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Home » Cultural Geography, Europe, Featured, North America, Population Geography

The Geography of European Surnames

Submitted by on October 25, 2013 – 4:46 pm 64 Comments |  
Last_Names_Europe

To follow up on the previous GeoCurrents post on the geography of first names, this post will examine that of surnames. The first map on the left shows the most common European surnames by country. Some interesting patterns emerge here. The most popular type of surname derives from a patronymic, that is father’s name augmented by a suffix, typically one meaning ‘son of’ (in some cases parallel suffixes meaning ‘daughter of’ or feminine forms of the masculine suffix, exist as well). Iceland still uses patronymics in place of surnames. Thus, the current president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, is a son of Grím, while his predecessor Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is a daughter of Finnbogi Rútur Þorvaldsson. Note that Icelandic patronymics are not replaced upon marriage: for example, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson’s first wife, Guðrún Katrín Þorbergsdóttir, was a daughter of Þorberg. Historically, the practice of using patronymics was common everywhere in the Old Norse realm. As a result, the most common surnames in all Scandinavian countries today—Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Faroe Islands—derive from patronymics.

viking-_names_England

The Vikings also brought the practice of using patronymics to the areas they settled in the British Isles. As can be seen from the map on the left, patronymic-derived surnames are common in the former Danelaw, although they are no longer the most common surnames in England. Deriving surnames from patronymics was also widespread elsewhere in Europe, including the Celtic-speaking and Slavic-speaking areas. Today, the most common surnames in Northern Ireland, Wales, and the Republic of Ireland are the patronymic-derived Wilson, Jones, and Murphy (respectively). In Slavic-speaking lands, the most popular surnames are patronymic-derived in Belarus, Bulgaria, and Serbia. An earlier patronymic is also the source of the most common surname in Belgium, Peeters.

Last_Names_UK

The second most common origin for surnames stems from occupations, such as ‘miller’, from which the top surnames in both Ukraine (Melnik) and Germany and Switzerland (Müller) derive. Another important occupational name is ‘Smith’, which gave rise to the most common surname in England and, according to the first map, in Scotland. A more detailed map of surnames in the UK shows that Smith is indeed the most common family name almost everywhere in England, but in Scotland it holds that position only in the Lowland areas. Since most of Scotland’s population indeed lives in the Lowlands (especially in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh), Smith rises to the first place. But in the Highlands, Scottish clan names, such as Fraser, Ross, Mackay, Campbell, McDonald, MacLeod, are prevalent. Although the clan structure was mostly destroyed by the depopulation of the Highlands in the late eighteenth century, some of it survives to this day. For example, Godfrey Macdonald of Macdonald is still the High Chief of Clan Donald on the Isle of Skye; his wife Claire McDonald is a renowned hotelier, chef, and food writer.

In several English counties surnames other than Smith are most common; those include other occupation-derived surnames such as Taylor and Cutler, as well as an occasional patronymic-derived surname, such as Robinson. In Wales and Cornwall, patronymic-based surnames such as Jones, Davies, Williams, and Lewis occupy the top position. Interestingly, the area where patronymic-based surnames are most frequent extends well beyond the areas where Celtic languages, Welsh and Cornish, have been spoken within the past several hundred years.

Besides patronymics and occupations, toponyms provide another important source of surnames. For example, the most common surname in Portugal, Almeida, derives from a town name. This tendency is common in a variety of European languages, though in no other country is a toponymic-based surname the most common one. Type of locations can also give rise to surnames; the most frequent family name in Austria, Gruber, comes from a word meaning ‘pit or mine’. Ethnic designations have also generated surnames, as in the most common family names in Slovakia and Croatia, Horváth and Horvat, both meaning ‘Croatian’. Surnames derived from Catholic saints can be common as well, such as Martin, the most frequent surname in France. Widespread surnames meaning either ‘priest’ or ‘son of priest’ include Popescu in Romania, Popović in Montenegro and Papadopoulos in Greece. Of similar origin are also the most frequent surnames in the heavily Muslim countries of Bosnia and Kosovo, Hodžić and Hoxha, which derive from a Persian word meaning ‘Master, Lord’. Possibly related in meaning is the most frequent surname in Hungary, Nagy, which means ‘great’. Other meanings of common surnames include ‘junior’, such as De Jong in the Netherlands and the Basque-derived García in Spain; ‘new’, as in Nowak in Poland, Novák in the Czech Republic, Novak in Slovenia; ‘red’, possibly a reference to red hair, as in Rossi in Italy; and ‘quiet, meek’, as in Smirnov in Russia. I have not been able to find the etymology of the most frequent surnames in Finland, Malta, Macedonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia—I would be happy to hear from our readers if they know.

Last_Names_US

As for the United States, the typographic map created by the National Geographic Magazine and reproduced on the left shows the 25 most common surnames in each US state, totaling 181 unique names. The size of the letters corresponds to the number of people with that surname and the color of the font represents the origin of the surname. The text associated with the map explains:

What’s in a Surname? A new view of the United States based on the distribution of common last names shows centuries of history and echoes some of America’s great immigration sagas. To compile this data, geographers at University College London used phone directories to find the predominant surnames in each state. Software then identified the probable provenances of the 181 names that emerged.”

As noted in the accompanying text, most common surnames in the US come from Great Britain. Those from England are shown in light blue and include the English champion surname Smith, as well as Miller, Johnson, and Brown. Welsh surnames are shown in medium blue; they include the most popular surname in Wales, Jones, as well as Thomas and Lewis. Another name depicted as Welsh in origin, Williams, is actually more common in Cornwall than in Wales. Surnames of Scottish origin are shown in the darkest shade of blue and include Campbell and Wilson. The commonality of these surnames throughout the United States reflects “the long head start the British had over many other settlers”, as the accompanying text puts it. Notably there is no significant difference between the South and the rest of the country in terms of the frequency of British surnames. This is partially explained by the fact that slaves often took their owners’ names: according to the National Geographic Magazine “about one in five Americans now named Smith are African American”. Moreover, many later immigrants, particularly Jewish immigrants from Poland and the Russian Empire, anglicized their names to ease assimilation. For example, the surname of San Francisco Symphony Musical Director Michael Tilson Thomas is an abbreviation of his grandparents’ name, Thomashefsky. Famous American composers Irving Berlin and George Gershwin were born Israel Baline (Bailin) and Jacob Gershowitz, respectively.

Not all immigrant groups opted for anglicizing their names; the traces of these immigrant streams can be distinguished on the surname map. On the National Geographic map, green represents Irish surnames such as Sullivan, Murphy, O’Brien, and Kelly, most common in New England. Pink represents surnames of French origin, which are found most frequently in Louisiana and Maine. Notably, the sets of common surnames in the two French-settled areas are distinct, reflecting their different histories: in Louisiana we find Hebert, Guidry, Leblanc, Boudreaux, Fontenot, and Richard, while in Maine the list includes Michaud, Pelletier, Cyr, and Ouellette. Orange represents surnames of German origin, including the most frequent surname in Germany, Mueller (and its anglicized version Miller), as well as Wagner, Schultz, Meyer, Weber, Schneider (and its anglicized version Snyder), and others. Surnames of the German origin are particularly common in the Midwest, especially Wisconsin, and throughout the Plains states, areas that were settled by early German immigrants; in the Great Plains, many of these settlers were Volga Germans. Interspersed with German surnames are those of Scandinavian origin, shown in brown. The most common among them is Anderson, an anglicized version of the most frequent Swedish surname Andersson. Hansen and Hanson are two alternative spellings of another common Scandinavian-derived surname, the most widespread family name in Norway. Olson, Carlson, Larson, and Erickson are among the other popular Scandinavian surnames.

Surnames of Spanish-origin such as Martinez, Hernandez, Garcia, Gonzalez, and Rodriguez, are very common, as expected, in California and elsewhere along the Mexican border and in south Florida. In California, Garcia and Martinez trail only Smith and Johnson. Also common in California are surnames of Chinese origin such as Lee—which is as frequent as Garcia or Jones—and names from other Asian countries, such as the Korean Kim and the Vietnamese Nguyen. Asian surnames also constitute more than half of the most common surnames in Hawaii, where Chinese names such as Lee, Wong, and Chang, Japanese surnames such as Watanabe, Yamamoto, and Nakamura, and the Korean surname Kim are as common as the European surnames Smith, Jones, and Miller.

One potential problem with the National Geographic categorization scheme is that some of the surnames that derive from multiple national sources, are not marked as such. Miller can, for example, be an Anglicized version the German Müller or an English surname; the map reflects that by having the surname Miller in orange in the Midwest and in light blue elsewhere. But in other cases, the distinct national sources are not reflected in the map. Perhaps the most geographically complex surname is Lee. The map codes Lee as Chinese, not noting that it can also be derived from Korean and Vietnamese family names. But Lee is also an English name, stemming usually from lēah, a meadow or forest clearing, a word that also yielded the surnames Lea and Leigh. The Irish surname Ó Laoidaigh was also Anglicized as Lee. Derived from these varied sources, Lee ranked as the 22nd-most-common surname in the United States in the 2000 census.

An interesting feature of the list of the most common surnames in the U.S. is the prevalence of names of Welsh origin—names that most Americans would probably incorrectly trace to England. Such family names include Williams (#3, trailing only Smith and Johnson), Jones (#5) and Davis (#7). Another common Welsh surname, Lewis, occupies the 26th position. But Lewis also has multiple origins, as it can stem from the German Ludwig, the French Louis, the Irish Mac Lughaidh, and the Jewish Levi. In the case of GeoCurrents co-author Martin Lewis, the name is definitely of Welsh origin. But in the Welsh original it likely would have been Llywelyn [ɬə'wɛlɪn]), having been turned into Lewis by Anglo-Norman scribes.

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Peter Rosa

    Some time ago I read that Miller is a fairly uncommon British surname (most Millers in America are Anglicized from Muller) because in Britain of centuries past grain millers were widely regarded as dishonest, all too willing to cheat hardworking farmers. Most parts of continental Europe lacked such prejudices and hence Muller and its variants are common surnames.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      I wonder…

    • Paul

      This week on Mythbusters….

  • Dmitry Pruss

    Hodžić and Hoxha – aren’t they honorifics for somebody who went on Hajj?

    As to Smirnov, the story I heard is that it was the Army name for new peasant recruits, from the command “at attention!”.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      1) quite possibly

      2) this story sounds to me like the fabled origin of French bistro

      • Ante

        1) No. The honorific is “hadžija”, and is reflected in what is also a fairly common bosnian muslim surname “Hadžić”.

        While “Hodžić” ultimately is derived from a persian word, it was introduced into Balkans through turkish language. Quick wikipedia search tells me that the turkish word in question is “hoca” (pronounced and written in bosnian as “hodža”).

        It’s a honorific, in the meaning of “teacher”, and is most often used for imams. In that way, “Hodžić” as the son of hodža (imam – of course, there is also the surname “Imamović”) is the same type of surname as serbian “Popović”, the son of pop (priest).

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Thanks for sharing this, Ante.

          • Jeronimo Constantina

            Regarding Hoxha in Albania, it happens to be the surname of the late Communist era leader of the country. When he led that country, many observers did not fail to note that he, the hardline Stalinist-era head of state and head of government of an officially atheist country had a name that meant “Muslim priest”.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Fascinating twist—thanks for sharing this, Jeronimo!

          • Dmitry Pruss
        • Dmitry Pruss

          BTW Russian word “хозяин” has the same origin. Vasmer explains Hoxha / Hodža as “lord / elder / teacher”, and mentions its appearance in Nikonian Chronicle as “hodzha” lord. The elder / teacher meaning would also refer to an imam?

          др.-русск. хозя “господин” (Афан. Никит.). Заимств. из чув. χоźа, χuźа “хозяин”, тур. χоdžа, крым.-тат., чагат, азерб., тат. χоǯа “учитель, хозяин, старец” (Радлов 2, 1708). Непосредственно из этого источника происходит др.-русск. ходжа “господин” (Никон. летоп.; см. Срезн. III, 1382)

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thanks for sharing that, Dmitry! It’s one of those “I should have figured it out but not I haven’t” moments…

  • Frans van Nes

    For the 500 most common Estonian surnames see http://www.ekspress.ee/news/paevauudised/eestiuudised/top-500-eesti-koige-levinumad-perekonnanimed.d?id=27677149. Among the top 15 the nrs 1, 6, 7, 8, 11, and 14 are Russian. Number 2, Tamm, is a tree name (‘oak’), as well as no 3 (Saar, ‘ash’, but also ‘island’), 9 (Kask, ‘birch’), and 15 (Pärn, ‘lime’). Number 4, Sepp, is the Estonian Smith. Number 5, Mägi, means ‘hill’ or ‘mountain’. The numbers 10, 12 and 13 are animal names: Kukk (‘cock’), Rebane (‘fox’), and Ilves (‘lynx’).

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you, Frans. This is very interesting. For reasons of space, I didn’t go much beyond the top frequent surnames, but similar surname strategies are evident across Europe.

  • jantre

    I’m surprised there is no discussion of the name Rogers/Rodgers. It is very common in the Midwest US.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Interesting. But I don’t see it on the map of the most common surnames…

      • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

        According to the Wikipedia, “Rogers/Rodgers” ranks 54 in the US and 77 in the UK. It is an Anglo-Norman name, unlike most most British surnames that stem from a male given name with an “s” attached, which are generally Welsh (such as “Williams”).

  • Peter Rosa

    Although I grew up in a city with a very large Italian-American population I never knew of anyone named Rossi. It could be just a quirk, but then again the most of the people were of southern Italian (Campania, Basilicata, Calabria) descent, could Rossi be more common in northern Italy?

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      You know, I was thinking the same thing: I know quite a few Italians as well as Italian Americans and I’ve never met anyone whose last name is Rossi.

      According to this website (http://www.italianames.com/italian_surnames.php), there is over 68,000 families with the surname Rossi. But that out of nearly 60 million. This tells me that there are probably a lot of (fairly common) surnames in Italy, unlike in Korea, for example, where only 5-6 surnames constitutes the majority of the population. From their list of the 20 most common Italian surnames I know only one Bianchi and one Mancini…

      It may be a quirk of geography, although most of my Italian acquaintances are from northern Italy, where at least according to this website (http://retaggio.it/onomastica/r/rossi-origine-cognome.asp) the name Rossi is more common. The latter is a fun website indeed!

      • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

        And here’s another great website that maps all surnames in Italy:

        http://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/ROSSI

        As you can see, Rossi is indeed more common in the north and center. And another aspect of Italian surnames: they have a lot of variants so indeed there are numerous unique surname.

        • Peter Rosa

          Fascinating site! Though, I fear, one that could become a bit of a time-suck :)
          I was plugging in the names of many of my schoolmates and other people from my hometown, and indeed most of the names are predominately southern. Oddly enough my own surname (which also can be Spanish or Portuguese) tends to be more commonly from northern Italy, though my ancestors on that side were from Basilicata.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Oh yeah such website can be a veritable time-suck! I hope you come back here in time for our next post some time early next week…

    • Jonathan

      Russo in the south, Rossi in the north. I think.

  • Pingback: Maps as Organizational Templates | diana maps

  • Claus R. B. Nielsen

    Thank you for a very interesting post, Asya!
    Regarding the Danish and Norwegian variant of the patronymic surname suffix “sen” (as in Jensen, Hansen, Nielsen, etc.), I think it is also important to mention that the sen-suffix, in terms of spelling as well as phonetically, does not anymore correspond 100 % to the present form of the Danish Word for son: “søn” (with one of the additional three Danish alphabetical letters “ø” in the middle). This makes the pronunciation different from both “son” and “sen” in Danish.
    Like most Danes, I do not think on a daily basis of the fact that the sen-suffix in many of our surnames actually mean “son”. Therefore, I do not know exactly when and why this change from “søn” to “sen” took place, but the fact remains that the use of the masculine suffix in Danish patronymic surnames has undergone a small, yet phonetically important, development in its spelling.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for bringing up this point, Claus. Indeed, in many languages, not only Danish, the patronymic suffix and the word for ‘son’ acquired separate identities and went their separate ways, as far as phonology goes. As a matter of fact, in Russian the patronymic suffix and the patronymic-derived suffix in surnames are distinct: hence, one can be Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov.

      • SirBedevere

        Could this be an artifact of the Danes trying to keep their spelling so that it reflects modern pronunciation? English, of course, tends to retain spellings, even where the pronunciation has changed entirely. Thus, the last syllable of my name, Wilson, is written like the modern word son, yet the common noun is now pronounced [sun], while the patronymic syllable of the name hardly has a vowel at all. And yes, Asya, my direct male ancestors were Scottish, at least for the century before they came to the United States in the early nineteenth century.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Indeed the spelling is more conservative than pronunciation—but that’s hardly a peculiarity of Danish and English…

  • hapaxl

    = Lithuanian top name: Kazlauskas

    It derives from Kozlowski (fem. Kozlowska), slavic surname which became lithuanized in 20th Century. Lithuanian names always end with -s and letter w changes to u when it comes to slavic-oringin surnames. For centuries Lithuania has been influenced by Polish language and culture. Polish origin surnames form large percent of names overall and that is most evident in eastern part of Lithuania where nearly one-third population are still classified as ethnic Poles.

    Kozlowski means ‘of goat’ (goat breeder, goat farmer). Kozlowski is one of the top names in Poland. Here you can see frequency in Poland in male Kozlowski form http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/koz%25C5%2582owski.html and female Kozlowska form http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/koz%25C5%2582owska.html

    Greets

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for sharing this, hapaxl! I figured that the surname was probably Slavic and had something to do with ‘goat’ but wasn’t quite sure what the precise etymology is. — Are goats (and goat herding) so common in Lithuania? I wonder…

      • hapaxl

        Good point! Goat herding is not comon at all. Precisely Koziol/Koza means any male of middle-sized hoof animal i.e. buck, deer etc. To me that was also questionable why there are so many names related to goat. Cattle and swine are typical farm animals in the area but related names are very rare! Some popular Polish names such as Golebiowski (Golab = dove / pigeon) are even more astonishing. This name is centuries old and very popular in all classes, even some nobility carry it.
        But the most curious is Lewandowski /-ska!! This common Polish name with foreign root ‘Lewand’ is a hard one! All interpretations seem incorrect to me. Lewand = Levant? eastern Mediterranean origin? Lavender? (plant, which is not cultivated due to cold climate). Or ‘of Levi’, a name for new christians, assimilated Jewish people? (history sources show that different naming patterns were used).
        http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/lewandowski.html
        (alltogether nearly 90k people holding that name)

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Ah yes, it is a very common name, Lewandowski. There was a famous Soviet pilot of that name.

          As for the popularity of Kozlowski, it is important to remember that if there are many people of that surname today, it doesn’t mean that there were necessarily many people historically who had that name. As with Y-DNA, the distribution is highly dependent on “reproductive success” of males with various surnames. If for some accidental reason, Kozlowkis managed to have many sons (as opposed to few, or daughters), that would make the name common even if it wasn’t to begin with.

        • nachasz

          To me that was also questionable why there are so many names related to goat. Cattle and swine are typical farm animals in the area but related names are very rare!

          Most people would not like to be called Mr or Ms Swine, on the other hand boar is quite OK http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/dzik.html http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/dzikowski.html Cats are common http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/kot.html but there are no Dogs.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Good point about Mr. Swine. Still, surnames based on ‘cow’ are quite common in Russian, and I would expect in Polish too, no?

          • nachasz

            Коровёв? In Poland those derived from ‘bull’ are more numerous: Bykowski, Wołowiec and Ciołek. The last one seems to be most common http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/cio%25C5%2582ek.html It was also the name of coat of arms.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Коровьев, Коровин. And yes “bull” surnames are also common in Russian: Быков, Быковский…

  • kiiski

    Nice post! The most common suffix in Finnish surnames, -nen, could be translated as “of”. It has been used in bynames at least since medieval times, especially in Eastern Finland (“Korhonen” is one of these). However, most surnames with this suffix were adopted only in the late 1800s, often based on names of natural features. Before this time, most people in Western Finland didn’t have surnames: instead, a patronymic or the name of the farmstead or the village was used if specification was needed. Later, many farmstead names became heritable surnames: these often end in -la or -lä (denoting place).
    A more detailed explanation here:
    http://finland.fi/Public/default.aspx?contentid=224450

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for sharing this, kiiski. Very illuminating!

  • Gearalt Ua Fathaigh

    I’m afraid you made an error when you say Irish names like Sullivan, O’Brien etc. weren’t anglicised in American – they were already anglicised in Ireland before they left!

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Good point, Gearalt!

    • Barra Mac Giolla Fhiondáin

      Ar dóigh! Maith thú!

  • Gearalt Ua Fathaigh

    My own surname ‘Ó Fathaigh’ has been anglicised variously as Fahy, Fahey, Vahey! and Green!

    • Liam

      Following on from Gearalt’s post, I would say that the US map wrongly assumes that very common names like Brown, Smith, Johnson etc are always English. They are not. Often these names are either “translated names” or simplified versions of already anglicised Irish names (Gaelic or Norman) – viz de Brun, McGowan/MacGabhan, McKeown/ Mac Eoin etc. Also, Wilson is not “Scottish” it is most def a Germanic name.

      • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

        That’s a good point, though I guess it depends on what we (or the authors of the map) mean by labels such as “English” or “Scottish”. It doesn’t seem consistent though. I am guessing that by “English” the authors of the map meant “of English linguistic origin” (which these names are, even when adopted by people who come from places other than England), whereas by “Scottish” they mean not “from Scottish Gaelic” but “from Scotland”, which isn’t the same thing at all. Wilson is indeed more common in Scotland than in England, as far as I can tell, so in that sense it is “Scottish”. So in one case, a reference is made to the etymology of the name and in the other to the geographical origin of the people. Indeed, a more consistent classification scheme would be better.

  • Evan

    I have always wondered about my family’s surname (they came from Prague, but were German-speaking Jews). The name is Ottenfeld. Does that seem to be characteristic of German?

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Good question. “Feld” is German for “field”, and I am not sure about Otten— perhaps some of our readers know?

  • Peter Rosa

    Some years ago I worked with a man whose surname was Wing, and he was not Asian, not even a bit. It turns out that Wing is an English name of ancient origins.
    And then of course there was the “Donna Chang” episode on Seinfeld.

  • Milo Bem

    Macedonian name Stojanovski is derived from common name Stojan which is probably related to verb to stand, Polish noun stojan is a part of engine that doesn’t move.
    Latvian Berzinsh is from berzs (birch, ru:bereza, pl:brzoza) like similar Polish name Brzezinski.
    Lithuanian Kazlauskas comes from Polish Kozlowski derived from Koziol (goat).
    According to google Estonian Tammi is from tamm (oak) and Maltese Borg is from collective consciousness of cybernetic drones.
    Polish name ending in -ski are may be derived from town/village especially for nobility (Tarnowski), but really from anything including father’s name (Jankowski) or just from any other, simpler surname.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks for sharing this, Milo! In some cases I could guess the meaning of the name, but I wasn’t sure…

    • Kostas

      You start with the word Macedonian and then you tell all the history of the Slavic names. No connection.

  • Zé Do Rock

    many smith’s might have their name from german schmidt, schmitt, schmid or schmied.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      This is a good point and another great example of how the (apparent) same surname can come from different sources. Still, since “Smith” is the most common surname in the English-speaking world one expects that many American Smiths derive their name from English, not German.

      • Zé Do Rock

        yeah, for sure. i red once that thare ar much mor millers in the USA than in england, and that must come from the fact that not many people liked to be called a miller in england, since they wer somehow famous for being tricky businessmen – dont know if this is tru or an urban legend. and i dont know if anybody made some counts, probbably yes, peeple make counts of evrything nowadays – or you can count in the telephone book.

        so it could be intresting to verify the proportion of millers and smiths among english names in england and among english names in the US. the difrence between the 2 proportions could be atribbuted to foreign origins, in this case german (i dont know many dutch peeple calld smid or scandinavian peeple calld smed).

        in brazil thare ar many ferreiras of syrian-lebanese descent, they had the arabic name haddad (smith) and changed it to ferreira, since they didnt like to be calld turks (they had a passport from the osman empire).

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Thanks for sharing that!

  • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Jeronimo Constantina

      Very interesting and informative map. A pity, though, that the must common surname is not given for Moldova. It would be interesting to compare it with its Romanian counterpart, considering that the same language is spoken in the two countries. It is significant that, with respect to many of your other examples, where two countries or nations share the same major language, the most common surname is also the same, e.g. “Muller” for Germany and Switzerland [okay, Swiss German is considered a separate language, though Switzerland uses High German for more formal occasions, religious services, and in schools, etc.], or “Smith” for England and Scotland.

  • Ana

    The most common surname in kosovo is actually Krasniqi and not Hoxha… Hoxha is common in Albania not kosovo.
    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/255687271_Mbiemrat_e_sotm_t_shqiptarve_t_kosovs_(Kosovar_Albanian_Surnames)/file/e0b495202f30e88faf.pdf

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks for the correction, Ana!

  • Rui Julio

    The most common portuguese surname is, by far, Silva. According to wikipedia Almeida only comes in 17th!

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks for the correction

  • Rui Júlio

    Not accurate! The most common portuguese surname is, by far, Silva. According to wikipedia Almeida only comes in 17th!

  • Fernando Pessoa

    What were the sources of the raw data? In the case of Portugal, Almeida comes as a surprise as the most common family name… The vox populi (I admit: not a very scientific source) is the most common family names in Portugal are Santos, Silva, Ferreira, Gonçalves… My personal perception (again, not very scientific) is that Almeida is not that common, certainly not as common as Santos.
    The origin of family names is tricky: not always the etymology is what it seems to be (e.g., Rua and Ruas seems to be Portuguese for “Street” and “Streets”, but it’s actually a phonetic adaptation of the Hebrew “Ruah”). But, taken from the most immediate meaning, Santos is a religious name (“Saints”), Silva is probably a generic toponym (an archaic form of “Forest”, though some put that in question), Ferreira is a toponym (the name of a river and the surrounding region) and Gonçalves is a patronymic (“son of Gonçalo”).

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks for the correction, Fernando!

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  • Kostas

    Macedonia? You probably mean F.Y.R.O.M..

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