnames for women is popular among cosmopolitans or celebrities, but is often criticized from patriotic views and can be seen as ridiculous and as degradation and disruption of Czech grammar. Adaptation of surnames of foreign women by suffix "-ová" is currently a hot linguistic and political question in Czechia; is massively advocated as well as criticized and opposed.
Generally, inflected languages use names and surnames as living words, not as static identifiers. Thus, the pair or the family can be named by plural form which can differ from the singular male and female form. E.g., when the male form is Novák and the female form Nováková, the family name is Novákovi in Czech and Novákovci in Slovak. When male form is Hrubý and female form is Hrubá, the plural family name is Hrubí (or "rodina Hrubých").
In Greece, if a man called Papadopoulos has a daughter, she will likely be named Papadopoulou (if the couple have decided their offspring will take his surname), the genitive form, as if the daughter is "of" a man named Papadopoulos.
In Lithuania, if the husband is named Vilkas, his wife will be named Vilkienė and his daughter will be named Vilkaitė. Male surnames have suffixes -as, -is, -ius, or -us, unmarried girl surnames aitė, -ytė, -iūtė or -utė, wife surnames -ienė.
Latvian uses strictly feminized surnames for women, even in case of foreign names. The function of the suffix is purely grammar. Male surnames ending -e or -a need not to be modified for women. An exception is: 1) the female surnames which correspond to nouns in the sixth declension with the ending "-s" – "Iron", ("iron"), "rock", 2) as well as surnames of both genders, which are written in the same nominative case because corresponds to nouns in the third declension ending in "-us" "Grigus", "Markus"; 3) surnames based on an adjective have indefinite suffixes typical of adjectives "-s, -a" ("Stalts", "Stalta") or the specified endings "-ais, -ā" ("Čaklais", "Čaklā") ("diligent").
In Iceland, surnames have a gender-specific suffix (-dóttir = daughter, -son = son).
Finnish language used gender-specific sufix up to 1929, when the Marriage Act forced women to use the husband's form of surname. In 1985, this sentence was removed from the act.
In French Canada until the 19th century, several families adopted surnames that followed the family name in order to distinguish the various branches of a large family. Such a surname was preceded by the word dit ("so-called," lit. "said") and was known as a nom-dit ("said-name"). (Compare with some Roman naming conventions.) While this tradition is no longer in use, in many cases the nom-dit has come to replace the original family name. Thus the Bourbeau family has split into Bourbeau dit Verville, Bourbeau dit Lacourse, and Bourbeau dit Beauchesne. In many cases Verville, Lacourse, or Beauchesne has become the new family name. Likewise, the Rivard family has split into the Rivard dit Lavigne, Rivard dit Loranger and Rivard dit Lanoie. The origin of the nom-dit can vary. Often it denoted a geographical trait of the area where that branch of the family lived: Verville lived towards the city, Beauchesne lived near an oak tree, Larivière near a river, etc. Some of the oldest noms-dits are derived from the war name of a settler who served in the army or militia: Tranchemontagne ("mountain slasher"), Jolicœur ("braveheart"). Others denote a personal trait: Lacourse might have been a fast runner, Legrand was probably tall, etc. Similar in German it is with genannt – "Vietinghoff genannt Scheel".
Additional surnames refer to grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and so forth. The number of surnames a person has is theoretically unlimited though it is rare to use more than a few (and indeed an individual may not know more than a few of his or her ancestors' names).
This custom is not seen in the Hispanic world as being a true compound surname system per se, since it is widely understood that the first surname denotes one's father's family, and the second surname denotes one's mother's family. So "Rodríguez Zapatero" is not considered one surname; it is two distinct surnames. Given that it is not a true compound surname, his children do not inherit the "compound" surname "Rodríguez Zapatero". Only the paternal surname of both father and mother are passed on. The father's paternal surname becomes the child's own paternal surname, while the mother's paternal surname becomes the child's second surname (as the child's own maternal surname). Thus, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero would pass on only Rodríguez to his children as their first (i.e. paternal) surname.
An additional complication is introduced by marriage. Rodríguez Zapatero's wife was born Sonsoles Espinosa Díaz. Under Spanish tradition she is still known by that name, even after marriage. But she may also be known as
These other forms, particularly the last, are becoming less common as they are increasingly seen as sexist (i.e. that a wife is expected to take her husband's name but not the other way around).
Luis Telmo Paz y Miño Estrella is also known more casually as Luis Paz y Miño, Telmo Paz y Miño, or Luis Telmo Paz y Miño. He would never be regarded as Luis Estrella, Telmo Estrella, or Luis Telmo Estrella, nor as Luis Paz, Telmo Paz, or Luis Telmo Paz. This is because "Paz" alone is not his surname (although other people use the "Paz" surname on its own).
In this case, Paz y Miño is in fact the paternal surname, being a true compound surname. His children, therefore, would inherit the compound surname "Paz y Miño" as their paternal surname, while Estrella would be lost, since the mother's paternal surname becomes the children's second surname (as their own maternal surname). "Paz" alone would not be passed on, nor would "Miño" alone.
To avoid ambiguity, one might often informally see these true compound surnames hyphenated, for instance, as Paz-y-Miño. This is true especially in the English-speaking world, but also sometimes even in the Hispanic world, since to many Hispanics unfamiliar with this and other compound surnames, "Paz y Miño" might be inadvertently mistaken as "Paz" for the paternal surname and "Miño" for the maternal surname. Although Miño did start off as the maternal surname in this compound surname, it was many generations ago, around five centuries, that it became compounded, and henceforth inherited and passed on as a compound.
Other surnames which started off as compounds of two or more surnames, but which merged into one single word, also exist. An example would be the surname Pazmiño, whose members are related to the Paz y Miño, as both descend from the "Paz Miño" family of five centuries ago.
Álava, Spain is known for its incidence of true compound surnames, characterized for having the first portion of the surname as a patronymic, normally a Spanish patronymic (i.e. from the Castilian language) or more unusually a Basque language patronymic, followed by the preposition "de", with the second part of the surname being a local toponymic surname from Álava.
Approximately 70% of Canadians have surnames that are of English, Irish, French, or Scottish derivation.
According to some estimates, 85% of China's population shares just 100 surnames. The names Wang (王), Zhang (张) and Li (李) are the most frequent.LaFraniere S. Name Not on Our List? Change It, China Says. New York Times. 20 April 2009.
In some instances, when an individual's given name and first family name are too common (such as in José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mario Vargas Llosa), both family names are used (though not necessarily both given names). A person could even take the maternal name for informal situations instead of the paternal name, for personal preferences or if the maternal name is somehow "special" (José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero is known in Spanish as "José Luis Zapatero" or just as "Zapatero"). In Spain, a new law approved in 1999 allows an adult to change the order of his/her family names, and parents can also change the order of their children's family names if they (and the child, if over 12) agree. ''Note: Google auto translation of title into English→Royal Decree 193/2000, of 11 February, to amend certain articles of the Civil Registration Regulations in the field on the name and order.
In Spain, especially Catalonia, the paternal and maternal surnames are often combined using the conjunction y ("and" in Spanish language) or i ("and" in Catalan language), see for example the economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin or painter Salvador Dalí i Domènech.
In Spain, a woman does not change her legal surnames when she marries. In some Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, a woman may, on her marriage, drop her mother's surname and add her husband's surname to her father's surname using the preposition de ("of"), del ("of the", when the following word is masculine) or de la ("of the", when the following word is feminine). For example, if "Clara Reyes Alba" were to marry "Alberto Gómez Rodríguez", the wife could use "Clara Reyes de Gómez" as her name (or "Clara Reyes Gómez", or, rarely, "Clara Gómez Reyes". She can be addressed as Sra. de Gómez corresponding to "Mrs Gómez"). In some countries, this form may be mainly social and not an official name change, i.e. her name would still legally be her birth name. This custom of adding the husband's surname is slowly fading.
Sometimes a father transmits his combined family names, thus creating a new one e.g., the paternal surname of the son of Javier (given name) Reyes (paternal family name) de la Barrera (maternal surname) may become the new paternal surname Reyes de la Barrera. De is also the nobiliary particle used with Spanish surnames. This can not be chosen by the person, as it is part of the surname, for example "Puente" and "Del Puente" are not the same surname.
Children take the surnames of both parents, so if the couple above had two children named "Andrés" and "Ana", then their names would be "Andrés Gómez Reyes" and "Ana Gómez Reyes". In Spain, a 1995 reform in the law allows the parents to choose whether the father's or the mother's surname goes first, although this order must be the same for all their children. For instance, the name of the son of the couple in the example above could be either "Andrés Gómez Reyes" or "Andrés Reyes Gómez". Art. 55 Ley de Registro Civil – Civil Register Law (article in Spanish) Sometimes, for single mothers or when the father would or could not recognize the child, the mother's surname has been used twice: for example, "Ana Reyes Reyes". In Spain, however, children with just one parent receive both surnames of that parent, although the order may also be changed. In 1973 in Chile, the law was changed to avoid stigmatizing illegitimate children with the maternal surname repeated.
Some Hispanic people, after leaving their country, drop their maternal surname, even if not formally, so as to better fit into the non-Hispanic society they live or work in. Dropping the paternal surname is not unusual when it is a very common one. For instance, painter Pablo Ruiz Picasso and Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero are known by their maternal surnames as "Picasso" and "Zapatero". Similarly, Anglophones with just one surname may be asked to provide a second surname on official documents in Spanish-speaking countries. When none (such as the mother's maiden name) is provided, the last name may simply be repeated.
Traditionally in most countries, and currently in some Spanish-speaking countries, women, upon marrying, keep their own family names. It is considered impolite towards her family for a woman to change her name. The higher class women of Cuba and Spain traditionally never change their names. In certain rare situations, a woman may be addressed with her paternal surname followed by her husband's paternal surname linked with de. For example, a woman named Ana García Díaz, upon marrying Juan Guerrero Macías, could be called Ana García de Guerrero. This custom, begun in medieval times, is decaying and only has legal validity in Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, Panama, and to a certain extent in Mexico (where it is optional but becoming obsolete), but is frowned upon by people in Spain, Cuba, and elsewhere. In Peru and the Dominican Republic, women normally conserve all family names after getting married. For example, if Rosa María Pérez Martínez marries Juan Martín De la Cruz Gómez, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Martínez de De la Cruz, and if the husband dies, she will be called Rosa María Pérez Martínez Vda. de De la Cruz (Vda. being the abbreviation for viuda, "widow" in Spanish). The law in Peru changed some years ago, and all married women can keep their maiden last name if they wish with no alteration.
In some churches, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where the family structure is emphasized, as well as legal marriage, the wife is referred to as " hermana" sister plus the surname of her husband. And most records of the church follow that structure as well.
A new trend in the United States for Hispanics is to hyphenate their father's and mother's last names. This is done because American born English-speakers are not aware of the Hispanic custom of using two last names and thus mistake the first last name of the individual for a middle name. In doing so they would, for example, mistakenly refer to Esteban Álvarez Cobos as Esteban A. Cobos. Such confusion can be particularly troublesome in official matters. To avoid such mistakes, Esteban Álvarez Cobos, would become Esteban Álvarez-Cobos, to clarify that both are last names.
In Spanish villages in Catalonia, Galicia, and Asturias and in Cuba, people are often known by the name of their dwelling or collective family nickname rather than by their surnames. For example, Remei Pujol i Serra who lives at Ca l'Elvira would be referred to as "Remei de Ca l'Elvira"; and Adela Barreira López who is part of the "Provisores" family would be known as "Adela dos Provisores". In the case of Cantabria the family's nickname is used instead of the surname: if one family is known as "Ñecos" because of an ancestor who was known as "Ñecu", they would be "José el de Ñecu" or "Ana la de Ñecu" (collective: the Ñeco's). Some common nicknames are "Rubiu" (blonde or ginger hair), "Roju" (reddish, as referred to ginger hair), "Chiqui" (small), "Jinchu" (big), and a bunch of names about certain characteristics, family relationship or geographical origin (pasiegu, masoniegu, sobanu, llebaniegu, tresmeranu, pejinu, naveru, merachu, tresneru, troule, mallavia, marotias, llamoso, lipa, ñecu, tarugu, trapajeru, lichón, andarível).
Each person usually has two family names: though the law specifies no order, the first one is usually the maternal family name, whereas the last one is commonly the paternal family name. In Portugal, a person's full name has a minimum legal length of two names (one given name and one family name from either parent) and a maximum of six names (two first names and four surnames – he or she may have up to four surnames in any order desired picked up from the total of his/her parents and grandparents' surnames). The use of any surname outside this lot, or of more than six names, is legally possible, but it requires dealing with bureaucracy. Parents or the person him/herself must explain the claims they have to bearing that surname (a family nickname, a rare surname lost in past generations, or any other reason one may find suitable). In Brazil there is no limit of surnames used.
In general, the traditions followed in countries like Brazil, Portugal and Angola are somewhat different from the ones in Spain. In the Spanish tradition, usually the father's surname comes first, followed by the mother's surname, whereas in Portuguese-speaking countries the father's name is the last, mother's coming first. A woman may adopt her husband's surname(s), but nevertheless she usually keeps her birth names, or at least the last one. Since 1977 in Portugal and 2012 in Brazil, a husband can also adopt his wife's surname. When this happens, usually both spouses change their name after marriage.
The custom of a woman changing her name upon marriage is recent. It spread in the late 19th century in the upper classes, under French influence, and in the 20th century, particularly during the 1930s and 1940, it became socially almost obligatory. Nowadays, fewer women adopt, even officially, their husbands' names, and among those who do so officially, it is quite common not to use it either in their professional or informal life.
The children usually bear only the last surnames of the parents (i.e., the paternal surname of each of their parents). For example, Carlos da Silva Gonçalves and Ana Luísa de Albuquerque Pereira (Gonçalves) (in case she adopted her husband's name after marriage) would have a child named Lucas Pereira Gonçalves. However, the child may have any other combination of the parents' surnames, according to euphony, social significance or other reasons. For example, is not uncommon for the first born male to be given the father's full name followed by "Júnior" or "Filho" (son), and the next generation's first born male to be given the grandfather's name followed by "Neto" (grandson). Hence Carlos da Silva Gonçalves might choose to name his first born son Carlos da Silva Gonçalves Júnior, who in turn might name his first born son Carlos da Silva Gonçalves Neto, in which case none of the mother's family names are passed on.
In ancient times a patronymic was commonly used – surnames like Gonçalves ("son of Gonçalo"), Fernandes ("son of Fernando"), Nunes ("son of Nuno"), Soares ("son of Soeiro"), Sanches ("son of Sancho"), Henriques ("son of Henrique"), Rodrigues ("son of Rodrigo") which along with many others are still in regular use as very prevalent family names.
In Medieval times, Portuguese nobility started to use one of their estates' names or the name of the town or village they ruled as their surname, just after their patronymic. Soeiro Mendes da Maia bore a name "Soeiro", a patronymic "Mendes" ("son of Hermenegildo – shortened to Mendo") and the name of the town he ruled "Maia". He was often referred to in 12th-century documents as "Soeiro Mendes, senhor da Maia", Soeiro Mendes, lord of Maia. Noblewomen also bore patronymics and surnames in the same manner and never bore their husband's surname. First-born males bore their father's surname, other children bore either both or only one of them at their will.
Only during the Early Modern Age, lower-class males started to use at least one surname; married lower-class women usually took up their spouse's surname, since they rarely ever used one beforehand. After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, Portuguese authorities realized the benefits of enforcing the use and registry of surnames. Henceforth, they became mandatory, although the rules for their use were very liberal.
Until the end of the 19th century it was common for women, especially those from a very poor background, not to have a surname and so to be known only by their first names. A woman would then adopt her husband's full surname after marriage. With the advent of republicanism in Brazil and Portugal, along with the institution of civil registries, all children now have surnames. During the mid-20th century, under French influence and among upper classes, women started to take up their husbands' surname(s). From the 1960s onwards, this usage spread to the common people, again under French influence, this time, however, due to the forceful legal adoption of their husbands' surname which was imposed onto Portuguese immigrant women in France.
From the 1974 Carnation Revolution onwards the adoption of their husbands' surname(s) receded again, and today both the adoption and non-adoption occur, with non-adoption being chosen in the majority of cases in recent years (60%). Also, it is legally possible for the husband to adopt his wife's surname(s), but this practice is rare.