Friday, January 31, 2014

Most common Czech surnames

When you are searching for a family in Bohemia or Moravia and you don't know where the family was from surname often helps. There are surnames which occur only in a few specific villages and you can determine where the ancestors were from. But then there are those surnames which occur in tens of thousands. Here are ten of those most common surnames - how many people have them, what they mean and so on.

Almost every Czech surname has its male and female form. That's why there are two very similar surnames in all cases. 

1.  Novák - Nováková
This surname holds first place with almost 70 thousands occurences (35.5 thousands of female form, 34 thousands of male form). Novák means someone new in the village, someone who came from another place, or someone who built a new house. This surname was very usual after the Thirty Years' War when there were many people moved to new places to ensure the land cultivation or restoration of devastated and abandoned properties. 

2. Svoboda - Svobodová
Second place with 26.5 thousands (female) and 25.2 thousands (male form) occurences. Svoboda means liberty and people who had this name were personally free, freemen subordinated directly to the king and not "only" to some nobleman.

3. Novotný - Novotná
Surname very similar to Novák and Nováková - the meaning of the surname is the same, someone new in the village, person coming from another place. There are 25.3 thousands of women having this surname and 24.3 thousand of men.

4. Dvořák - Dvořáková
Another surname which has similar meaning as one of the previous surnames. Dvořák was originally a freeman who owned a farm, "dvůr". Dvůr is the word from which the surname was derived. People who were personally free were very proud of this status. There are 22.3 thousands of men with this surname and 23.3 thousands of women. 

5. Černý - Černá
One of the oldest surnames which was based on personal appearence of its holder. Černý means black and the surname meant someone with black hair or dark skin - usually people who were suntanned, often gypsies etc. This surnames is held by 18.5 thousands women and 17.8 thousands of men. 

6. Procházka - Procházková
This is quite specific surname connected to the fact that our crafting ancestors were travelling to get enough of experience to become masters of their craft. This surname is very common in milling families - procházka means walkabout or strolling and many millers left their homes to walk a long distance to get the experience. 16.7 and 16 thousands of occurences (female and male form). 

7. Kučera and Kučerová
Another surname originating in personal appearence. Kučera is derived from hair - it means curl, someone with curly hair. There are 15.1 thousands of male holders and 15.8 thousands of female holders of this surname. 

8. Veselý - Veselá
Not a personal appearence, but one's nature or character. Veselý means someone happy, good-tempered, person who has always a smile on. This surname is a bit of surprise in case of Czech people as there are not so many happy people nowadays. :) 13.6 thousands of women and 13 thousands of men have this surname.

9. Horák - Horáková
Someone who comes from hills or mountains - hora means hill or mountain, so horák is a word for hillman or highlander. Today there are 12.8 thousands of women having this surname and 12.2 thousands of men. 

10. Krejčí
One of those few surnames where is one form for both men and women. There are 12 thousands holders of this surname, not dividing among men and women this time. Krejčí means taylor - and this surname means that its first holder was taylor in his professional life.


  1. I love it that Vesely is one of the most common Czech surnames. :) Doesn't Stiastny mean the same thing? (I have some of those.)

    A surname question for you: my great-grandmother was born a Tatar(ova). I've found the Tatar family in their little village of Stary Smolivec (near Hvozdany and Pribram) all the way back to the mid 1600s, and only there. Is this...a normal Czech name? The Tatars, as far as I know, are a Turkic ethnic group living in Russia/Ukraine/the Crimea. How would someone in a tiny village of SW Bohemia end up with this surname?

  2. Hi Rose, yes, Šťastný is similar surname. :)

    Tatar... Well, there is one saying in Czech "he speaks like Tatar" = it's not possible to understand him. So this is one of the possibilities how the surname originated. Another case could be someone who fled from land invaded by Tatars (Turkish soldiers) and settled in the village. He was then called Tatar because he was "the one who fled from Tatars".

  3. Thank you! Both explanations are interesting. Stary Smolivec is pretty far from any Turkish lands, so maybe they were just unintelligible. :) In any case, Czech surnames are much more colorful than English ones!

    As to the Tatar name, there is another family in the same village named Tatarek. The earliest Tatarek I find (marriage and and death records) does not show up in the birth records. However, the first name and approximate birth date match that of a Tatar child born in the village. Is it too much of a leap of logic to think the Tatareks are simply one branch of the Tatar family? Or are they generally distinct surnames?

    (And thanks so much for this web site. It is so informative! Yes, we can use the Actapublica and Trebon archive websites from afar, but it's very hard to find out about Czech culture and history from the U.S.)

    1. Tatarek (Tatárek) is definitely derived from Tatar - Tatarek is small Tatar, so yes, the child born as Tatar could have the name Tatarek. Diminutives are usually used in case of younger brothers or brothers owning smaller piece of land than the original family. I think I already promissed an article about such surnames, will try to finally write it.

    2. Thanks, I'm looking forward to it! :)

  4. Hi, I have a question about Czech naming practices. In english if a father and a son have the same first name the father is called Senior, and the son is called Junior. ie Frank Novy Senior and Frank Novy Junior. How is this done in Czech?

    I am asking because I found a name which had "starý " [means old] after it - ie Vaclav Stanek starý. I found this on a birth of a daughter so does it mean I should continue to look for a son with the same first name?


    1. Hi Daniel, "starší" (senior) and "mladší" (junior) is usually used. :) Hope it helps.

  5. Thanks, Blanka. I have seen this and wondered. Now I know.

    Mary Levesque

  6. My son has traced our family name, Chitek, back to Bohemia. At the time our forefathers came to the USA the name was spelled Citek. Can you tell me where this name is located and what it means

    1. Hi Lynda, I suppose original form was Čítek? When you take a look on current map of this surname, most of its bearers live around Tábor -

      It's derived from an old Czech first name Čít.

  7. What do you know about the names Bednarik and Dufek from Moravia?

    1. Hello, Bednarik (Bednařík) is typical dimunitive from Bednář. It's surname derived from occupation where Bednář means cooper (hah, like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory :)). Dufek is derived from old Czech first name Dušek (Duchoslav).

  8. Hello Blanka! I love your blog and it has helped me so much! I recently spent some time in your beautiful country and was able to find out that my Drevo ancestors lived in Slapy (for 1 generation, and moved to America after most of his kids were born) (He went there to marry Rosa Podhrazsky!), Hlinice (for at least 3 generations, 2 of those generations were the village Rychtar/mayor), Kosin (for 1 generation),. Paseky for 1 generation and lastly Jistebnice (born in 1676) for what I can find is only 1 generation... no records are available before that! My question on this is: Would the name Drevo possibly be linked to Jistebnice, or maybe somewhere else, which could lead me to another place to research? Drevo is not that common, from what I can tell by the records!

    Also, I have not been able to find anything on the maternal side of my father (records are not yet available). Would you know anything about the surname Kasha (Kasa) and Shara (Sara)?

    Thanks for you input!

    Cammi Drevo-Amezcua

  9. wow I have a cerny in my family tree - and my dad a zoubek is very dark complexion wise with dark hair and eyes

    I am very new to the geneaology stuff - and I love this site

  10. Is the last name Kratochvil similar to Veselý? I have been told that Kratochvil means "amusing man", which seems similar to "happy", but maybe it means that the person told jokes?

    Two other family names are Karella and Živny/Živna. Could you please tell me what these two names might mean? Thank you.
    Kae Ellingsen

  11. Mikush and Svelha are family. Anything to do with these names would be appreciated asy sister is doing family history. Thanks Blanka!! Hope to go to this lovely country someday!

    1. Mikuš is from the first name Mikuláš (Nicolas). And Švehla comes from šveholit, which means to chirp or twitter.

  12. Do you know anything on the surname Klas?

    1. Klas means corn spike, so probably the first holder was tall as a corn spike? :)