LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 32, No. 4 - Winter 1986
Editor of this issue: Antanas Dundzila
Copyright © 1986 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Lietuvių pavardžių žodynas: A-K.
(Dictionary of Lithuanian Family Names: A-K).
Edited by Aleksandras Vanagas. Written by Vitalija Maciejauskienė, Marytė Razmukaitė and Aleksandras
Vanagas. Etymologies and origins of the family names by Aleksandras Vanagas.
Vilnius, "Mokslas," 1985. 1152 pages.
Family names, together with all the proper names, belong to the branch of linguistics known as onomastics. Onomastics investigates all proper names, i.e., names of the people, localities, water bodies, forests, fields. Properly speaking, all of the human appellation comes under the rubric of anthroponymics, i.e., the names of individuals, families, tribes, peoples, and nations. There is one specific characteristic for most family names in most European (at least in Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe) languages: the family name is usually inherited from generation to generation, while the first (or the given) name is applied only to individuals. Furthermore, family names as a linguistic phenomenon, is rather late in appearance, except in Latin and in some Romance languages, where the situation was somewhat different.
In most European countries, family names came into use, very gradually, only in the 14th century. In some rural areas of Europe, it was only in the 18th and even 19th century when the family names came into universal and legal usage.
In the earlier times, most individuals had only one name. If there was a need to distinguish a particular individual from another bearing the same name, various attributive additions were used: referring to the place where one lived, whence one came, his/her profession, occupation, some personal characteristics. Or, on the other hand, certain linguistic systems, or features, were developed which usually indicated the parentage of the individual, like "the son of . . ." or the "daughter of." Many such patronymics later became regular family names as well. (In Modern Icelandic, this system is still in use).
In Lithuanian, like in most of the other Indo-European languages, individuals used to have only one name. This can easily be seen in the lists of names of the old Lithuanian rulers and other chieftains recorded several centuries before the first Lithuanian books appear in print.
The first family names appear in Lithuanian, in some instances, in the 14th century. And only in the 18th century this process of assigning a family name to each family may have been concluded. Once established, the family name tends to remain rather constant, except for the fact that some changes may have occurred in the spelling.
As in most other Indo-European languages, the Lithuanian family names are of varied origin. Some are formerly single, individual names, inherited from ancient (Proto-) Indo-European, some had been nicknames, which had been used to designate the individuals according to their physical and/or spiritual characteristics. Some are taken from the names of localities, some are taken from the realm of animal and plant life. However, again as in other European languages, many family names were borrowed, or adopted, from the generous supply of Hebrew/Aramaic (via the Old Testament), Greek (New Testament) and Latin (via the general usage of Latin in the Roman Catholic Church). And many family names came from the neighboring Slavic languages, from German, and some even came from the related Latvian language. Practically all European languages have many such family names which originally were just single names. Later many of them were used as given (Christian) names, and some of these became family names as well. Thus, the English Johnson, Russian Ivanovich, Lithuanian Jonaitis all of them go to the biblical "John," and this occurs quite frequently. General speaking, this biblical name occurs most frequently as the first (given, Christian) name, such as John, Jack, Hans, Heinz, Jens, Janis, Jonas, Ivan in many European languages. Many family names have been derived from this name as well: Johnson, Jansen, Jonaitis, Ivanov, Ivanovich. Several dozen Lithuanian family names are also derived from this very popular name, such as Jonaitis, Jonauskas, Jonavičius (and Janavičius), Jonikas; further: Jankauskas, Jankelaitis, Jankeliūnas, Jankevičius, Jankūnas, Jankus, Janonis, and many others. Many of the other Hebrew/Aramaic, Greek, Latin names have also supplied many family names in practically all European languages.
Lithuanian, of course, never had any direct contacts with these classical languages, but many Lithuanian (first) names as well as family names ultimately go back to them. They reached Lithuania through the mediation of other neighboring languages, such as Polish, Byelorussian, Ukrainian, Russian, German, and even Latvian. Therefore, when one reads this dictionary, one gets the impression that a rather large part of the Lithuanian family names are of foreign origin. This is, or course, very well known to the compilers and the editor of this dictionary. In the Introduction, we read:
"Lithuanian anthroponyms have undergone a long and complicated development. Among other things, the Slavic influence was considerable here. It can be observed right after the introduction of Christianity into Lithuania (most of the Christian names came through the Slavs), and it even increases in later centuries, when the Lithuanian family names were beginning to be formed. Because of this fundamental reason, a large part of the Lithuanian family names are either Slavic, or have reached Lithuania through Slavic mediation; some were Slavicized later (they have Slavic prefixes, suffixes), (page 11; translation mine, AKL).
This dictionary gives the following information for each entry: the spelling and the stress pattern (where it is known) of the family name, its distribution by giving the number of families with this particular name in certain geographical areas, the total number of families which have this family name and, in many cases, the origin and/or etymology of the name. In quite a few cases, the origin is indicated as unknown, but this is the usual feature of many a dictionary of family names. The family name itself may have been written in several ways and, in the course of time, all kinds of changes may have occurred in the spelling of the name; thus, quite often it is impossible to even guess as to the origin. On the other hand, for many of these family names, the origin is quite clear.
What are the most popular, the most frequently used Lithuanian family names in this first volume: A-K? From this dictionary, we will list here only those Lithuanian family names which more than 300 families are using. After each family name, we will indicate the number of the families with that name: Adomaitis (726), Adomauskas (382), Aleksandravičius (408), Antanavičius (324), Astrauskas (328), Bagdonas (662), Balčiūnas (999), Baltrušaitis. (391), Banys (369), Baranauskas (868), Barauskas (435), Barkauskas (453), Bartkus (369), Bernotas (488), Brazauskas (345), Bružas (336), Budrys (359), Butkevičius (459), Butkus (1021), Čern(i)auskas (651), Dambrauskas (511), Grigas (345), Gudaitis (350), Ivanauskas (747), Jakštas (313), Jakubauskas (320), Jurevičius (585), Juška (562), Juškevičius (397), Kairys (699), Kaminskas (683), Karpavičius (360), Kavaliauskas (781), Kazakevičius (356), Kazlauskas (1576), Klimas (300), Krasauskas (422), Kučinskas (529).
(Those readers who may be somewhat familiar with the sports scene in the USA, will not fail to notice that two of the most famous Lithuanian-American athletes could be found on this list: Dick Butkus and Johnny Unitas (Jonaitis) ).
The list above indicates that 42 family names are the most popular in Lithuania (not forgetting that we may find, perhaps, about 40 such family names in the second volume of this dictionary: L-Ž. The most popular Lithuanian family name is, clearly, Kazlauskas (1576 families), followed by Jankauskas (1482), Butkus (1021), and Balčiūnas (999).
Of these 42 family names, only a small part is entirely Lithuanian, i.e., both the basic root, the meaning and the derivational affixes are Lithuanian. These names are : Balčiūnas, Bružas, Budrys, Butkus, Gudaitis, Kairys. In this short review, we cannot go into detailed etymologies: we shall mention only the main facts. Balčiūnas is clearly derived from Lith. baltas 'white,' Budrys is derived from the Lith. adjective budrus 'alert,' Butkus goes back, ultimately, to the basic root Lith. būti 'to be.' Gudaitis originally may have meant 'the son of gudas' (Lith. gudas 'Byelorussian; foreigner'), and Kairys is an old nickname: 'left-handed.' Bružas is a little more difficult to explain, but, most probably, it is an old nickname, too. Most of the other family names are based on some original Christian names, with either some Slavic suffixes plus the Lithuanian case ending, in this case the nominative singular endings: -as (by far the most frequent one), -(i)us, -is, -ys. There are also a few in -a (cf. ]uska), and in -ė.
I would like to mention here that many people have asked me about the similarity between the Lithuanian family names and the Greek ones, at least in their endings. Greek names, as it is commonly known, can also end in -as, -is, -us. Many Greek family names also end in -os. Historically, the Greek -os corresponds exactly to Lithuanian -as. Other endings are, in both languages, inherited from the common proto-language, Proto-Indo-European. Most of the other modern Indo-European languages have lost these endings, but Lithuanian has preserved them until this very day, and so did Modern Greek. Thus, the similarity.
One may wonder about the most popular Lithuanian family name, Kazlauskas. Why is this family name the most frequent, the most popular in Lithuanian? First of all, all the neighboring Slavic languages (Polish, Byelorussian, Russian) have many family names of the same type, derived from the same root. Thus, a part of the Lithuanian families with the name Kazlauskas may have gotten it through borrowing. But there is also the possibility that this family name may be only a translation into one of the Slavic languages of the original Lithuanian name (originally a nickname) such as Ožys, Oželis, Ožiukas, Ožytis, all meaning 'he goat; buck.' Apparently, there were many Lithuanian families with that name, some have retained it until the present day (which will be clearly seen when the second volume of this dictionary L-Ž is published). Others, for one reason or another, had their family name translated into some Slavic form, then the Lithuanian ending -as was added.
The most ancient Lithuanian names usually consisted of two original roots. Such are almost all the names of the Lithuanian rulers recorded as early as the beginning of the 13th century. Some of these ancient names have been preserved as family names until the present day: Advilionis, Agintas, Aišmantas, Ambutas, Arminas, Ašmantas, Atminąs, Aukštkalnis, Aušvydas, just to name a few beginning with the letter A. Originally, all of them had had some concrete meaning. Aukštakalnis is composed of two words: aukštas 'high/tall' and kalnas 'mountain.' Therefore Aukštakalnis may have meant "a person living on/near/by a high mountain," or something similar.
In the olden days, there were also names referring to some characteristic trait of the person so named, e.g., Kairys 'left-handed,' Dailidė 'carpenter,' Vilkas 'wolf,' and many more. Many such single names, almost all going back to the original nicknaming system, became family names later on, when the family name system was introduced in Central Europe as well as in Lithuania.
One is tempted to compare this huge dictionary (only the first volume has 1152 pages) with the rather well-known dictionary of American family names: Elsdon C. Smith, New Dictionary of American Family Names, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, Evanston, San Francisco, London, 1973, 570 pages. (The present writer has contributed some data to this dictionary, cf. p. IX).
Clearly, the latter dictionary is more popular, very highly selective, and does not even attempt to indicate the geographical location of the families with a particular name at all. Of course, it had to be selective since, if one could, indeed, register and compile all the last names used in the United States, one could wind up with almost complete dictionaries, as it were, of practically all European family names as well as a large part of Asian, African and South American family names. (If one does not believe this, let him/her glance through the huge telephone directories of such large cities like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles).
When the second volume (L-Ž) appears, this dictionary will be almost a complete record of all Lithuanian family names presently used. Some linguists estimate the number of Lithuanian family names to run about 50,000. This is approximately the number of family names in such languages as German, French, and English.
The University of Rochester