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Most popular surname in Spain is 'García', says linguist's map of European family titles
thinkSPAIN , Saturday, March 19, 2016

SPAIN'S most commonly-found surname is 'García', which may come from a Basque word meaning 'bear' or 'young', according to Czech linguist Jakub Marian.

He has created a map of Europe with the most-frequent surname for each country featured, and a second map explaining, in English, what they mean.

British, Irish, German and French expats in Spain are likely to be called Smith, Murphy, Müller or Martin, meaning metalworker, descendant of a 'sea warrior' or Murchadh, a miller, and 'of Mars' – the god, not the planet.

Spain's neighbours, Portugal, are most likely to be called Silva, from the Latin word for 'forest' (selva in Spanish), or Da Silva, meaning 'of the forest'.

Across the water from Spain, the most-frequent Italian surname is Rossi, meaning red in the plural, and probably referring to hair colour or complexion.

Spain's highest numbers of European expats come from Romania, where the most common surname is Popa, meaning priest, and in smaller number from Bulgaria, where the most-frequent surname is Ivanov, meaning 'of John' – the same as in Belarus, and similar to Serbia's Jovanović, which means 'son of John'.

Estonians are also most likely to have the surname Ivanov, and also Tamm, meaning 'oak'.

Like Germans, Ukrainians' most common surname means 'miller', but is Melnyk rather than Müller – also the joint-most popular surname in Switzerland along with Bianchi, or 'white' in the plural.

Greece and Romania have similar surname concepts in common – the Greek equivalent of Spain's García, 'Papadopoulos', means 'son of a priest'.

Although Smirnoff vodka is popularly found in cocktails in chiringuitos, or beach kiosks in Spain in summer, the more-common spelling is Smirnov – Russia's most-seen family name, meaning 'peaceful'.

In Russia's near-neighbours Latvia, Lithuania and Moldavia, the commonest family names are Berziņš, Kazlauskas and Rusu, meaning 'little birch', 'a person from Kozlow (in Poland)', and 'Russian'.

Scandinavian names often relate to 'son of' – Iceland's most-frequent surname is not listed, because the country still follows the Mediaeval-origin system of putting son or dóttir after the father's first name to create the surname – for example, Olafsson is 'Olaf's son', and 'Jonsdóttir' is 'Jon's daughter'.

But Danes are often called Nielsen – son of Niels, or Nicholas – whilst Norway's inhabitants are most likely to be named Hansen, or son of Hans, and Swedes, Andersson, or son of Anders.

No meaning is given for Finland's most common surname, which is Korhonen.

Others listed are Turkey's Yılmaz (dauntless, courageous, unbeatable); Hungary's Nagy (big); Austria's Gruber (miner, or a person from the town of Grub); The Netherlands' De Jong ('the young'); Belgium's Peeters ('of Peter') or Dubois ('of the wood'); Luxembourg's Schmidt (smith, or metalworker); Poland's Nowak and the Czech Republic's and Slovenia's Novák (meaning 'Newman'); Slovakia's Horváth and Croatia's Horvat (meaning 'Croat', in old Croatian); Albania's Kelmendi (person from the Kelmendi mountains); Macedonia's Stojanovski ('son of Stojan'); Bosnia's Hodžic (son of a preacher), and Montenegro's Popovic (son of a priest).


Map pictures by Jakub Marian (



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