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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ In women's tennis, they changed their surnames faster than the score.
▪ As part of the marriage settlement he changed his surname to Smith-Cumming, later becoming known as Cumming.
▪ I changed my surname because I did not want my sire's name.
▪ He knows she has been married since graduating but doesn't know her present surname or whereabouts.
▪ No one ever seemed to know William's surname and he had a bizarre appearance at a time when smartness was highly valued.
▪ He didn't even know her surname.
▪ Before the established use of surnames a recourse to nicknames was almost necessary and certainly of very frequent occurrence.
▪ However, the head-of-family system and the ban on marriage between people of the same surname remained unchanged.
▪ I monitor her face for reactions to that familiar and, for us, unlucky surname.
▪ Probably no one had called him by his surname since he was in the Army.
▪ The alarm was not raised until last Friday when one arrived home with the wrong surname on an identity bracelet.
▪ Then the computer sorts all the surnames into what we call frequency ranges.
▪ Those patients with surnames from A-L received one level of benefit.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Surname \Sur"name`\, n. [Pref. sur + name; really a substitution for OE. sournoun, from F. surnom. See Sur-, and Noun, Name.]

  1. A name or appellation which is added to, or over and above, the baptismal or Christian name, and becomes a family name.

    Note: Surnames originally designated occupation, estate, place of residence, or some particular thing or event that related to the person; thus, Edmund Ironsides; Robert Smith, or the smith; William Turner. Surnames are often also patronymics; as, John Johnson.

  2. An appellation added to the original name; an agnomen. ``My surname, Coriolanus.''

    Note: This word has been sometimes written sirname, as if it signified sire-name, or the name derived from one's father.


Surname \Sur*name"\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Surnamed; p. pr. & vb. n. Surnaming.] [Cf. F. surnommer.] To name or call by an appellation added to the original name; to give a surname to.

Another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.

  1. xliv. 5.

    And Simon he surnamed Peter.
    --Mark iii. 16.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

c.1300, "name, title, or epithet added to a person's name," from sur "above" (from Latin super-; see sur- (1)) + name (n.); modeled on Anglo-French surnoun "surname" (early 14c.), variant of Old French sornom, from sur "over" + nom "name." As "family name" from late 14c.\n

\nAn Old English word for this was freonama, literally "free name." Meaning "family name" is first found late 14c. Hereditary surnames existed among Norman nobility in England in early 12c., among the common people they began to be used 13c., increasingly frequent until near universal by end of 14c. The process was later in the north of England than the south. The verb is attested from 1510s. Related: Surnamed.


n. 1 (context obsolete English) An additional name, particularly those derived from a birthplace, quality, or achievement; an epithet. 2 (context obsolete English) An additional name given to a person, place, or thing; a byname or nickname. 3 The name a person shares with other members of that person's family, distinguished from that person's given name or names; a family name. 4 (context Classical studies English) The cognomen of Roman names. 5 (context Scottish obsolete English) A clan. vb. 1 To give a '''surname'''. 2 To call by a '''surname'''.


n. the name used to identify the members of a family (as distinguished from each member's given name) [syn: family name, cognomen, last name]


A surname or family name is a name added to a given name. In many cases, a surname is a family name and many dictionaries define "surname" as a synonym of "family name". In the Western Hemisphere, it is commonly synonymous with last name because it is usually placed at the end of a person's given name.

In most Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries, two or more last names (or surnames) may be used. In Cambodia, China, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Madagascar, Taiwan, Vietnam, and parts of India, the family name is placed before a person's given name.

The concept of a "surname" is a relatively recent historical development, evolving from a medieval naming practice called a " byname". Based on an individual's occupation or area of residence, a byname would be used in situations where more than one person had the same name.

A family name is typically a part of a person's personal name which, according to law or custom, is passed or given to children from one or both of their parents' family names. The use of family names is common in most cultures around the world, with each culture having its own rules as to how these names are formed, passed and used. However, the style of having both a family name (surname) and a given name (forename) is far from universal. In many countries, it is common for ordinary people to have only one name or mononym, with some cultures not using family names. Also, in most Slavic countries and in Greece, for example, there are different family name forms for male and female members of the family. Issues of family name arise especially on the passing of a name to a new-born child, on the adoption of a common family name on marriage, on renouncing of a family name and on changing of a family name.

Surname laws vary around the world. Traditionally in many European countries for the past few hundred years, it was the custom or law that a woman would on marriage use the surname of her husband and that children of a man would have the father's surname. If a child's paternity was not known, or if the putative father denied paternity, the new-born child would have the surname of the mother. That is still the custom and law in many countries. The surname for children of married parents is usually inherited from the father. In recent years there has been a trend towards equality of treatment in relation to family names with women not being automatically required or expected, some places even forbidden, to take the husband's surname on marriage, and children not automatically being given the father's surname. In this article, family name and surname both mean the patrilineal (literally, father-line) surname, handed down from or inherited from the father's line or patriline, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Thus, the term "maternal surname" means the patrilineal surname which one's mother inherited from either or both of her parents. For a discussion of matrilineal ('mother-line') surnames, passing from mothers to daughters, see matrilineal surname.

In English-speaking cultures, family names are often used by children when referring to adults, but it's also used to refer to someone in authority, the elderly, or in a formal setting, and are often used with a title or honorific such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Dr, and so on. Generally the given name, first name, forename, or personal name is the one used by friends, family, and other intimates to address an individual. It may also be used by someone who is in some way senior to the person being addressed. This practice also differs between cultures; see T–V distinction.

Usage examples of "surname".

His Royal and Imperial Majesty, Vaughan the First, surnamed The Terrible, this planet is inviolate soil, bounden into the fiefdom of His Majesty as Duke of Trasimere, and thereby into the Empire.

Alastair, a Craig, a Timothy, and a Graham, three with hyphenated surnames, the fourth with a III suffix.

Chagrin Falls, Ohio, does not, as the name would seem to suggest, have any connection with some early exploratory setback, but is simply a misrendering of the surname of Francois Seguin, an early French trader who settled along the river from which the town takes its name.

What had taken place that afternoon that had caused Roderick to come straight here and write her surname beside her petit non Nonic so gay, so in time For all time!

Surnames survived in Eastthorpe with singular pertinacity, for it was remote from the world, but what was the relationship between the scores of Thaxtons, for example, whose deaths were inscribed on the tombstones, some of them all awry and weather-worn, and the Thaxtons of 1840, no living Thaxton could tell, every spiritual trace of them having disappeared more utterly than their bones.

An immigration officer had recognized her and, while unable to remember her surname, he recalled she had arrived on the first Aer Lingus flight from Dublin on Monday 15th March and was travelling on a French passport.

Because she was in his company, Lady Appleton was grudgingly made welcome, too, but the announcement of her surname brought a deepening of what was already a distinct chill in the atmosphere of the house-room.

Her new surname was certainly apt, Banks thought, as there was definitely something of the gamine about her, a young girl with mischievous charm.

In Shreveport, the headquarters of the Confederate Army of the West, Lieutenant General Kirby Smith, the third of that auspicious surname to be involved, worried and fretted, but could not release General Taylor and his thin Louisiana division to the attack until the scattered grayback Army of the West could be collected from its far-flung posts and concentrated against the advancing Union Army.

Major Kerman, with his immaculate SAS record, and inescapably Jewish surname, was not precisely what he seemed.

He was a Khalif only in name, while Muhammad Bin Ali Amir, surnamed Al-Mansur, was the real ruler or regent till his death in A.

Despite the evocative surname, Dagobert is a genuine descendant of a noble family from Normandy, whose forebears were closely involved in the Languedocian Masonic societies centred on the Marquis de Chefdebien and the Hautpoul family.

To Salvatore Nervi she was Denise Morel, which was a common enough surname for there to be plenty of Morels in France, but not so common that the name set off subconscious alarms.

The Viceroy had the name of his father, Francisco Alvarez de Toledo, the third Count of Oropesa, while his brother Juan had the surname of Figueroa, being that of his mother.

About the middle of the eight century, Constantine, surnamed Copronymus by the worshippers of images, had made an expedition into Armenia, and found, in the cities of Melitene and Theodosiopolis, a great number of Paulicians, his kindred heretics.