A patronym, is a component of a personal name based on the name of one's father. A component of a name based on the name of one's mother is a matronym. Each is a means of conveying lineage. Obviously during singular naming there was a considerable time of loose patronomization before they became a formal part of a person's name in 1700's.

In many areas patronyms predate the use of family names. They are common as middle names in Russia and in Iceland few people have surnames.

Many Celtic, Iberian, Slavic, English, and Scandinavian surnames originate from patronyms, e.g. Wilson (son of William), Powell (ap Hywel), Fernández (of Fernando), Carlsson (son of Carl, e.g., Erik Carlsson), Stefanović (son of Stefan, e.g., Vuk Stefanović Karadžić) and O'Connor (grandson of Connor). Similarly, other cultures which formerly used patronyms have since switched to the more widespread style of passing the father's last name to the children (and wife) as their own.

Patronyms can simplify or complicate genealogical research. A father's first name is easily determinable when his children have a patronym; however, migration has frequently resulted in a switch from a patronymic to a family name due to different local customs. Most immigrants adapt as soon as birth, marriage, and death certificates must be written. Depending on the countries concerned, family research in the nineteenth century or earlier needs to take this into account.

In biological taxonomy, a patronym is a specific epithet which is a Latinized surname. These often honor associates of the biologist who named the organism rather than the biologist himself. Examples include [agassizii], named by James Graham Cooper after Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, and Acacia greggii, named by botanist Asa Gray after explorer Josiah Gregg.


Western Europe

In Western Europe patronyms were formerly widespread but latter became confined to Scandinavia.


In Scandinavia patronyms and matronyms were formed by using the ending -son (later -sen in Danish and Norwegian) to indicate "son of", and -dotter (Icelandic -dóttir, Danish -datter) for "daughter of". In Iceland, patronymics are in fact still compulsory by law, with a handful of exceptions This name was generally used as a last name although a third name, a so-called byname based on location or personal characteristic was often added to differentiate people. The use of Scandinavian-style patronymics, particularly in its Danish variation with the ending -sen, was also widespread in northern Germany. This reflects the influence of Scandinavia in this part of Germany during the centuries.

In Finland, the use of patronyms instead of family names was very common well into the 19th century. Patronymics were composed similarly as in Swedish language or other Scandinavian languages: the father's name and the suffix -n for genitive plus the word poika for sons, tytär for daughters. For example Tuomas Abrahaminpoika ("Tuomas Abraham's son") and Martta Heikintytär ("Martta Heikki's daughter").


In Dutch, patronymics were often used in place of family names or as middle names. Patronymics were composed of the father's name plus an ending -zoon for sons, -dochter for daughters. For instance, Abel Janszoon Tasman is "Abel son of Jan Tasman", and Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer: "Kenau, daughter of Simon Hasselaer". In written form, these endings were often abbreviated as -sz and -dr respectively eg. Jeroen Cornelisz "Jeroen son of Cornelis", or Volkert Evertsz. The endings -s, -se and -sen were also commonly used for sons and often for daughters too. In the northern provinces, -s, as genitive case, was almost universally used for both sons and daughters. Patronymics were common in the Dutch United Provinces until the French invasion in 1795 and subsequent annexation in 1810. As the Netherlands were now a province of France, a registry of births, deaths and marriages was established in 1811, whereupon emperor Napoleon forced the Dutch to register and adopt a distinct surname. Often, they simply made the patronymics the new family names, and modern Dutch patronymic-based surnames such as Jansen, Pietersen and Willemsen abound. Others chose their profession as family names: Bakker (baker), Slagter (butcher) etc.

Ireland, Scotland and Wales

The use of "Mac" in some form, was prevalent in Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Manx. "Mc" is also a frequent anglicisation in both Scotland and Ireland. In Ireland, the forms "Mag" and "M'" are encountered. The prefix "Mac" is used to form a patronym, such as "MacCoinnich" - or the anglicized 'Mackenzie' - son of Coinneach/Kenneth. Less well known in the Anglosphere is the female equivalent of Mac, Nic, condensed from nighean mhic (in Scottish Gaelic) or iníon mhic (in Irish). For example, the Scottish Gaelic surname, Nic Dhòmhnaill meaning 'daughter of a son of Dòmhnall' (in English, Donald), as in Mairi Nic Dhòmhnaill, or Mary MacDonald. In Ireland, the use of Ó (and its feminine equivalent , from iníon uí), anglicised "O'" and meaning 'grandson' predominated over "Mac". At the north end of the Irish Sea, in Ulster, the Isle of Man and Galloway (indeed as far north as Argyll), "Mac" was frequently truncated in speech, leading to such anglicisations as "Qualtrough" (Son of Walter) & "Quayle" (son of Paul, cf. MacPhail) - usually beginning with "C", "K" or "Q". In Ireland, this truncation resulted in surnames such as "Guinness" (son of Aonghus, cf. MacAonghusa) beginning usually in "C" or "G" for patronymics prefixed with Mac, and in "H" (e.g "Hurley" (descendant of Jarlath, cf. Ua hIarfhlatha/O'Hurley) for surnames prefixed with "O". Colloquial Scottish Gaelic also has other patronymics of a slightly different form for individuals, still in use (for more information please see: Scottish Gaelic personal naming system). An interesting crossover variation in the use of "O'" for grandson in Irish and "Ap" for son in Welsh, was that the West Waleian name Ho-well was derived from Ui'Well of old Irish, which then became O'Well... then Howell in their Welsh relatives. As for Ap Howell, that does mean, 'the son of the grandson of...Well'

In Wales, before the 1536 Act of Union all Welsh people used patronyms and matronym as the sole way of naming people. Welsh, as a p-Celtic language, used "Map" (Modern Welsh "Mab") in contrast to the q-Celtic Scottish "Mac". Rhydderch ap Watcyn was Rhydderch son of Watcyn. Daughters were indicated by verch (from merch, meaning 'girl, daughter'), as in Angharad Verch Owain or 'Angharad, daughter of Owain'. This gave rise to names such as ap Hywel being — after the Acts of Union — used as Anglicised surnames; in this case the name ap Hywel became the surnames Howell/Powell. There are many such Anglicised surnames, such as Bowen from ab Owen, Protheroe from ap Rhydderch, and Pulliam from ap William. Up until the Industrial Revolution the use of patronyms was still widespread, especially in the South West, Mid West and North of Wales. There was a revival of patronyms during the 20th century, which continues today. Myrddin ap Dafydd is a contemporary Welsh poet.


The archaic French, more specifically, Norman, prefix fitz, which is cognate with the modern French fils, meaning son, appears in England's aristocratic family lines dating from the Norman Conquest, and also among the Anglo-Irish. Thus there are names like Fitzgerald and Fitzhugh. Of particular interest is the name Fitzroy, meaning "King's son", which was used by Royal bastards who were acknowledged as such by their fathers.

In modern France the terms patronyme and nom patronymique have been used to designate the family name, meaning that it is inherited from the father. This usage is contrary to the international meaning as described in the rest of this article. A law enacted in 2002 mandates the replacement of these terms by nom de famille as in another countries, but as with all such laws it may take some time before everyone adopts the change.

Iberian Peninsula

In Portugal, there are some common surnames which had a patronymic genesis, but are no longer used in such way. For instance, Álvares was the son of Álvaro and Gonçalves was the son of Gonçalo (it was the case of Nuno Álvares Pereira, son of Álvaro Gonçalves Pereira, son of Gonçalo Pereira). Other cases include Rodrigues (Rodrigo) and Nunes (Nuno). In the same way the surname Soares means son of Soeiro (in Latin Suarius). It comes from Latin Suarici (son of Suarius); the Latin genitive suffix -icius/a was used to indicate a patronymic. After it became Suariz, Suarez and eventually Soares.

Spanish patronyms follow a similar pattern to the Portuguese (e.g., López: of Lope; Hernández: of Hernando; Álvarez: of Álvaro). Common endings include -ez, -az, -is, and -oz. (Note: Not all names with similar endings are necessarily patronymic. For example: Ramas, Vargas, and Morales.)

Eastern Europe


In East Slavic languages, the ending -vich is used to form patronymics for men. For example, in Russian, a man named Ivan with a father named Nikolay would be known as Ivan Nikolayevich or 'Ivan, son of Nikolay' (Nikolayevich being a patronymic). For women, the ending is -yevna, -ovna or -ichna. For masculine names ending in a vowel, such as Ilya or Foma, the corresponding endings are -ich and -inichna.

In Russia, the patronymic is an official part of the name, used in all official documents, and when addressing somebody both formally and among friends. A Russian will rarely formally address a person named Mikhail simply as 'Mikhail', but rather as 'Mikhail' followed by his patronymic (i.e. 'Mikhail Nikolayevich' or 'Mikhail Sergeyevich' etc). However, on informal occasions when a person is called by a diminutive (such as Misha for Mikhail), the patronymic is rarely used. In colloquial, informal speech, it is also possible to contract the ending of a patronymic: thus Nikolayevich becomes Nikolaich, and Stepan Ivanovich becomes Stepan Ivanych or simply Ivanych as the given name may be omitted altogether. In this case the contraction, if possible, is obligatory: Ivan Sergeyevich Sidorov may be called 'Sergeich' or, more rarely, 'Sergeyevich', though such contractions are sometimes avoided as they tend to bring a shade of muzhik-style familiarity. A famous example of a contracted female patronymic is 'Mar' Ivanna' (Марьванна), short for 'Maria Ivanovna' (Мария Ивановна), a young female teacher who is a recurring character in Vovochka jokes. In contrast to male names, if a woman is called by her patronymic name without a given name, the patronymic is never contracted: 'Ivanovna' but 'Mar' Ivanna'. Male and female patronymic names derived from names ending in -slav (Vladislav, Yaroslav) have two possible forms: long, with -vovich/-vovna (Yaroslavovich, Yaroslavovna) and short, with -vich, -vna (Yaroslavich, Yaroslavna). A curious use of a Russian patronymic occurs in some Tom Clancy novels; the character John Patrick Ryan, whose father was Emmet Ryan, is addressed as Ivan Emmetovich by a Russian colleague, Sergei Nikolaich (Nikolaievich) Golovko. Similarly, the name of the Arabic genie from the Russian book Old Khottabych (Starik Khottabych) by Lazar Lagin was constructed from the genie's name 'Hassan Abdul-rahman ibn Khattab'.


In Ukrainian, the female Patronymic ends with -ivna. The male version is the same as in Russian.


In Bulgarian, the patronymics are -ov/-ev and -ova/-eva for men and women, respectively. These are identical to the common endings of Bulgarian and some other Slavic family names (such as names in Russian and Czech).

Some South Slavic surnames look morphologically identical to East Slavic patronymics, but do not change form between masculine and feminine: Milla Jovovich and not 'Jovovna'. In addition, these surnames cannot be contracted using the pattern described above, and generally carry the stress on a different syllable. Examples include Mikhail Andreyevich Miloradovich and Vladislav Khodasevich.


In Hungarian, patronyms were traditionally formed with the ending -fi (sometimes spelled as -fy or -ffy). This system is no longer in common use, though traces of it can still be found in some frequent present-day surnames such as Pálfi (son of Paul), Győrfi, Bánfi or in the name of the famous poet Sándor Petőfi. In the Old Hungarian period (10th16th century, see History of Hungarian), when surnames were not in common use, the full genitive was represented as in Péter fia András (Peter's son Andrew); these forms are in frequent use in charters and legal documents dated back to that time.


In Romanian, the endings -escu and -eanu were used, as in Petrescu, 'son of Petre (Peter)'; many modern Romanian family names were formed from such patronymics.


Most Greek surnames are patronymics, albeit in various forms depending on ancestral locality. Diminutive suffixes which denote "son of", or more generally "descendant of", are produced as follows: starting with the given name Δημήτριος, Dēmétrios, for example, the patronymic surnames Dēmētrópoulos (Northern Peloponnesus), Dēmētrákos (Laconia), Dēmētréas (Messenia), Dēmētrátos (Cephalonia), Dēmētrákēs (Crete), Dēmētriádēs (Asia Minor, also -ídēs), Dēmētréllēs (Lesbos), or simply Dēmētríou (the first name in the Genitive) are formed. The same principle can apply to surnames deriving from professions, for example from παπάς, papás, priest, one derives the surnames Papadópoulos, Papadákos, Papadéas, Papadátos, Papadákēs, Papadéllēs, Pappá etc, all of which signify a "priest's son". The same principle(s) may apply in combination, eg Papanikoláou, Papanikolópoulos, "the son of the Reverend Nicholas". A daughter's patronymic is the same as the son's, but always declined in the Genitive, eg Dēmētropoúlou, Papanikoláou etc.



Use of patronymics was introduced in Armenia by Russians during the times of Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Previously to that use of patronymics was very limited. Patronymics are usually formed by addition of "i" (pronounced as ee) to the father's name, e.g. if father's name is "Armen", the corresponding patronymic would be "Armeni". Russified version of the same patronymic would be "Armenovich" for males and "Armenovna" for females. After Armenia re-gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 a massive decline in use of Russified patronymics occurred; nowadays few Armenians use patronymics.


In Azeri, patronymics are formed through oğlu (sometimes transliterated as ogly) for males and qızı (often transliterated as gizi or kizi) for females. Prior to the late 19th–early 20th century, patronymics were used as an essential part of a person's full name, i.e. Sardar Ilyas oğlu ("Sardar, son of Ilyas") and Mina Nabi qızı ("Mina, daughter of Nabi"), since surnames were mostly non-existent before Sovietization (with the exception of the upper and some middle class families). After surnames were commonly adopted in Azerbaijan in the 1920s, patronymics still remained parts of full names, i.e. Sardar Ilyas oğlu Aliyev ("Sardar Aliyev, son of Ilyas"). Nowadays in Azerbaijan, patronymics sometimes replace surnames in unofficial use. Normally in such case, they are spelled as one word (i.e. Eldar Mammadoğlu, Sabina Yusifqızı). Many Azeri surnames are also derived from Persian-style patronymics ending in -zadeh (Kazimzadeh, Mehdizadeh, etc.). They are found among both Caucasian and Iranian Azeris. However unlike the former, Azeris in Iran do not generally use patronymics in oglu / qizi. Azeri patronymics are not to be confused with Turkish surnames in -oğlu and Greek surnames in -ογλού (-oglou), which do not have specific female versions and do not reflect names of fathers.


In Georgian, patronymics, when used, come with the addition of s to the end of the father's name, followed by dze. For example, Joseph Stalin's actual name was Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili. s in Georgian is a possessive, and dze means son. Georgian last names are in fact mostly patronymic in nature. Two common elements in Georgian last names, dze and shvili mean son of, and child, respectively.

Middle East


In Arabic, the word "ibn" (ابن) (or بن: "bin", "ben" and sometimes "ibni" and "ibnu" to show the final declension of the noun) is the equivalent of the "-son" suffix discussed above (The prefix ben- is used similarly in Hebrew). In addition, "bint" (بنت) means "daughter of". Thus, for example, "Ali ibn Amr" means "Ali son of Amr". The word "Abu" means "father of", so "Abu Ali" is another name for "Amr". In medieval times, a bastard of unknown parentage would sometimes be termed "ibn Abihi", "son of his father" (notably Ziyad ibn Abihi.) In the Qur'an, Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is consistently termed "Isa ibn Maryam" - a matronymic (in the Qur'an, Jesus has no father; see Islamic view of Jesus). An Arabic patronymic can be extended as far back as family tree records will allow: thus, for example, Ibn Khaldun gives his own full name as "Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Jabir ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Abd ar-Rahman ibn Khaldun". Patronymics are still standard in parts of the Arab world, notably Saudi Arabia; however, most of the Arab world has switched to a family name system. As in English, the new family names are sometimes based on what was formerly a patronymic. Oftentimes, the word Ibn is replaced with a "b." and bint with a "bt." in name formulas rendered from Arabic into Latin characters. Thus Hisham Ibn al-Kalbi becomes simply Hisham b. al-Kalbi.

In Iraq, full names are formed by combining the given name of an individual with the given name of their father (sometimes the father is skipped and the grandfather's given name is used instead, sometimes both father and grandfather are used), along with the town, village, or clan name. For instance, Hayder Muhammed al-Tikriti is the son of Muhammed named Hayder, and he is from the town of Tikrit.


In Aramaic, the prefix bar- means "son" and is used as a prefix meaning "son of". In the Bible, Peter is called Bar-jonah in 17 and Nathanael is possibly called Bartholomew because he is the son of Tolmai. The titles can also be figurative, for example in Acts 4:36-37 a man named Joseph is called Barnabas meaning son of consolation.

Jewish usage

Jews have historically used Hebrew patronymic names. In the Jewish patronymic system the first name is followed by either ben- or bat- ("son of" and "daughter of," respectively), and then the father's name. (Bar-, "son of" in Aramaic, is also seen). Permanent family surnames exist today but only gained popularity among Sephardic Jews in Iberia and elsewhere as early as the 10th or 11th century and did not spread widely to the Ashkenazic Jews of Germany or Eastern Europe until much later. While Jews now have permanent surnames for everyday life, the patronymic form is still used in religious life. It is used in synagogue and in documents in Jewish law such as the ketubah (marriage contract). Many Sephardic Jews used the Arabic ibn instead of bat or ben when it was the norm. The Spanish family Ibn Ezra is one example.

Many immigrants to modern Israel change their names to Hebrew names, to erase remnants of galuti (exiled) life still surviving in family names from other languages. It was especially among in Ashkenazic Jews, because most of their names were taken later and some were imposed by the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires.

A popular form to create a new family name using Jewish patronymics sometimes related to poetic Zionist themes, such as ben Ami ("son of my people"), or ben Artzi ("son of my country"), and sometimes related to the Israeli landscape, such as bar Ilan ("son of the trees"). Others have create Hebrew names based on phonetic similarity with their original family name: Golda Meyersohn became Golda Meir. Another famous person who used a false patronymic was the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, whose original family name was Grün but adopted the name "Ben-Gurion" ("son of the lion cub"), not "Ben-Avigdor" (his father's name).

Indian subcontinent

Patronymy is common in parts of India and Pakistan. If a father is named Khurram Suleman (Muslim masculine name), he will name his son, for example, Taha Khurram, who would name his son, for example, Ismail Taha. Surnames are therefore not preserved across generations.

In Ancient India during the Vedic Age, when Sanskrit was the lingua franca, patronymics were common and used as the surname. Sanskrit patronymic was formed by making adjectival form of the father's (or clan's forefather's) given name. To make adjective, Indo-European ablaut (a phonological process) takes place and the first vowel in the patronymic gets an additional, initial /a/. This changes (in the vowel of the first syllable) short /a/ to ā, short and long /i/ and /ē/ to ai, short and long /u/ and /ō/ to /au/. There can also be a suffix, like -ya. E.g.:

  • The very first mantra of the Rigveda has its seer named Madhuchchhandā Vaishvāmitra, meaning Madhuchchhandā, son of (or of lineage of) sage Vishvāmitra
  • Buddha Shākyamuni had patronymic Gautama due to his lineage from sage Gotama
  • The clan descended from Sage Agasti is called Āgastya.
  • The full name of Draupadi was Krishnā Draupadī, meaning Krishnā, daughter of Drupada.
  • As Krishna (Vishnu's avatar) was the son of Vasudeva, his name was Krishna Vāsudeva.

In southern India, in Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala and Karnataka, patronymy is almost the norm. This is a significant departure from the rest of the country where caste or family names are mostly employed as surnames.

However, rather than using the father's full name, only the first letter—known as initials—is prefixed to the given name. For example, if a person's personal name is Saravanan and his father's Muthukumaran, then the full name is M. Saravanan and is seldom expanded, even in official records. Some families follow the tradition of retaining the name of the hometown, the grandfather's name, or both, as initials. The celebrated Indian English novelist R. K. Narayan's name at birth was Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Narayanaswami, which was shortened at the behest of his writer friend Graham Greene. Rasipuram, the first name, is a toponym and Krishnaswami Ayyar, the second name, is a patronym.

Outsiders and fellow compatriots are frequently baffled by this unusual naming convention, as are these individuals themselves by the concept of surnames. Both are often mistaken. That a personal name in south India can comprise several parts only helps add to the confusion. A Tamil name like P. Valarmathi Josephine Cynthia often ends up being broken down, by mistake, into three parts—first name, middle name, and last name—in northern India. A person named M. Saravanan is often thought to be using his surname with the given name initialized, where in fact, it is only the given name he goes by.

Nonetheless, the growing trend in cities in southern India and among expatriates is to expand the father’s name and suffix it to one’s given name, thus creating an illusory surname and preventing any possible confusion. The name stated in the earlier example, M. Saravanan can be rewritten as Saravanan Muthukumaran, bringing it in line with the western naming convention.

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