Son of a . . . ?

For a literary project currently steaming along, I’m collecting ways in which various cultures and languages apply prefixes and suffixes to surnames in order to identify parentage or place of origin. Here are some examples:

  • O’Donal means “son of Donal.”
  • Mc’Donald and Macdonald mean “son of Donald.”
  • Swenson means “son of Swen.”
  • Fitzroy means “son of Roy” (literally “son of the king”).
  • Ivanovitch means “son of Ivan.”
  • D’Artagnon means “offspring of Artagnon.”
  • Delgado means “offspring of Gado” (or perhaps “someone from the town of Gado”).

Your assignment—should you choose to accept it—is to provide examples from other languages and cultures as comments below (or to correct any erroneously presented ones above). The more, the merrier.

My literary project thanks you for your help.

—Les

6 Comments

  1. Thanks, Steve. Interesting stuff. I’ve run across the “dóttir” structure in some older Poul Anderson novels, as I recall. (Love his work.)

    On a tangential note, once this project reaches completion, I’d hoped to confer briefly with an Icelander about traditional Norse verse, as in the Poetic Edda, to see if my treatment of the subject is anywhere in the neighborhood of legitimacy. At that point, I was thinking of asking Mike Tinney for a CCP contact. Were you thinking CCP as well, or do you have someone else in mind?

  2. Steve Wieck

    You may have already researched Iceland on this Lester, since it’s the only country I know of that still uses this sort of naming structure as the cultural norm. There they not only name Pétur’s son with a “last name” of Pétursson, they would name Pétur’s daughter with a last name of Pétursdóttir.
    I can probably find you an Icelander who can go on at some great length on the topic if you need more authentic detail.

  3. I’m not sure what culture and language you base “Swenson” on, but the Scandinavian norm is to spell it with a single ‘v’ (as Sven in old Norse meant “young one”. Perhaps Scandinavian-American immigrants changed their spelling of it, since ‘w’s are far more common in the English language, but I wouldn’t know about that.

    “Svenson” is also one of the five most popular surnames in Sweden today, but that probably won’t do you much good one way or the other. :)

  4. Is Der Hohannesian “of Hahannesian”?

    How about von Richtoffen? Is that “of Richtoffen”?

    And is “Vandermey” something like “from the Mey”?

    Phone lines are still open. We’re waiting for your call.

  5. Have you thought about designations such as Jr or the III?

    In Greek, “son of” is “uio,” I believe, with a rough breathing, so it sounds like “whew.” I don’t know if it shows up in any names, though.

    Onsay ofa Obray Ingkay is “Son of Rob King” in pig Latin.

    Sorry I can’t be of more help.

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