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First/given, middle, and last/family/surname diagram with J. S. Bach as example. J. S. Bach shared his given name with six immediate family members and many extended family members. He shared his family name with most family members.

A surname or family name is a name added to a given name. In many cases, a surname is a family name and many dictionaries define "surname" as a synonym of "family name." In the western hemisphere, it is commonly synonymous with "last name" because it is usually placed at the end of a person's given name.

In most Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries, two or more last names (or surnames) may be used. In China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Madagascar, Hungary, Nepal, parts of India and in many other East Asian countries, the family name is placed before a person's given name.

The style of having both a family name (surname) and a given name (forename) is far from universal. In many countries, it is common for ordinary people to have only one name or mononym.

The concept of a "surname" is a relatively recent historical development, evolving from a medieval naming practice called a "byname." Based on an individual's occupation or area of residence, a byname would be used in situations where more than one person had the same name.


Surname sections
Intro  Order of names  Compound surnames  Formation  Surname formed from a parent's name  Hebrew patronymic names   Culture and prevalence   See also  References  Further reading  External links  

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