The surnames in every country of the world vary greatly. There are those which are known to be very popular from certain regions of the world but this specificity can also come down as far as a village.
Surnames are synonymous with family names. What this means is that they are used to specifically identify a family. This can vary from culture to culture. Many Latin cultures for instance use compound family names where the “surname” of a child is a combination of the father’s surname and the mother’s surname although, they are still considered to be two distinct surnames. Even the presentation of that name varies from culture to culture. One example of this is that in Franc, Italy and Slovenia, the surname is typically presented before the given name in most formal documentation.
Despite the common use of surnames around the world, there were many cultures (mostly Uralic people) who traditionally did not use them likely because of their clan structures. The use of these names were only later imposed by dominant authorities: evangelists, then administrations.
Surnames can be classified into one of 5 categories: given name, occupational name, location name, nickname and ornamental name.
- Given names are the simplest of the 5 where the surname is derived from a parent’s given name.
- Occupational surnames are those derived from the occupation of a person. Well known Slovenian “occupational” surnames would be Šoštar; shoemaker (or any of its transformations, Šuštar, Šušter), Zupan; mayor or žagar; sawer.
- Location based surnames are very commonly used in the household name but these are surnames derived from where people came from or lived. Some well known Slovenian “location” surnames would be Kastelic; from a castle, Horvat; Croatian or Hribar; from the hill.
- Nickname surnames are surnames derived from a person’s nickname which would have typically been derived from a person’s appearance, temperament or personality.
- Ornamental names were typically names which adopted (or were forced to adopt) surnames in the 18th and 19th centuries. Evidence shows that surnames existed in Slovenia already in the 16th century so these typically do not exist here. They were much more typical in Jewish families and those from Scandinavia.
Gender specific surnames are also very common in many cultures, specifically in Europe. The use of gender specific names in Slovenian culture more commonly is seen when one is referred to by their household name ie. Žugljov, Žugljova. Gender specific surnames are very common in Russian, Greek, Bulgarian, Slovakian and other cultures.
Surnames formed by a parent’s name is a practice which dates back centuries and is common in many cultures. Even though we do not have any conclusive evidence of such practices in Slovenia, many well known last names today suggest exactly that. The suffix “-ič” typically suggest that practice. Names such as Markič; son of Marko, Klemenčič; son of Klemen or Mihelič; son of Miha suggest that this system of assigning surnames was historically practiced.
Deviations among similar surnames was also common, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries in Slovenia. With much of the population being illiterate, people typically did not write their own surnames. Instead, a “mark” would be used as a signature on official documentation. This led to the interpretation of others of the spelling of surnames. Two different people could write the same surname differently leading to the present belief that people with surnames that are differently written, not being related. Local accents and dialects also played a part in this inconsistency. Examples of such deviations are Šarc and Šarec, Berkopec and Brkopec or Balkovec and Bolkovac.
According to Wikipedia, the top 30 Slovenian surnames are:
|1||Novak||new man; from a newly established farm|
|3||Kovačič||son of blacksmith|
|5||Zupančič||son of farmer or the village elder|
|10||Vidmar||farmer belonging to a the ruler’s estate|
|16||Zupan||mayor (originally, village elder)|
|17||Bizjak||archaic term for refugee; usually applied to Slavic Christian families that had fled from the Ottoman Empire|
|18||Hribar||from the hill|
|19||Kotnik||from a remote area (literally, from a corner)|
|22||Kastelic||from a castle|
|26||Hočevar||from Kočevje or from Gottschee County|
|30||Klemenčič||son of Klemen|