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What Is a Surname?

A surname is another word for one’s family name or the name that was given to a baby when he or she is born. Usually, the family name is given to identify the lineage of the baby. Surnames are usually that of the father but there are no laws that say, mothers surnames cannot be used by the baby. That is the reason why some children get a hyphenated surnames composed of the family name of the mother as well as that of the father. Surnames are mainly used to identify people and their origins as well as their family composition. But during the ancient times, the use of surnames is not common. People are known by their names and the places where they live, the customs that they practice or by the skills they are known for.

The first record of the use of a surname is that of the Chinese emperor named Fu Xi. In the Asian tradition, the surname comes first before the given name. The word surname comes from a French word used in the 14th century which was surnom. Surnom means an additional name to the one that was given. Usually it is the name if the father to identify the lineage of the children. In the Arab tradition, it is common to find surnames which means “son of” in their language. It means that a child is identified by the additional name which is usually the father’s name. At present, the surname of the mother can be used by the child in the absence of a father. Women also have the right not to change their surnames when they get married.

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