The meanings of surnames is often confused
with last names and their
meanings. However, surnames are synonymous with "sir
names" and thus the meanings are not the same at all.
Etymologically speaking, surname meanings
come from the paternal side or "sir" side
or some say "sire" side of the genealogical
tree. This is a tree, of course that sprouts lots
of fruits and nuts throughout its many branches.
In the movie "To Sir With Love",
Sidney Poitier plays teacher Mark Thackeray. So, Thackeray
is thus the "sir" name or surname if you
will of this character, not because it is last, but
simply because it indicates a title of respect due
the teacher of these exceptionally obnoxious East
Other surnames may include those of Sir Paul McCartney,
Sir Richard Branson and Sir Elton John. In the case of EJ,
John may be seen as a first name, last name and surname
all in one shot. Now, this is indeed a powerful and flexible
Surnames are all about respect. If you respect someone,
you call him by his surname. The meaning of this surname
is usually associated with the parcel of land he came from
or from the first thing the parents saw while the mother
was giving birth.
For instance, in North Indian culture if the mother was
giving birth was a bear ran by then the child was called
Running Bear. If a deer standing proudly on a mountain top
was spotted, then the child would be called Proud Buck.
If, however, a bitch was taking a poop in the bush, then
the child would be called Squatting Dog. The surname meanings
in these cases were linked to nature and the element of
In the case of the surname meanings being tied to the land
that the family was bore upon, this was ideal until families
started to migrate. For instance, the surname of Stoltenberg
may mean "Proud Mountain" in German even if the
family migrated to the coast. The surname of Jordan means
"river of judgment" as it is connected to the
Euphrates, even if the family migrated to the mountains.
Surname meanings also many times were connected to the
father's profession. As an example, the Taylors most often
created clothing, the Smiths were blacksmiths, the Bathmakers
were bath makers and the Dykes were, well, dammed to their
So, one can see that the surname meanings have many sources.
In the end, most of us are very disconnected from the origins
of those meanings. The good news is that we've progressed
far beyond Og and Grogg as surnames. Now days, we can even
pick our own surnames and the meanings behind them in a
court of law, if desired. Now, that's progress.