AskDefine | Define surname

Dictionary Definition

surname n : the name used to identify the members of a family (as distinguished from each member's given name) [syn: family name, cognomen, last name]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • , /ˈsɜː(r)neɪm/, /"s3:(r)neIm/


From < sour-, sur- < super) < base , the comparative of the base ; + name.


  1. A name that indicates to which family a person belongs, normally following that person’s given name(s) in Western culture, in English included, and preceding it in Eastern.


name that indicates family


  1. To give a surname.
  2. To call by a surname.


to give a surname
to call by a surname

Extensive Definition

A surname is a name added to a given name and is part of a personal name. In many cases, a "surname" is a family name; the family-name meaning first appeared in 1375. Many dictionaries use "surname" as a synonym of "family name."
Surnames are often influenced by common elements: the name of the person's father or mother, the person's geographical origin, the person's occupation, or a descriptive nickname for the person. When they were created, they answered one of the following questions: Who is this person related to? Where is this person from? What does this person do for a living? What is his or her most prominent feature?
For instance, the names Smith and Cooper may originate from the blacksmith and cooper metal work occupations, respectively. Names such as Cohen, may denote a prominent religious background; Cohen is a name usually found among male descendants of Jewish priests.


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