AskDefine | Define patronymic

Dictionary Definition

patronymic adj : of a patronymic name n : a name derived with an affix (such as -son in English or O'- in Irish) from the name of your father or a paternal ancestor

User Contributed Dictionary



From πατήρ + ὄνομα.


  1. Derived from ancestors; as, a patronymic denomination.



patronymic (plural: patronymics)
  1. name acquired from one's father's first name. Some cultures use a patronymic where other cultures use a surname or family name; other cultures use both a patronymic and a surname.


a name from father's name

Usage notes

A patronymic is often formed by adding a prefix or suffix to a name.
First Name Affix Patronymic

Related terms

Extensive Definition

A patronymic, or 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 matronymic, or matronym. Each is a means of conveying lineage.
In many areas patronymics predate the use of family names. They, along with the less common matronymics, are still used in Iceland, where few people have surnames. For example, the son and daughter of Pétur Marteinsson would have different last names - Pétursson (for his son) and Pétursdóttir (for his daughter).
Many Celtic, Iberian, Slavic, English, and Scandinavian surnames originate from patronymics, 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). 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.
Patronymics can simplify or complicate genealogical research. A father's first name is easily determinable when his children bear a patronymic; 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 Gopherus 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, the patronymic was formerly widespread, but latterly confined to the Nordic and Scandinavian peoples in the north west.
In Nordic languages, the patronymic was 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 compulsory by law, with a handful of exceptions ("Halldór Laxness" for example was the pen name of "Halldór Guðjónsson"). 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 strong influence of Scandinavia in this part of Germany during the centuries.
In the Finnish language, the use of patronymics 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 dother").
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.
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 Ní, 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 ap 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 Fitzpatrick 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 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, endings such as pronounced as "vich" are used to form patronymics for men. For example, in Russian a man named Ivan whose father's name is Nikolay would be known as Ivan Nikolayevich or "Ivan, son of Nikolay" (with Nikolayevich as 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. The patronymic is the official part of the name, which stands in all documents. It is used when addressing somebody both formally as well as among friends. A Russian will almost never formally address a person named Mikhail as just 'Mikhail', but rather as 'Mikhail' plus his patronymic (for instance, 'Mikhail Nikolayevich' or 'Mikhail Sergeyevich' etc). However, on informal occasions when a person is using the diminutive of a name, such as Misha for Mikhail, the patronymic is hardly ever used. Alternatively, on informal occasions the ending of a patronomic may be colloquially contracted: Nikolayevich -> Nikolaich, Stepan Ivanovich -> Stepan Ivanych -> Ivanych (the given name may be omitted altogether). In the case of this omission of the first name the contraction, if possible, is obligatory: Ivan Sergeyevich Sidorov may be called "Sergeich" or, more rarely, "Sergeyevich". Such contractions are not used by all as they tend to bring a shade of muzhik-style familiarity. And they are as common with women's patronymics as men's. A very famous example is "Mar' Ianna" (), short for "Maria Ivanovna" (), a young female teacher who is a constant character in Vovochka jokes. A curious use of a patronymic occurs in some Tom Clancy novels; John Patrick Ryan, whose father was Emmet Ryan, is called Ivan Emmetovich by a Russian colleague, Sergei Nikolaich (Nikolaievich) Golovko.
In Ukraine 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 (Russian and Czech, for example.)
Some South Slavic surnames look morphologically identical to Slavic patronymics, but they do not change form between masculine and feminine: Milla Jovovich stays "Jovovic", not "Jovovna"; and these surnames cannot be contracted using the pattern mentioned above; also they generally have different syllables stressed. Examples of them are Mikhail Andreyevich Miloradovich and Vladislav Khodasevich.
In Hungarian, patronyms were once formed with the ending -fi (sometimes spelled as -fy or -ffy). This system is no longer in common use, though it was common centuries ago and 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 such 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, like Petrescu - son of Petre (Peter); many of the current Romanian family names were formed like this.



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 Iossif Vissarionis 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" prefix discussed above (The prefix ben- is used similarly in Hebrew). In addition, "bint" 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.
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 Matthew 16:17 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

more Jewish name 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, 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 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.

See also

patronymic in Min Nan: Pē-miâ
patronymic in Danish: Patronym
patronymic in German: Patronym
patronymic in Spanish: Patronímico
patronymic in Esperanto: Patronomo
patronymic in French: Nom patronymique
patronymic in Italian: Patronimico
patronymic in Macedonian: Патроним
patronymic in Dutch: Patroniem
patronymic in Norwegian: Patronymikon
patronymic in Norwegian Nynorsk: Patronymikon
patronymic in Occitan (post 1500): Nom d'ostal
patronymic in Polish: Nazwisko patronimiczne
patronymic in Portuguese: Patronímico
patronymic in Russian: Отчество
patronymic in Finnish: Patronyymi
patronymic in Swedish: Patronymikon
patronymic in Ukrainian: Патронімія
patronymic in Chinese: 父名
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