- Parent Category: Beginner English Students
- Category: Beginner Mini Lessons
- Written by Chris Cotter
For a long time, people didn't have family names. People had first names only. This custom slowly changed in many countries, though, and people eventually used last names. In England, last names become common in the 13th century. But in Japan, this happened much later in the 19th century. In Burma and Tibet, people still don't use last names!
Many family names come from jobs. Names like Baker, Cook, Carpenter, or Miller show an ancestor's occupation. "Caplain" comes from French, and it means priest. "Stewart" comes from Old English, and it means household guardian.
People also used places for family names. In fact, in the UK, more than half of family names come from places. River, Marsh, or Ashwood are some examples.
What does your family name mean?
Preview the lesson material:
Warm Up: Discuss the question with your partner for five minutes.
- What do you know about the history of your family?
Comprehension Questions: Answer the questions before/after your read the article.
- When did family names become common in England? How about Japan? Tibet?
- What are some examples of jobs that became names?
- How many people in the UK have family names from places?
Discuss: Discuss these questions with a partner. Remember to support your answers.
- What does your family name mean?
- Many people's first names have a meaning too. Does your name have any meaning?
- Do you want to change your name? Why / not?