The Ukrainian Surname’s Origin

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Ukrainian surnames have different morphology and origins. In Rus (9–13th centuries) people used only nicknames that we know from the names of princes, which they didn’t give to their children. For example, Yaroslav the Wise and Volodymyr the Great. Only in the 14–17th century did last names (прі́звища) appear in official documents. At first, surnames were used by the upper class, nobles, and wealthy landowners.

In the 15–16th century, with the development of city life, last names were essential for maintaining trade records.

In 1632, Orthodox Metropolitan Petro Mohyla ordered priests to include family names in all records of birth, marriage, and death.

There are four types of Ukrainian surnames:

1. formed from first names;

2. based on places, residence or ethnic origin;

2. based on occupation or profession;

3. surnames based on an individual’s physical or psychological characteristics.

  1. Patronymic and matronymic surnames

Usually, they were derived from the father’s name, but sometimes from the mother’s. The name could also come from grandparents or other members of the family.

The surnames with the suffix –yshyn have a matronymic form: Romanykha (Roman’s wife) – their child’s name – Romanyshyn, Vasylykha (Vasyl’s wife) – their child’s name – Vasylyshyn.

The first name Ivan (Іван) – his children’s names: Ivaniv, Ivankiv, Ivasiv, Ivashko, Ivaniuk, Janiv, Jankiv, and Jantsur.

Andrii (Андрій) – Andriiash, Andriiets, Andrushkiv, and Andrukhovych.

Stepan (Степан) – Stefanyk, Stepaniuk, Stepanyshyn, and Stefanyshyn.

Hryhorii (Григорій) – Hryhorchyk, Hryhorenko, Hryniuk, Hryshyn.

Roman (Роман) – Romanenko, Romanchuk, Romanuk, Romaniv, Romanyshyn.

2. Toponymic and ethnic surnames

These surnames are based on a place or ethnic group a person belongs to.

From the name of an ancestral estate: Khmelnytskyi, Sheptytskyi, Ostrozkyi.

The names might be based on a town, village, city or region:

Vinnytskyi (from Vinnytsia), Sumskyi (from Sumy), Halytsky (from the town of Halych).

The specific living place:

Zaozernyi (lived past the lake), Haiovyi (lived near hai (grove), Piddubnyi (lived under (beside) the oak tree), Pidhirnyi (lived beside the mountain or hill).

Names that show ethnic or national origins:

Volokh, Voloshchuk, Voloshenko, Voloshyn – comes from the name of the ethnic group vlachs (or wallachians);

Lytvyn, Lytvynenko, Lytvyniuk, Lytvynchuk – a person from Lytva (Lithuania);

Mazur, Mazurets, Mazurenko, Mazurchuk – a person from Mazuria (region in Poland);

Tataryn, Tatarenko, Tatarchuk, Tatarchenko – a person from a Turkic ethnic group.

3. Profession–based surnames

Bondar (Bodnar, Bondaruk) – a barrel maker, cooper;

Honchar (Honcharenko, Honcharuk) – a potter, ceramist;

Kravets (Kravchenko, Kravchuk) – a tailor;

Oliinyk – a vegetable oil-manufacturer;

Ponomarenko (Ponomarchuk) – a church servant, who tolls, sings, and helps during services;

Chumak (Chumachenko) – a salt-trader;

Skrynnyk (Skrynchenko, Skrynchuk) – a chests maker;

Shevchenko, Shvets – a shoemaker, cobbler.

4. Surnames based on personal characteristics and appearance

Kryvonis (Kryvonosenko) – a crooked nose;

Bilyi (Bilyk) – a light complexion person;

Dziuba (Dzioba) – a beak-nose;

Harkavyi (Harkavenko) – a person who doesn’t pronounce “p” and “л”;

Kuts (Kutsyi, Kutsenko, Kutsyk) – a short person.

5. Cossack surnames

Cossack names derive from military occupations or might be based on personal characteristics. The last name usually consists of a second person–singular–addressed imperative verb or an adjective coupled with a noun, which can often be comical.

Chornovil – black ox;

Dobroshtan – good pants;

Holodryga – nude twitch;

Hryzydub – munch the oak (2nd pers. imp.);

Krivoshapka – crooked headwear;

Lomachenko – break + suffix –chenko;

Navarykasha – boil the porridge (2nd pers. imp.)

Nebaba – not a woman;

Nepyipyvo – do not drink beer (2nd pers. imp.);

Perebiinis – break the nose (2nd pers. imp.);

Pidkuimuha – horseshoe the fly (2nd pers. imp.);

Salohub – salo lips;

Ubyivovk – kill the wolf (2nd pers. imp.);

Vernydub – twist the oak (2nd pers. imp.).

Now you know the origin of Ukrainian surnames. What is your favourite Ukrainian surname?Next week we will tell you about the most popular surnames and common endings and suffixes. So stay turned!

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