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Негосударственная общеобразовательная школа-интернат №24 

среднего (полного) общего образования открытого 

акционерного общества  «Российские железные дороги»


Доклад на научно-практическую конференцию.

Тема: « Происхождение английских фамилий »



                                                                 Выполнила: ученица 8 кл.

                                                                 Якушина Л.

                                                                      Проверила: учитель английского яз.  

                                                                 Коловская И.В.


                                                    Тайшет, 2009



1.     The necessity of the surname.


2.     Patronymic names.


3.     Local surnames.


4.     Professional surnames


5.     Descriptive surnames.


6.     Conclusion.


The origin of English surnames.


  A surname is a kind of anthroponomy. It shows the person’s belonging to the definite family. The surname is added to the first name. The first name is primary, the surname is secondary.

    Before the definite development’s grade the man kind doesn’t have the surnames. In the

XI – XII centuries the most widespread first names were William, Robert, Ralph, Richard. It the XIV century about 25 per cent of men in England were called John. It’s funny. But if somebody called John or   Johnes at the market, in Wales that time, then all everyone would respond to it or nobody could respond to if a everyone, because everyone would think that hi was called and nobody, because there were no definite descriptions. So, people used to give nicknames to individualize every man. If a person was red, he would be given a nickname Red John. If a person lived on hill, he would be given a nickname Tom Hill. When the nickname lost its reason it would develop into the surname. (I give an explanation): If William Robertson dad was not Robertson, John cook was not a cook, Tom. Ill didn’t live on the hill, then their nicknames were hereditary.  I the Domesday Book, which was written  in 1085 – 86 many nickname received documentary registration.

    Little by little the nickname turned into the surname.

    There are four kinds of modern surnames.

1. patronymic

2. local surnames

3. professional

4. descriptive



1. Patronymic names.

     First of all there are personal names that are used as surnames. They are not changeable, for example: Anthony, Baldwin, Cecil, Dennis, Henry, Reynold, Thomas, Walter. A lot of patronymic surnames are connected with mythology, God’s names: Good, Godwin, Goodiers, Goddard.

     Some surnames have its origin from Scandinavian personal names: Thurston, Thurlow, Thurkettle. A lot of surnames come from Normandian invaders. Their names turned to surnames: Walters, Watts, Waterson, Ralph.

     During the late Middle Ages a lot of biblical names turned to the surnames. For example, such names as Lawrence, Lawson, Larson, Larkin were formed from the Saint’s name – St. Lawrence.

    A lot of English surnames include "son” (Johnson). It means "somebody’s son”. It’s interesting to know that Johnson was a native of the South and Johnston was a native of the North.

     In the Highlands people use the prefix "Mac”. It means "son”, for example MacDonald, MacCartney, MacGregor. This prefix was used in Ireland too. In Ireland also a lot of surnames were formed using the grandfather’s name with O-prefix: O’Hara, O’Neal. There is a popular poem about it:

                                        By Mac and O

                                        You’ll always know

                                        True Irishmen, they say

                                        For if they lack

                                        Both O and Mac

                                        No Irishmen  are they.

    The word "son” in Welsh means "ap”. Surnames Powell was formed from Ap Howell, Pritchard – from Ap Richard. In the old times you could meet a Welshman who introduced himself proudly: "Evan-ap-Griffith-apDavid-apJenkin.” It means: "Evan is Griffith’s son, David’s son, Jenkin’s son.”It caused a big amount of funny stories. I’d like to tell you one of them:

     "An Englishman, riding one dark night among the mountains, heard a cry of distress, Coming apparently from a man who had fallen into a ravine near the highway, and, on listening more attentively, hear the words:                             -"Help, master, help!” – in a voice truly Cambrian.                                                         "Help, what, who are you?”- asked the traveler.

"Jenkin-ap-Griffith-ap-Robin-ap-Williams-ap-Rees-ap-Evan,”- was the response.

"Lazy Fellows that you be,” – said the Englishman, setting spurs to his horse, "To lie rolling in that hole, half a dozen of you. Why in the name of common sense don’t you help one another out?”


2. Local surnames.


     It’s a wide range of English surnames, about 50% of the whole amount. Based on the nicknames’ meanings, they are divided into two groups:

1.     Surnames that were formed from the nicknames that pointed on the person’s origin from the definite place, city or country.

It’s known that there are four countries in the UK. People migrate from one country to another. It was necessary to mark settlers. So, there are such surnames as Scott. England, English, Irish, Wales, Welsh, Welshman, Wallace. There are a lot of surnames from the countries of Western Europe: German, France, Spain, Norman, Champagne; from the counties’ names: Hampshire. Kent, Cornwall. There is a big amount of the surnames that were given to people to show their belonging to the definite small town or village. They moved to the big cities marking themselves such nicknames as York, Westley, Button, Longford. There are hundreds of places with such names and thousand people’s surnames are closely connected with these names.

2.     This category includes such surnames that were formed from outstanding landscapes: Brook, Hill, Dale, Moore, Fields. You can come across with the surnames showing that this man lived not far from the hill, dale or brook.

 It’s not seldom to hear surname, that show peculiarities of  the flora: Aspen, Beech, Birch; Scrub, Wood, Tree, Meadow croft. Local surnames are made up of the rivers’  names: Tees, Calder, Becker, Brook.

Surnames that were formed from the signs representing animals or plants have a particular place in the local surnames. It’s important to remember that in those days a lot of people couldn’t read, these signs helped them to find a place which they needed, It’s not surnames go back to representation of different animals plants and other things that were used to show the definite houses sing: Bull, Bush, Bell, Angel, Griffin.


3.     Professional surnames

    Approximately this type represents 20% of the whole amount. Basically, these surnames came of the nicknames meant owner’s appointment, profession or trade.

Professional surnames are divided into three groups:

1.     Surnames formed from the appointments’ names or posts’ names.

2.     Surnames formed from the professions’ names that indicated agricultural work.

3.     Surnames formed from the professions’ names that indicated cities, trades.

4.     Surnames formed from the names that indicated smooth woolen cloth’ trade.


1.This group consists of the surnames that point on the man’s title, rank and post who served members of the Royal family. For example, Stuart (королевский шенешаль), Wardrop (смотритель гардероба), Spencer (управляющий), Page (подавал полотенце), Spooners, Butler (дворецкий), Pottinger (готовил королевский суп), Marshall (мажордом). These surnames remind about ancient traditions and customs. We can find social person’s description in the following surnames: Knight, Gent, Sheriff, Justice, Judge, Mayor, Clerk, Ranger and Falconer (отвечали за королевскую охоту).

2. There is a big surnames’ amount that have a stem pointing on the care of animals: Hurd, Hird, Heard,происходящие от herd – пастух, Hoggart, Potcher –

ухаживали за свиньями, Goddart (goat-herd) – за козами, Shepherd – овец.

The most widespread surnames are Farmer, Baker, Bricker, Thatcher (тот, кто крыл соломой крыши), Honeyman, Nutter (сборщик орехов). Smith (кузнец) is the most widespread surname in England and America, originally it mentioned a worker with metal. It is included in the compound surnames as Blacksmith, Brownsmith, Whitesmith, Goldsmith. Surnames that have such part as "wright” belong to the people’s professions who had woodwork: Boatwright, Wheelright, Caretwright.

3. There are a lot of surnames associated with different spheres of the trade industry: Mercer – sold retail, Crosser – wholesale, Chapman from Cheapmman – a man who sold cheap.

4. After agriculture and industry smooth woolen cloth’ trade was the richest source of the professional surnames’ creating.They is Woolen, Woolley, Packer, Webber (плести паутину), Tailor (портной) and so on.


4.Descriptive surnames.


    There is a big range of surnames that show biological special features of the person. They come from the nicknames reflecting physiological or soul personal traits, for example: Bigg, Strong, Arms, Armstrong, Knee bone (lame – хромой) Crump (humped – горбатый), Cudlipp (harelip – заячья губа). Such surnames can tell what was father’s hair: Black, White, Grey, Red, Knott (витый), Bald. Moral and intelligent peculiarities reflected in such surnames as: Bad, Good, Wise, Gay, Friend, True man, Hardy, Gentle, Sweet, Love, Merry.

    To the descriptive surnames belong such surnames that were formed from the nicknames of the Mystery Plays’ members. These plays were organized every year. The member of the plays can perform the same role, this role turned into his nickname. That’s why there is a big amount of such surnames. They are: King, Baron, Lord, Cardinal, Duke, Caesar, Queen, Angel, Satan.

    It’s not seldom when descriptive surnames were formed on the opposite way? For example R. Good’s friend was very high. But he was given a nickname Little John.

    To sum up you see that there are four kinds of surnames’ originating.

To understand where this or that surname comes from, you need to study from different points of the surname’s formation.



                                Список литературы:

1.А. И. Рыбакин «Словарь английских фамилий», изд.: АСТ, Астрель, 2000 г.

2. Wikipedia:  List of unusual personal names.

3.  D.L. Jeffrey "A dictionary of biblical tradition in English literature”

4. О.Т. Hook "All those wonderful names”.


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