January, 20233 min readarmeniamicros

The one about Armenian surnames

Armenian surnames are not formed the way you think they are.

Armenian Alphabet Monument, Armenia
Photo by robertlevonyan

It was common to use a suffix to identify a person (surnames were not popular back in the day.) in the Middle East. Suffixes were based on different things:

  • An occupation.
  • A family bond (the "daughter of" or the "son of.")
  • A location.

Armenia is no exception. Of course, nowadays, Armenian surnames are not formed this way anymore, but we can tell the majority of them were:

  • Davtyan - Has Georgian and Russian origin. It is patronymic for "son of Davit."
  • Hakobyan - It is patronymic for "son of Hakob/Jacob."
  • Hovsepian - It is patronymic for "son of Hovsep/Joseph."
  • Melikyan - It is patronymic for "son of Melik." The common variant "Malik" is Arabic for "king."
  • Metsian - It is patronymic for "from the tall (man)."
  • Abrahamian - It is patronymic for "son of Abraham."
  • Movsesian - It is patronymic for "son of Moses."
  • Kohanian - It is patronymic for "son of Kohen."
  • Bjishkian - It is patronymic for "from the doctor."

When Armenians moved from Armenia or from the Middle East, some changed their last names to adapt better to their new societies. Sometimes the -ian or -yan ending was dropped, and the root kept, such as Charles Aznavour (was Aznavourian), or Andy Serkis (originally Sarkissian.)

A more "modern" way of forming surnames used to be based on one's grandfather's name (according to my Dad.) My grandfather's name was Sarkis, and my surname was supposed to be Sarkissian.

I don't know how Navasardyan was formed. "Navasard" means "January" in an old pagan Armenian calendar.

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