There are thousands of Czech surnames. Some of them have Czech origins, other German, some of them are easy to understand, some of them not. But - how were they created? What are their origins? Do you want to know origin of your Czech surname and you are not able to find it in the article? Don't hesitate to ask in comments!
First surnames appear in Bohemia and Moravia in the middle ages. Those surnames were a lot different from the current ones - they were not permanent, they often changed generation to generation and were more a description of a person than anything else. And this is exactly the way how the surnames were created - surname described the person who had it.
Almost all people had some surname at the end of 18th century. And as Emperor Josef II. made many changes he also ordered that everyone has to choose one surname from those he was already using and he and his family will carry this surname in future.
Yes, there were people who were using more than one surnames. How could this happen? Most common case is so called household surname. It's the case when new owner of the house overtakes surname of previous owner. This is very common in Southern Bohemia, but you can run into such case anywhere in Bohemia and Moravia. I'll publish a blog post about these cases in future because this topic needs separate post.
There are four types of surname "roots": from first name, from occupation, based on a place of origin and based on personal attributes. We have to take into account that two different languages were used in Bohemia and Moravia in the past - Czech and German. Therefor you'll see both Czech and German surnames in the registries.
Surnames created from first name
If you have two cousins who have the same first name, what is the easiest way how to say who belong to which family? Use his father's name. And this is exactly how the surnames from the first name were created. If someone was Martin, son of Jakub, he was called Martin Jakubův. Tomáš, son of Jan, was called Tomáš Janův. And how to differentiate between father and son with the same surname? Using diminutive. Father is Jan, son could be Jeník. And what about his son? He could be Pavel Jeníkův or Pavel Jeník.
There are hundreds of surnames which are based on first names. Vávra or Vavroch are from Vavřinec, Kuba, Kubal, Jakoubek, Kubát are from Jakub, Janota, Janáček, Janoušek from Jan, Pavlík, Pavlica, Poulíček or Pavelka from Pavel...
Surnames created from occupation
There was another way how to differentiate among more people having the same first name - using their occupation as a desription. Jan Sedlák was Jan, farmer. Jan Tesař was Jan, the carpenter. Jan Kovář was Jan, the blacksmith. If someone has surname Bednář, it is very probable that first bearer of this surname was a cooper.
Other surnames from occupation are for example Barvíř, Kaplan, Horník, Písařík, Sedláček, Kožušník, Zahradník, Myslivec or Kramář.
Surnames based on place of origin
If someone new came to the village, he was often called Novák, Nový or Novotný, because nový means new. If it was known where he came from then the place of his origin was taken as a surname. For example, if someone came from mountains, he was often called Horák or Horský because hora means mountain. If someone came from town Týn, he was called Týnský because suffix -ský creates an adjective.
Here are some other examples: Vltavský (from Vltava), Bezděkovský (from Bezděkov), Rosický (from Rosice), Kopecký (from hills because kopec means hill), Žďárský (from Žďár or from forest as žďár = forest).
Surnames based on personal attributes
Was someone always in a hurry? He was called Spěchal because spěchat means to be in a hurry. Someone had black hair? He was called Černý as černý means black. Was he old? Well, surname Starý was perfect for his with starý meaning old.
There are again thousands of such surnames. Some of them are very indirect and it's not easy to say how those were created. But some are clear. Bezruka for example - bez means without, ruka means hand. So it was someone who lost his hand - in war, because of his work, in an accident? We can't tell, but there must have something really sad (and interesting, right?) happen...
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