Encyclopedia > Patronymic

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A patronymic is the second (middle) or last name based on the name of one's father. For example in Russian a man named Ivan (John) whose father's name is Nikolai would be known as Ivan Nikolaevich or "Ivan, son of Nikolai" (Nikolaevich as patronymic). In women the ending is -evna or -ovna. In Scandanavian languages, the patronymic was formed by using the ending -sen or -son to indicate son of. This name was generally used as a last name although a third name based on location or personal charateristic was often added to disambiguate people. In Dutch, the ending -s, for son, was used for sons and often for daughters, too. The Dutch sometimes used -docter or -dr for daughters.

In many areas patronymics predate the use of surnames. They are still used in Iceland, where few people have surnames. Many English, Welsh and Scandinavian surnames originate from patronymics, eg. Wilson (son of William), Powell (ap Howell), Johansson (son of Johan), Eriksen (son of Erik).

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