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A patronymic is a personal name based on the name of one's father. A personal name based on the name of one's mother is a matronymic.
In Slavic languages, endings such as -vich (-vić) are used to form patronymics. For example, in Russian a man named Ivan whose father's name is Nikolay would be known as Ivan Nikolayevich or "Ivan, son of Nikolay" (with Nikolayevich as a patronymic). For women, the ending is -yevna or -ovna. For masculine names ending in a vowel, such as Ilya or Foma, the corresponding endings are -ich and -inichna. The patronymic is used when addressing somebody both formally as well as among friends. A Russian will almost never formally address a person named Mikhail as just 'Mikhail', but rather as 'Mikhail' plus his patronymic (for instance, 'Mikhail Nikolayevich' or 'Mikhail Sergeyevich' etc). However, on informal occasions when a person is using the diminutive of a name, such as Misha for Mikhail, the patronymic is never used.
In Scandinavian languages, the patronymic was formed by using the ending -son (later -sen in Danish) to indicate "son of", and -dotter (Icelandic -dóttir) for "daughter of". This name was generally used as a last name although a third name, a so-called byname based on location or personal charateristic was often added to differentiate people.
In Dutch, patronymics were often used in place of surnames or as middle names. Patronymics were composed of the father's name plus an ending -zoon for sons, -dochter for daughters. For instance, Abel Janszoon Tasman is "Abel son of Jan Tasman". In written form, these endings were often abbreviated as -sz and -dr respectively eg. Jeroen Cornelisz "Jeroen son of Cornelis". The endings -s, -se and -sen were also commonly used for sons and often for daughters too. Patronymics were common in the Dutch United Provinces until the French invasion in 1795 and subsequent annexation in 1810. As the Netherlands was now a province of France, a registry of births, deaths and marriages was established in 1811, whereupon most Dutch were forced to register and adopt a distinct surname.
In Gaelic, the prefix "Mac" is used to form a patronym, such as "Mackenzie" - son of Kenneth. (In many Gaelic-based names, the "Mac" form can also appear as "Mc", the distinction being simply a matter of usage and preference - Highland (the full form) v. Lowland (Mc)).
In Romanian, the endings -escu and -eanu were used, like Petrescu - son of Petre (Peter); many of the current Romanian family names were formed like this.
In Armenian, the endings -ian and -yan are used, e.g. Jafarian. Many of the current Armenian family names were formed like this, though the root is often based on a trait of the namesake rather than the actual name. -oglu and -ov are also sometimes used by Armenians in Turkey and Russia, respectively.
In Malaysian Malay tradition, given names for both sons and daughters are patronyms with the structure of bin (for sons) and binti (for daughters) as the middle word of the name. An example name of "Ahmad bin Fadzil" means "Ahmad son of Fadzil", while the example of "Aina binti Md. Daud" means "Aina daughter of Md. Daud".
In many areas patronymics predate the use of surnames. They are still used in Iceland - along with the less common matronymics - where few people have surnames. Many English, Welsh, Spanish and Scandinavian surnames originate from patronymics, e.g. Wilson (son of William), Powell (ap Howell), Fernández (of Fernando), Johansson (son of Johan), Eriksen (son of Erik). Other Norse cultures formerly used patronyms, but have since switched to the more Judeo-Christian style of passing the father's last name to the children (and wife) as their own.
Genealogical research can be complicated by patronymics. Immigration usually resulted in a switch to surnames, so depending on the country, family research in the 19th century or earlier needs to take this into account.
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