Most common surnames by country in Europe

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

Onomastics is a fascinating area of linguistics concerned with the study of the history and origin of proper names. Today’s map lies on the boundary between onomastics and statisticswe are going to take a look at the most common surnames in European countries and their meanings:

surnames
This map is available in print (as a greeting card, notebook, and more), and you will support creation of new maps by buying a print! Sharing the picture (with a link to this article) is also welcome.

Of course, nobody can understand all of the languages the names come from, which is why I have created a second map, now with a translation of the names above into English:

surnames translation
This image may be reused on another website, provided that you link back to this article.

There are several things to note: Family names are uncommon in Iceland; instead, its citizens still use an ancient Nordic system, in which a child inherits the first name of its father its last name (the last name of a son of an Icelandic man called Jón would be Jónsson, literally Jón’s son).

We can still see remnants of this system in other Nordic countries, where names ending with -son are common but are now proper family names, inherited by the children no matter what the first names of their parents are.

In Lithuania, while the name Kazlauskas was probably mostly brought from Poland via migration, there is also a possibility that it was adopted by some Lithuanians who had the word for a goat in their original surname during the era of polonization.

Note also that when there are two vastly different linguistic communities within a country, I included the top names for both whenever I was able to find the necessary data. This was the case of Belgium (the two names are for the Dutch- and French-speaking parts) and Estonia (with Russian and Estonian names). I wasn’t able to find any statistics at all for Cyprus.

By the way, I have written several educational ebooks. If you get a copy, you can learn new things and support this website at the same time—why don’t you check them out?

Enter the discussion 0

Subscribe to my educational newsletter

to receive a weekly summary of new articles
Enter your email address below:
Please, enter a valid email address:
You tried to submit the form very quickly after opening this page. To confirm that you are a human, please, click on the button below again:
Subscribe
I will send you one of my ebooks for free as a little gift.