Many factors figure into the meaning of surnames. To begin with, the meaning of a surname and its origin may be two different things. Even so, cultural naming conventions may figure in, including patronymics -- surnames derived from the father's given name, and matronymics -- surnames derived from the mother's maiden name. Additionally, back when surnames themselves originated, when it became necessary to distinguish one John from another, surnames may have been assigned or taken based on description, vocation, or place. Another consideration is the Anglicazation and Americanization of names; that is, surnames altered or changed (voluntarily or not) in conformity to a new place. There are many websites that explore the history and meaning of surnames, many that are country-specific, French, Italian, Irish, German, etc. Other ways to explore the history of surnames, their origin, meanings, and sometimes, distribution within a given country is through The Guild of One Name Studies, family associations based on surname, or DNA surname studies.
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