Way Back Wednesday: P is for Patronymics

October 19, 2016

A patronymic is a surname based on the given name of the father e.g. Fred Johnson (now a popular English surname) is the son of John.  A matronymic is the female version: these can be seen in Scandinavian and Icelandic names such as the footballer whose surname is Helguson (Helga's son) or the novelist Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir (Minerva's daughter).

But patronymics/matronymics are not always that simple.  Try 'Powell' (ap Hywel), or Rodriguez (son of Rodrigo).  How about FitzGerald (child of Gerald) or O'Connor (from "Ó Conchobhair", meaning grandson/descendant of Conchobhar)?

Nowadays - in the UK, US, and Australia at least - the child will inherit the father's surname, if the father and mother are married.  If they are not, English law states that the child should take the mother's surname.  What a delightful proposition for future genealogists...NOT!  Some families join the parents' surnames to make a double-barrelled name.  Some individuals (when they are adult) change their entire name by deed poll.

Where did you get your surname from?  Was it a simple inheritance from your father? and was it a patronymic originally?



© Ros Haywood
School of  Surnames

Next week's letter is 'Q'. Has anybody got any interesting snippets that marry up Q with surname studies?  If so, please send them to Ros Haywood at sos [at] surname-society.org

letter P courtesy of openclipart.org

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