What’s in a name? The great old question even resonates in classic Shakespeare. Etymology is referring to the literal meaning behind the name. Few are privy to the meaning of their given names but perhaps a parent chose it for that meaning. Every now and then some go the extra mile to find out, but most give it little thought, especially to their last name or surname. Being past down from generation to generation, the family name or surname can travel through the course of time. In many cultures across the globe, woman will adopt her husband’s surname when she marries into the family and any children the couple shares also take this family name for their own.
History of Last Names
In the 12th century, Europe began the use of last names, but it actually took a few hundred years for the majority of Europeans to use last names throughout the continent. The purpose of the last name came about to give more distinction to people. This is because in the 13th century, a third of the population had the following names; William, Richard or John. So it started, for example, as William son of Andrew. son of John. Additionally, people’s surnames would also evolve from places, personal characteristics, and occupations.
Last Name Meanings Based on Places, Personal Characteristics & Occupations
Last Name Based on Places: Besides adopting surnames from fathers, others could be dubbed with a place they live; both current but mostly past. Being called after a place a person was born in was more common that a place name they were currently living in. So for example, John born in New York would be John of York, and then simply put John York. Another example of a surname from a place would be a geographical feature that they lived on or close to. Depending on the origination of the country; Scotland, Spain, England, Poland etc, would be the base of the last name. Hills, woods, brooks, stones, fields, swamps, valleys, lakes, or rivers, would shape many surnames still used today.
Last Names Based on Personal Characteristics: People were given surnames for further distinction regarding their personal characteristics. Some would be hair color, complexion, height or weight. Red is a prime example, many people would be referred to as “Red” because of the hair color they had. Once again, the country would dictate spelling variations such as; for English- Reid, French- Rousseau, Italian- Rossi, Czech- Cerveny, German- Roth and Irish- Flynn. In addition to physical features, some might inherit a surname due to a unique ability or personality trait. In the vast countries, coming from the old languages used, some surnames could translate to fast, slow, dumb, smart and so on. Along with those examples, some would be given an animal name as well. The last name Fish may have come from someone who was an extraordinary swimmer.
Last Names Based on Occupations: Finally, long ago, people would get their surname due to their occupations. English have a few obvious examples; Taylor, Baker, Shepherd or Fisher. Smith would be a very popular surname adaption, as it came from those blacksmiths who worked with metal. Other countries would follow suit in utilizing their own language, but often folks could be given the surname from their occupational field.
Custom Chainsaw Carvings, Carved Family Name Signs Picked Up or Shipped from Lincoln, Montana & Nampa, Idaho
Finding out where your last name came from can be very interesting in the least. Learning about ancestry and where you came from is fun adventure, and there are many websites out there to help you find the answers. Meanwhile, show pride in your surname evolution and get a custom chainsaw carved family name sign to put on display in your home, porch or cabin. Creating a beautifully charming display could be an ice breaker, or simply a classy way to express gratitude for your roots. At Carve Me A Bear, a professional wood carver utilizes superb talent as well as a chainsaw and other wood crafting tools to craft your family name into a personalized wooden sign to add to your home’s curb appeal and pride. It’s also a fantastic gift for weddings, anniversaries or any occasion! Call us today to get started!