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Armenian Surnames

February 18, 2013

Many people who know a lot about Armenians or have Armenian friends, they wonder “Why do all Armenian surnames end with –ian or –yan?” -ian and -yan are referred to the “son of”.  Originally people were referred to by a single given name. Family names didn’t exist because people lived in small settlements and knew each other personally. The need to create Armenian surnames to distinguish individuals arose after the foundation of large settlements and towns. People started to move from one place to another, and it became difficult to use just names and nicknames. It was necessary to add the person’s place of birth to the surname for example, Tatevatsi, and Shirakatsi (regions in Armenia), or main occupation, skills, or talents for example; a famous jeweler or baker received the corresponding surname – Voskerchyan (jeweler), Khatsukhyan (baker), and Boyadjian that is derived from a painter. The most confusing and curious names are those based on some trait of an ancestor. Typical examples are Topalian “son of the cripple,” Dilsizian “son of the tongueless one, Kebabjian, and Kahvejian refer to kebab and coffee merchants, respectively. Many of the origins of these names are unclear unless one understands the original context. Nevertheless, the majority of Armenian surnames were formed from the name of a reputable ancestor. People added a prefix or a suffix to the first name that indicated the connection to a certain family. The name categories of occupation and trait can differ significantly between Eastern Armenians and Western Armenians, since the eastern names often have Persian, Georgian or Russian roots, while the western names may have Turkish, Arab, or Greek roots. In addition, most Armenians (Eastern) from the former Soviet Union spell their last name with a -yan, which reflects the new spelling that was adopted by Armenians in the Soviet Union, while most Western Armenians spell their last names with an –ian. One of the popular Armenian surnames that most of you know is “Kardashian” in which “Kardash” is a stone sculptor. In my case, my surname is “Kazanjian” in which “Kazan” means strong or brave. In conclusion, every Armenian surname holds a history and a meaning of the certain family.




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One Comment
  1. i liked this topic becuase it is a very inetersting topic. it talks about the bigorphay of the amrinem surname, and it helped me alot in understanding why most areminan surnames end with ian or yan. it was one of the meystrious i wanted to know. kepp it up really nice topic

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