For a family name inherited from one's mother (and maternal grandmother, etc.), see Matriname.

A matronymic is a personal name based on the given name of one's mother, grandmother, or any female ancestor. It is the female equivalent of a patronymic. In most societies, matronymic surnames are far less common than patronymic surnames. In the past, matronymic last names were often given to children of unwed mothers. Other times when a woman was especially well known or powerful, her descendants would adopt a matronym based on her name.



The matrilineal communities in South India and Nepal, namely the Bunts and Newars, have family names which are inherited from their mother. Matronymic names are common in Kerala.[1] Daughters take the names of their mothers as the second part of their name.


The Minangkabau of Indonesia are the largest group of people who use this naming system. People of Enggano Island also use a matronymic system. They also have family name/surname (marga).


Philippine names legally have the maiden name of the child's mother as a middle name following the Portuguese custom (as opposed to Anglo-American use of secondary or tertiary given names). Filipino children born to unwed mothers, if not claimed by the father nor adopted by anyone else, automatically bear their mother's maiden name and sometimes middle name.


Some Vietnamese names also function this way, as less of a "tradition" than a style or trend, in which the mother's maiden name is the child's middle name.



Although many English matronyms were given to children of unwed mothers, it was not unusual for children of married women to also use a matronymic surname. For instance, it was traditional during the Middle Ages for children whose fathers died before their births to use a matronym, and it was not unheard of for children to be given a matronym if the father's name was foreign, difficult to pronounce, or had an unfortunate meaning. A child of a strong-minded woman might also take a matronym, as might a child whose name would otherwise be confused with that of a cousin or neighbour. There are even instances where royal houses used matronymics to strengthen claims to the English throne - for example, Princess Matilda's eldest son was known as Henry FitzEmpress. Common English matronyms include Beaton, Custer, Tiffany, Parnell, Hilliard, Marriott, Ibbetson, Babbs, and Megson.[2]


In the old Finnish system, women were standardly given matronyms, while men were given patronyms, for example, Ainontytär (female) or Pekanpoika (male). Since the 19th century the system of inherited family names has been used, however, and today nearly all Finns have inherited surnames.


Family names derived from matronyms are found in France, especially in Normandy: Catherine, Marie, Jeanne, Adeline. In medieval Normandy (Duchy of Normandy), a matronym might be used when the mother was of greater prominence than the father or the basis for a claim of inheritance, such as in the cases of Henry FitzEmpress and Robert FitzWimarc.


Further information: Icelandic name

Some Icelandic people, like Heiðar Helguson, have matronyms.[3]

Ireland and Wales

Matronymics appear in medieval Celtic tales such as Cath Maige Tuired and the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi (the children of Dôn).


Matronymics are accepted in the Netherlands but are generally written as given names on identity cards.[4]


Family names derived from matronyms are also found in Romania, especially in the region of Moldavia. Examples include: Aioanei, Ababei, Acatrinei, Ailincăi.


Family names derived from matronyms are also found in Russia. Examples include: Katin, Mashkov, Annushkin. Oleg Yaroslavich, 12th century prince of Galich, was known as Oleg Nastasyich during his life to distinguish his claim from that of his half-brother Vladimir.

United States

Due to the diversity of family structures in the United States, a considerable variation in naming patterns has emerged, despite the fact that traditional, patrilineal naming practices still constitute the majority. Part of the relatively new variation is due to second-wave feminism, which influenced many women to seek ways of preserving their natal names, family histories, and individual identities as distinct from that of their partners’.

It has become more common and accepted for parents to give their children two last names, with or without a hyphen. Also, it is becoming more common to merge surnames to create an entirely new surname, or to invent a new surname from "whole cloth." These options have the advantage of allowing for one, shared nuclear family name.

Additionally, it is common for women in professional fields to keep their maiden name after they get married, often without pronounced feminist influences. In these cases, children may be given the father’s surname, the mother's surname or a both surnames hyphenated (see double-barrelled name).

Historically, it was not uncommon in prominent families to preserve a mother's maiden name by using it as a given first or "middle" name for (typically, male) children. This was sometimes a note of distinction and emphasized the family's aristocratic history. Prominent examples of this naming practice would include President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson, and Vice President Schuyler Colfax.

Middle East


An example of an Arabic matronymic is the name of Jesus in the Qur'an, ‘Īsá ibn Maryam, which means Jesus the son of Mary. The book Kitāb man nusiba ilá ummihi min al-shu‘arā’ (The book of poets who are named with the lineage of their mothers) by the 9th-century author Muḥammad ibn Ḥabīb is a study of the matronymics of Arabic poets.[5] There exist other examples of matronymics in historical Arabic names.[6]


Most characters in the Bible are referred to with a patronymic. However, Abishai, Joab, and Asahel – the sons of Zeruiah, sister or stepsister of King David – are invariably referred to as "Sons of Zeruiah" and the name of their father remains unknown. Also the Biblical Judge Shamgar is referred to with the matronymic "Son of Anat".

There are indications of a Jewish history of matronymic names. Specifically, in East European Jewish society, there appeared various matronymic family names such as Rivlin (from Rivka/Rebecca), Sorkin (from Sarah), Zeitlin (from Zeitl), Rochlin (from Rachel), Feiglin (from Feige), Havkin (from Hava/Eve) and others.[7]

In certain Jewish prayers and blessings, matronyms are used, e.g., "Joseph ben (son of) Miriam".

See also


  1. Page 201 mentions Mother's name becoming common in naming conventions in Kerala
  2. Bowman, William Dodgson. The Story of Surnames. London, George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1932. No ISBN.
  5. Levi della Vida, Giorgio; Ḥabīb, MuḥAmmad Ibn; Habib, Muhammad Ibn (1942). "Muḥammad Ibn Ḥabīb's "Matronymics of Poets"". Journal of the American Oriental Society. JSTOR: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 62, No. 3 (Sep., 1942), pp. 156-171. 62 (3): 156–171. doi:10.2307/594132. JSTOR 594132.
  6. See
  7. Cross, Earle Bennett (1910). "Traces of the Matronymic Family in the Hebrew Social Organization". The Biblical World. JSTOR: The Biblical World, Vol. 36, No. 6 (Dec., 1910 ), pp. 407-414. 36 (6): 407–414. doi:10.1086/474406. JSTOR 3141456.
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