Webster 1913 Edition



sur + name
; really a substitution for OE.
, from F.
. See
, and
A name or appellation which is added to, or over and above, the baptismal or Christian name, and becomes a family name.
☞ Surnames originally designated occupation, estate, place of residence, or some particular thing or event that related to the person; thus, Edmund Ironsides; Robert Smith, or the smith; William Turner. Surnames are often also patronymics; as, John Johnson.
An appellation added to the original name; an agnomen.
“My surname, Coriolanus.”
☞ This word has been sometimes written sirname, as if it signified sire-name, or the name derived from one’s father.


imp. & p. p.
p. pr. & vb. n.
[Cf. F.
To name or call by an appellation added to the original name; to give a surname to.
Another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and
himself by the name of Israel.
Isa. xliv. 5.
And Simon he
Mark iii. 16.

Webster 1828 Edition



[L. super and nomen.]
An additional name; a name or appellation added to the baptismal or christian name,and which becomes a family name. Surnames, with us, originally designated occupation, estate, place of residence, or some particular thing or event that related to the person. Thus William Rufus or red; Edmund Ironsides; Robert Smith,or the smith; William Turner.
An appellation added to the original name.
My surname Coriolanus.

Definition 2023




Alternative forms


surname (plural surnames)

  1. (obsolete) An additional name, particularly those derived from a birthplace, quality, or achievement; an epithet.
    • c. 1330, Arthour and Merlin, 5488:
      Þe .xxxix. Osoman, cert, His surname was: hardi of hert.
    • 1526, Tyndale's Bible, Acts I 23:
      Barsabas (whose syrname was Iustus).
    • 1590, Richard Harvey, Plaine Percevall the peace-maker of England, Sweetly indeuoring with his blunt persuasions to botch vp a reconciliation between Mar-ton and Mar-tother, B3:
      My sirname is Peace-Maker, one that is but poorely regarded in England.
    • c. 1607, William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, V iii 171:
      To his sur-name Coriolanus longs more pride
      Then pitty to our Prayers.
  2. (obsolete) An additional name given to a person, place, or thing; a byname or nickname.
    • c. 1395, Wycliff's Bible, Ecclus. XLVII 19:
      In the name of the Lord, to whom the surname [toname in the 1382 ed.] is God of Israel.
    • 1638, Abraham Cowley, Davideis, IV:
      I have before declared that Baal was the Sun, and Baal Peor, a sirname, from a particular place of his worship.
  3. The name a person shares with other members of that person's family, distinguished from that person's given name or names; a family name.
    • 1393, William Langland, Piers Plowman, C iv 369:
      Þat is noȝt refusy my syres sorname.
    • 1605, William Camden, Remaines, I 32:
      In late yeeres Surnames have beene given for Christian names among vs, and no where else in Christendom.
    • 1876, E. A. Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest, V xxv 563:
      The Norman Conquest...brought with it the novelty of family nomenclature, that is to say, the use of hereditary surnames.
  4. (Classical studies) The cognomen of Roman names.
    • c. 1400, "St. John Baptist", 928 in W. M. Metcalfe, Legends of the saints: in the Scottish dialect of the fourteenth century (1896), II 249:
      Þe thred herrod had alsua til his suornome agrippa.
  5. (Scotland, obsolete) A clan.
    • 1455 in J. D. Marwick, Charters of Edinburgh (1871), 79:
      The surnam and nerrest of blude to the said Williame.

Usage notes

The term "surname" may be used to translate terms from non-English names which carry additional shades of meaning, most notably in the case of Roman cognomens. In fact, the nomen was the surname as the word is commonly understood today but the terms were first applied when surname was still used in the sense of "additional" or "added" name: the cognomen was added to the nomen to show the branch of the family involved. (The modern translation of a similar distinction in ancient Chinese names customarily uses ancestral name and clan name instead and typically speaks of surnames only once the two merged into a single and commonly-employed family name.)




See also


surname (third-person singular simple present surnames, present participle surnaming, simple past and past participle surnamed)

  1. (transitive) To give a surname to.
  2. (transitive) To call by a surname.




  1. Oxford English Dictionary. "surnoun, n."