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Alternative formsEdit


Partial calque of French surnom, from Old French surnum, surnoun (surname; nickname) (whence Middle English sournoun), from Late Latin supernōmen, suprānōmen (surname), from super- (over, above, beyond) and nōmen (name).[1].


  • (US) enPR: sûr'nām, IPA(key): /ˈsɝneɪm/
    • (file)
  • (UK) enPR: sû'nām, IPA(key): /ˈsɜːneɪm/


surname (plural surnames)

  1. (obsolete) An additional name, particularly those derived from a birthplace, quality, or achievement; an epithet.
    • c. 1330, Arthour and Merlin, 5488:
      Þe .xxxix. Osoman, cert, His surname was: hardi of hert.
    • 1526, Tyndale's Bible, Acts I 23:
      Barsabas (whose syrname was Iustus).
    • 1590, Richard Harvey, Plaine Percevall the peace-maker of England, Sweetly indeuoring with his blunt persuasions to botch vp a reconciliation between Mar-ton and Mar-tother, B3:
      My sirname is Peace-Maker, one that is but poorely regarded in England.
    • c. 1607, William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, V iii 171:
      To his sur-name Coriolanus longs more pride
      Then pitty to our Prayers.
  2. (obsolete) An additional name given to a person, place, or thing; a byname or nickname.
    • c. 1395, Wycliff's Bible, Ecclus. XLVII 19:
      In the name of the Lord, to whom the surname [toname in the 1382 ed.] is God of Israel.
    • 1638, Abraham Cowley, Davideis, IV:
      I have before declared that Baal was the Sun, and Baal Peor, a sirname, from a particular place of his worship.
  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.
    • 1393, William Langland, Piers Plowman, C iv 369:
      Þat is noȝt refusy my syres sorname.
    • 1605, William Camden, Remaines, I 32:
      In late yeeres Surnames have beene given for Christian names among vs, and no where else in Christendom.
    • 1876, E. A. Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest, V xxv 563:
      The Norman Conquest...brought with it the novelty of family nomenclature, that is to say, the use of hereditary surnames.
  4. (Classical studies) The cognomen of Roman names.
    • c. 1400, "St. John Baptist", 928 in W. M. Metcalfe, Legends of the saints: in the Scottish dialect of the fourteenth century (1896), II 249:
      Þe thred herrod had alsua til his suornome agrippa.
  5. (Scotland, obsolete) A clan.
    • 1455 in J. D. Marwick, Charters of Edinburgh (1871), 79:
      The surnam and nerrest of blude to the said Williame.

Usage notesEdit

The term "surname" may be used to translate terms from non-English names which carry additional shades of meaning, most notably in the case of Roman cognomens. In fact, the nomen was the surname as the word is commonly understood today but the terms were first applied when surname was still used in the sense of "additional" or "added" name: the cognomen was added to the nomen to show the branch of the family involved. (The modern translation of a similar distinction in ancient Chinese names customarily uses ancestral name and clan name instead and typically speaks of surnames only once the two merged into a single and commonly-employed family name.)




The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


surname (third-person singular simple present surnames, present participle surnaming, simple past and past participle surnamed)

  1. (transitive) To give a surname to.
  2. (transitive) To call by a surname.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "surnoun, n."