|Using This Reference||Terminology||Searching||Other Features|
The main feature of this website is a listing of surnames and their meanings. Entries are displayed in the following manner:NAMESOURCE: Given Name, Occupation, Location, or NicknameUSAGE: where the name is usedOTHER SCRIPTS: spellings of the name in other character setsPRONOUNCED: pro-nunt-see-AY-shun [key]Meaning & History(if available)
Not all names have usages, other scripts or pronunciations. The meaning and history is a sentence or short paragraph describing the etymology and source language of the surname. It also sometimes gives details about the name's etymological elements, its historical usage, and some of its notable bearers.
In many cases a name is a form of another name. For example: Smythe is a variant of Smith. In these cases the meaning will be listed at the other name, so follow the link provided to go to that other name.
"cognate" - Two words (or names) are cognates if they are from different languages but derived from the same root.
"diminutive" - This describes a name that is a short and/or affectionate form of a more formal name.
"usage" - A name's usage describes who uses it. It can be a language, a nationality, a culture, or something else. It is NOT necessarily the language of origin.
"variant transcription" - This indicates an alternate spelling in the Latin alphabet (the A-Z) for a name which is written in another alphabet (e.g. Arabic). For example, the Russian name Юрий may be written Yuriy or Yuri in Latin characters, so they are variant transcriptions of one another.
ə - In pronunciations, this indicates a reduced vowel, like the sound of the a in about. In English, vowels in unstressed syllables often take this sound. The symbol is called "schwa".
Ð / ð and Þ / þ - These characters (called "eth" and "thorn") appear in Old English, Old Norse and modern Icelandic names. They represent the fricative th sound heard in English.
You can initiate a search from the search page. The top of this page has links to pre-constructed searches. The bottom has an advanced search form, which will allow you to search by a number of different criteria. Once you search, you can further refine your search by clicking the "more options..." button on the results page.
For those interested, someone has created an OpenSearch plugin for surnames.behindthename.com - supported by Firefox 2+, Internet Explorer 7+, etc.
Besides the main name database, there are several other features on this website.
- The most popular names provide lists of the surnames used most frequently in many parts of the world.
- The namesakes provide many different lists of famous people, organized by surname.
- The comments are a collection of comments about names left by users of this website.
- The message boards are a good place to ask and answer questions about names.
- The submit-a-name page is the place to add names that are missing from the main database. These names end up in the supplementary submitted name database, which is curated by a number of volunteer editors.
- By signing up for a completely free, no-hassle user account, you get complete access to the message boards, as well as the ability to create a profile and customized lists of names.
Also, Behind the Name is a sister site, dealing with given names instead of surnames.