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Chinese : from the name of a state that existed during the Xia (2205–1766 bc) and Shang (1766–1122 bc) dynasties. At a much later date, descendants of the state’s rulers took the state name Deng as their surname. This was the family name of Deng Xiaoping (1904–97), effectively ruler of China from 1977 to his death twenty years later.
Dutch: variant of Bolle. French: from Bolo, Bollo, short forms of the Germanic personal name Baldo (see Boll).
English, Welsh, German, etc.: ultimately from the Hebrew personal name yo?hanan ‘Jehovah has favored (me with a son)’ or ‘may Jehovah favor (this child)’. This personal name was adopted into Latin (via Greek) as Johannes, and has enjoyed enormous popularity in Europe throughout the Christian era, being given in honor of St. John the Baptist, precursor of Christ, and of St. John the Evangelist, author of the fourth gospel, as well as others of the nearly one thousand other Christian saints of the name. Some of the principal forms of the personal name in other European languages are Welsh Ieuan, Evan, Siôn, and Ioan; Scottish Ia(i)n; Irish Séan; German Johann, Johannes, Hans; Dutch Jan; French Jean; Italian Giovanni, Gianni, Ianni; Spanish Juan; Portuguese João; Greek Ioannes (vernacular Yannis); Czech Jan; Russian Ivan. Polish has surnames both from the western Slavic form Jan and from the eastern Slavic form Iwan. There were a number of different forms of the name in Middle English, including Jan(e), a male name (see Jane); Jen (see Jenkin); Jon(e) (see Jones); and Han(n) (see Hann). There were also various Middle English feminine versions of this name (e.g. Joan, Jehan), and some of these were indistinguishable from masculine forms. The distinction on grounds of gender between John and Joan was not firmly established in English until the 17th century. It was even later that Jean and Jane were specialized as specifically feminine names in English; bearers of these surnames and their derivatives are more likely to derive them from a male ancestor than a female. As a surname in the British Isles, John is particularly frequent in Wales, where it is a late formation representing Welsh Siôn rather than the older form Ieuan (which gave rise to the surname Evan). As an American family name this form has absorbed various cognates from continental European languages. (For forms, see Hanks and Hodges 1988.) It is used as a given name among Christians in India, and in the U.S. has come to be used as a surname among families from southern India.
English, Scottish, German, Dutch, etc.: from the personal name Peter (Greek Petros, from petra ‘rock’, ‘stone’). The name was popular throughout Christian Europe in the Middle Ages, having been bestowed by Christ as a byname on the apostle Simon bar Jonah, the brother of Andrew. The name was chosen by Christ for its symbolic significance (John 1:42, Matt. 16:18); St. Peter is regarded as the founding head of the Christian Church in view of Christ’s saying, ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church’. In Christian Germany in the early Middle Ages this was the most frequent personal name of non-Germanic origin until the 14th century. This surname has also absorbed many cognates in other languages, for example Czech Petr, Hungarian Péter. It has also been adopted as a surname by Ashkenazic Jews.
Chinese : variant of Lin 1. Chinese : variant of Lan. Vietnamese (Lâm): unexplained. Dutch and North German: from a short form of the personal name Lambert. Danish: nickname for a gentle person, from Old Norse lamb ‘lamb’, or possibly for a lame man, Old Norse lami.
English: from a personal name that has the same origin as Jacob. However, among English speakers, it is now felt to be a separate name in its own right. This is largely because in the Authorized Version of the Bible (1611) the form James is used in the New Testament as the name of two of Christ’s apostles (James the brother of John and James the brother of Andrew), whereas in the Old Testament the brother of Esau is called Jacob. The form James comes from Latin Jacobus via Late Latin Jac(o)mus, which also gave rise to Jaime, the regular form of the name in Spanish (as opposed to the learned Jacobo). See also Jack and Jackman. This is a common surname throughout the British Isles, particularly in South Wales.
North German and Dutch: from an Old Frisian personal name Douwo. South German: from Davo, a short form of the personal name Tavold, formed with Old High German dau ‘custom’, ‘tradition’. Vietnamese: unexplained.
Korean: There are two Chinese characters for the surname Kong. One of these is borne by only one clan, the other by two clans. One of the Kong clans claims Confucius as its ancestor, the 53rd ancestor of Confucius having migrated from his home in China to Koryo and settled in Ch’angwon, where his grave can still be seen today. The other two Kong clans, the Kimhae Kong and the Munch’on Kong clans both sprang from descendants of a famous T’ang Chinese scholar, Kong Yun-po. A man named Kong Myong-nye founded the Kimhae Kong clan when he was exiled to Kimhae during the reign of Choson King Songjong in the latter half of the fifteenth century. The founder of the Munch’on Kong clan, Kong Chin-on, was banished to Munchon in Hamgyong province during the reign of Choson King Sejong during the first half of the fifteenth century. Chinese : Cheng Tang was the first king of the Shang dynasty, founded in 1766 bc. Although now known as Cheng Tang, his surname was Zi, and he had a ‘style name’ (given around age 20) of Tai Yi. Later descendants of his combined the character for Zi with the character for Yi, creating the character for Kong, and adopted the latter as their surname. The Con in ‘Confucius’ represents this surname. Chinese : variant of Jiang 1. Chinese : variant of Gong 1. Cambodian: unexplained. Danish: nickname from Danish kong ‘king’, or occupational nickname for someone in the service of the king.
Indian (Bengal) and Bangladeshi: Hindu (Kayasth) name, from Sanskrit pala ‘protector’, ‘keeper’, ‘guard’, ‘herdsman’ (compare gopala ‘cowherd’), an epithet of the god Krishna and a common personal name. A Pala dynasty that was founded by one Gopala in the 8th century ruled in Bengal and Bihar until the 12th century. Hungarian (Pál): from the personal name Pál, Hungarian form of Paul. This name is also found, spelled Pal, in Slovenia (Prekmurje) and northern and eastern Croatia.
German: variant spelling of Rieck.
German: from a reduced form of the personal name Ant(h)on (see Anthony). Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic): metonymic occupational name for a potter from German Ton, Polish ton ‘clay’, ‘potter’s earth’. Norwegian: variant of Thoen.
German: habitational name from a place so named in the Rhineland. The place name is related to Maifeld, the name of the area of which it is the main settlement, which is derived from the Celtic word magos ‘field’, ‘plain’. French: from a diminutive of mai, which in the dialect of Savoy denoted pasture where cattle were allowed to graze in the spring and fall, and, by extension, a hut built for the cowherd nearby. This name is also established in Mexico.
English, French, German, and Dutch: from the personal name Paul (Latin Paulus ‘small’), which has always been popular in Christendom. It was the name adopted by the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus after his conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus in about ad 34. He was a most energetic missionary to the Gentiles in the Roman Empire, and played a very significant role in establishing Christianity as a major world religion. The name was borne also by numerous other early saints. The American surname has absorbed cognates from other European languages, for example Greek Pavlis and its many derivatives. It is also occasionally borne by Jews; the reasons for this are not clear. Irish: reduced Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Phóil ‘son of Paul’. Compare McFall. Catalan (Paül): habitational name from any of several places named Paül. Spanish: topographic name from paúl ‘marsh’, ‘lagoon’. Spanish: Castilianized form of Basque Padul, a habitational name from a town of this name in Araba province.
German (also Jöck): from a short form of the personal name Jakob.
Jewish, Welsh, Scottish, English, French, Portuguese, German, Czech, Slovak (Dávid) and Slovenian: from the Hebrew personal name David ‘beloved’, which has been perennially popular among Jews, in honor of the Biblical king of this name, the greatest of the early kings of Israel. His prominence, and the vivid narrative of his life contained in the First Book of Samuel, led to adoption of the name in various parts of Europe, notably Britain, among Christians in the Middle Ages. The popularity of this as a personal name was increased in Britain, firstly by virtue of its being the name of the patron saint of Wales (about whom very little is known: he was probably a 6th-century monk and bishop) and secondly because it was borne by two kings of Scotland (David I, reigning 1124–53, and David II, 1329–71). Its popularity in Russia is largely due to the fact that this was the ecclesiastical name adopted by St. Gleb (died 1015), one of two sons of Prince Vladimir of Kiev who were martyred for their Christian zeal.
Dutch: occupational name for someone who made or repaired things, from an agent derivative of Dutch maken ‘to make or mend’.
Chinese : Cantonese variant of Chen. Chinese : variant transcription of Zhan. Vietnamese (Chân): unexplained. Galician and Portuguese: topographic name from a field named Chan (Galician) or Chã (Portuguese), from Latin plana ‘level’, ‘flat’.
The surname's ranking is determined by its frequency of occurrence
The number of people who share the same surname
The ratio of people who share the same surname
English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish (Simón), Czech and Slovak (Šimon), Slovenian, Hungarian, and Jewish (Ashkenazic): from the personal name, Hebrew Shim‘on, which is probably derived from the verb sham‘a ‘to hearken’. In the Vulgate and in many vernacular versions of the Old Testament, this is usually rendered Simeon. In the Greek New Testament, however, the name occurs as Simon, as a result of assimilation to the pre-existing Greek byname Simon (from simos ‘snub-nosed’). Both Simon and Simeon were in use as personal names in western Europe from the Middle Ages onward. In Christendom the former was always more popular, at least in part because of its associations with the apostle Simon Peter, the brother of Andrew. In Britain there was also confusion from an early date with Anglo-Scandinavian forms of Sigmund (see Siegmund), a name whose popularity was reinforced at the Conquest by the Norman form Simund.
English, German, French, and Jewish: from the personal name, Hebrew Yosef ‘may He (God) add (another son)’. In medieval Europe this name was borne frequently but not exclusively by Jews; the usual medieval English vernacular form is represented by Jessup. In the Book of Genesis, Joseph is the favorite son of Jacob, who is sold into slavery by his brothers but rises to become a leading minister in Egypt (Genesis 37–50). In the New Testament Joseph is the husband of the Virgin Mary, which accounts for the popularity of the given name among Christians.
North German form of Huth 1.
English: from the Norman form of an Old French personal name composed of the Germanic elements wil ‘will’, ‘desire’ + helm ‘helmet’, ‘protection’. This was introduced into England at the time of the Conquest, and within a very short period it became the most popular personal name in England, mainly no doubt in honor of the Conqueror himself.
Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, and eastern German (of Slavic origin): from the personal name Mach, a pet form of a vernacular derivative of Latin Matthaeus or Mathias (Czech Matej, Polish Maciej, etc. (see Matthew)). In some cases, the Czech and Polish names represent pet forms of other names beginning with Ma-, for example Marek (see Mark) or Martin. possibly also an Americanized spelling of Hungarian Mács, from a pet form of Máté or Mátyás, Hungarian forms of Matthew. Jewish (Ashkenazic): unexplained. Vietnamese, Cambodian, or other Southeast Asian: unexplained.
Probably an altered spelling of Scottish Reith or German Rieth.
Dutch and North German: topographic name for someone living by a quayside, from Dutch kaai ‘quay’, German Kai (which was borrowed from the Dutch). Danish and Frisian: from the Danish personal name Kai, Kaj, Kay, which is of uncertain origin, most likely from Frisian or Latin Caius. Japanese: the original meaning is probably ‘shell’, but the name is written phonetically with two characters meaning ‘first class’ or ‘shell’, plus ‘beauty’. Though the surname is found mostly in the island of Kyushu, some families could have connections with the ancient province of Kai (now Yamanashi prefecture) in the mountains of central Honshu.
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian (Dániel), Romanian, and Jewish: from the Hebrew personal name Daniel ‘God is my judge’, borne by a major prophet in the Bible. The major factor influencing the popularity of the personal name (and hence the frequency of the surname) was undoubtedly the dramatic story in the Book of Daniel, recounting the prophet’s steadfast adherence to his religious faith in spite of pressure and persecution from the Mesopotamian kings in whose court he served: Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar (at whose feast Daniel interpreted the mysterious message of doom that appeared on the wall, being thrown to the lions for his pains). The name was also borne by a 2nd-century Christian martyr and by a 9th-century hermit, the legend of whose life was popular among Christians during the Middle Ages; these had a minor additional influence on the adoption of the Christian name. Among Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe the name was also popular as being that of a 4th-century Persian martyr, who was venerated in the Orthodox Church. Irish: reduced form of McDaniel, which is actually a variant of McDonnell, from the Gaelic form of Irish Donal (equivalent to Scottish Donald), erroneously associated with the Biblical personal name Daniel. See also O’Donnell.
From the Hebrew personal name Avraham, borne by a Biblical patriarch revered by Jews as the founding father of the Jewish people (Genesis 11–25), and by Muslims as founder of all the Semitic peoples, both Hebrew and Arab (compare Ibrahim). The name is explained in Genesis 17:5 as being derived from Hebrew av hamon goyim ‘father of a multitude of nations’. It was widely used as a personal name among Christians as well as Jews in the Middle Ages in diverse cultures from northern Europe to southern India. It is also found as a given name among Christians in India, and in the U.S. has come to be used as a family name among families from Kerala. Irish: English name adopted as an equivalent of Gaelic Mac an Bhreitheamhan ‘son of the judge’. See McBroom.
Chinese : there are several sources of this surname; one of them is a certain Duke Ding who lived during the reign of Wu Wang, who established the Zhou dynasty in 1122 bc.
Hungarian: ethnic name for a member of a Turkic people known in English as the Cumanians (Hungarian kún). Jewish (from Hungary): adoption of 1, replacing the Jewish homophone Kuhn. Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic): variant of Kuhn.
Scottish: unexplained. Perhaps a respelling of Caw, a reduced form of McCaw. Possibly a variant of German Kur, an occupational name from Middle High German kure ‘officialinspector’ or Middle Low German kur(e) ‘scout’, ‘lookout’.Dutch: unexplained. Polish: perhaps an altered form of a topographic or habitational name from any of various places named with Slavic gora ‘mountain’.
Swiss German: of uncertain origin, possibly Ladin or Romansh.