How Do You Find Out the Nationality of Your Last Name?

One way to find out the nationality of a last name is to determine in what country the suffix originated. Prefixes are another method of discovering a name’s origin, as many of them mean “of,” “from” or “the.”

Names with the suffixes “-brook,” “-field,” “-ford,” “-ham” or “-ton” are English or British surnames. Some French suffixes include “-eau,” “-el,” “-iau,” “-on” and “-ot.” There are many suffixes in German surnames, including “-au,” “-baum,” “-berg,” “-heim” and “-stein.” Italian surnames have prefixes such as “-ello,” “-etti” and “uzzo,” although occasionally an “a” or an “i” is substituted for the “o.” Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Swedish surnames all have common suffixes, as well.

Prefixes are indicative of specific languages that help narrow down countries or regions of a name’s origin. For example, an Arabic surname might start with “Al-” or “El-,” a Belgian surname with a “De-,” or a French surname might start with a “Du-” or “Le-.” Certain surnames are taken from a particular profession and indicate a language of origin, as well. Some British names based on professions are “Baker,” “Miller,” “Barker” or “Speakman.”

A few last names have two different countries of origin. One name shared by both British and German ethnicities is “Ruff.” The British origin is descriptive of the condition of a land or it’s people. In German, the name comes from the word that means red and is related to the names “Rolf,” “Roth,” “Rufus” and “Russell.”