Types of Surnames
In Europe until the 12th century, most people were called by their first name. However, in order to tell people apart the use of surnames gradually became accepted throughout Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In many countries the use of surnames became hereditary (passed on) because the government wanted to be able to tax people more effectively. Can you believe that in the 13th century 1/3 of the male population had the same name!
Names did change over the years just by the way people pronounced them or by the way that the name became translated. For example, in Ireland gaelic names changed by being anglicised (made to sound more English).
So, our naming system can be divided into four types of surnames based on their origin.
Patronymic or Matronymic names
Locational and Topographical
Occupational names (or
Nicknames (or sobriquets)