What makes hopes have been dashed meaning
Find the meaning and distribution of 31 million last names
Accordingly, John 'the tailor', son of Peter 'the bald' and grandson of Henry 'from the Greens', inherited his distinctive name (tailor) to his children, although none of them would have been a tailor. Hundreds of years later, your surname, Schneider or Schneyder, tells you that someone with that surname had a paternal ancestor who did this job.
The first surnames in Western Europe arose from the already existing methods of distinguishing people. Hence, a nobleman ruling from Savoy may have been known as Umberto de Savoy; a blacksmith might be known as Johann Schmidt; and a bald man might be known by the name of William the Bald. It's pretty much the same way we associate people these days, like John the loudmouth or Rachel the bean counter. These names were not necessarily inherited, but given out of circumstances. The nobleman's son, Umberto de Savoy, may rule Lorraine and be known by the name of Lothar de Lorraine; the son of John le Smith might be a cheese maker and might be known as Dominic Käsemann; and William the Bald's son might have a head full of thick white hair and be known as Daniel Snowball.
Last names as we know them today emerged when families decided to stick to a 'pseudo surname'. This change took place in different regions at different times. For example, surnames were predominantly adopted between the 11th and 16th centuries in England, between the 16th and 19th centuries in Wales, and between the 11th and 19th centuries in Scotland. Each family has to be considered on a case-by-case basis. While it is not possible to prove the origin of most surnames, it is possible to make an educated guess in some cases.
The origin of the surname depends on the social class and the contemporary culture of the ancestor. Those in higher social positions took surnames which are unusual for today; whereas people of lower social standing more often took surnames, which are common nowadays. It is clear that people of lower social standing had less control over their surnames and that they were no doubt given by councilors, nobles, and other authorities. As a result, we find numerous offensive surnames, such as Dullard (fool), which also means difficult and arrogant man.
The majority of surnames are derived from a male ancestor. These developed from already existing, inconsistent naming conventions in which an individual was identified by reference to his male ancestors. Some examples are: Bedo ap Batho ap Heylin (Welsh: Bedo, son of Batho, son of Heylin), which later becomes Bedo Batho; Lars Andersen (Scandinavian), Andrew MacDonald (Scottish: Andrew, son of Donald) and Henry fil. Grimbald (English: Henry, son of Grimbald). Such names are essentially the patronymic, sometimes with a suffix or prefix to identify the name as a patronymic. For example, Armenian patronyms usually end with '-ian', Polish patronyms with a '-ski' and Irish patronyms start with 'Fitz-'.
Patronymic surnames are indistinguishable from clan surnames, which can be adopted by the subjects of the clan leader.
Last names derived from the ancestor's occupation are also common, with Smith (blacksmith) being the most common last name in Britain. This category of given names is divided into two groups: standard occupations and honorary occupations, such as Stewart (housekeeper), derived from an old clan title in Scotland.
Topographical surnames can be derived from the characteristics of a landscape (Hill → Hill, Ford → Furt) or from place names (London, Aston, Eaton, Molyneux). These surnames were originally derived from families who owned land. However, later on, such surname-from-place-name adoptions were derived as people moved from one place to another.
Descriptive last name
Descriptive surnames are on the one hand rarer, as they are more often derived from unvarnished characteristics, such as: stupidity, waist size, baldness and sometimes blatant insults like Blackinthemouth (black in the mouth). Many of these surnames have gone into hiding. On the other hand, a good number of surnames derived from positive or neutral characteristics survived: Tow & Triggs (means 'trustworthy'), Jung, Weiss and Gut.
Matronymic surnames are derived from the name of a female ancestor (mostly the mother) and are atypical in most parts of the world. Such names can arise through illegitimate or posthumous births and occur in the aristocracy when the mother was higher than her spouse or made an 'affair'.
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