Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Fri Dec 17 17:11:37 UTC 1999

"Aaron E. Drews" <aaron at LING.ED.AC.UK> writes:

}        I received an inquiry today and wonder if someone could help. Someone
}asked me if there is a way of referring to the beginning portion of names
}like MacDonald, McCarthy, O'Neill, etc. Does anyone know of a term to
}describe these parts of names?

patronymic?  (also -ovich, sen/son, etc)

(Pedantic foreword:
     patronym:          n., 'name of father'
     patronymic:        adj., 'relating to name of father' >
                        n., 'name derived from name of father'
)      <--- You can tell I work with software engineers :-)\

As I understand it, a patronymic is a name for a person that indicates the name
of the person's father, or did so when originally given even if it has since
become a frozen surname in the family. Under that definition, each of the given
example surnames is itself a patronymic, as are Johnson, Ben-David, and

But the inquiry is about the prefixes (and, as Aaron extends it, suffixes) that
form a patronymic name from the name of the father. While I don't know of any
existing term, I would call them "patronymic prefixes/suffixes/affixes".

(Incidentally, the novelist Steven Brust uses "patronymic" apparently in the
sense of 'surname inherited from father to offspring', equivalent to the
traditional form of surnames in the English-speaking world.

   Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist and Manager of Acoustic Data
         Mark_Mandel at : Dragon Systems, Inc.
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :
                     (speaking for myself)

More information about the Ads-l mailing list