Category: "Names"

Фамилия

June 10th, 2010 — posted by Don

The Russian word for last name or surname is фамилия. Фамилия does not mean family. Let's say you are in a post office, and the worker there needs to know your last name. He might ask your last name by saying:

Как ваша фамилия? What is your last name?

Russian last names tend to end in -ин, -ын, -ов, -ев, and -ёв. Those are the masculine forms. You can also have feminine and plural forms as well:

MasculineFemininePlural
ИвановаИвановаИвановы
МихайловМихайловаМихайловы
ПутинПутинаПутины
МедведевМедведеваМедведевы
ГорбачёвГорбачёваГоврбачёвы
СиницынСиницынаСиницыны

Many Russian last names also end in -ый, -ой or -ский. Those are the masculine forms. You can also have feminine and plural forms as well:

MasculineFemininePlural
БелыйБелаяБелые
ТолстойТолстаяТолстые
ДостоевскийДостоевскаяДостоевские

The declension of last names is discussed in these entries:


Note for Russian readers: the word 'surname' is not used very often in the United States. I have seen it on a few official forms, but for the most part we say 'last name,' not 'surname.' The one time I visited Britain, I did here 'surname' used.

Имя

June 8th, 2010 — posted by Don

The word for name in Russian, in the sense of “first name,” is имя. A beginner might assume that the -я ending means that the word is a feminine noun, but in fact it is one of the ten third-declension neuter nouns that end in -я in Russian. It declines like this:

SgPl
Nomимяимена
Acc
Genимениимён
Preименах
Datименам
Insименемименами

If say, at the post office they need to know your first name, they might say:

Как ваше имя? What is your name?

But that is a really officious and unpleasant way to ask a name. Normally people will say:

Как вас зовут? What is your name?

Russian names often sound quite curious to the American ear, and of course Russians also have patronymics that complicate the situation:

Древние русские имена для мужчин иногда включают в себя корень -слав, что конечно обозначает «слава», например Ростислав, Мстислав, и Владислав. Ancient Russian names for men sometimes include the root -slav, which of course means “glory”: for instance Rostislav, Mstislav, and Vladislav.
— Я недавно читала повесть, в которой одну женщину звали Улиткой. Как это странно. Я думала, что улитка — это гастропод.
— Ты правильно поняла. Улитка — это маленькое пакостное животное.
— Правда? Как можно назвать человека в честь такого существа?
“I recently read a story in which one peasant woman was named Snail. How strange. I thought that a snail was a gastropod.”
“You're right. A snail is a nasty little animal.”
“Really? How can you name a human being after such a creature?”
В России мало употребляют слова «господин» или «госпожа». В формальных обстоятельствах люди обращаются друг другу по имени-отчеству. In Russia they don't use the words ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ very much. In formal circumstances people address each other by first name and patronymic.
— Певец Фрэнк Заппа выдумал оригингальные имена для своих детей. Дочку он назвал Мун Юнит, а сына Двизил.
— С такими именами дети наверно возненавидели отца.
“The singer Frank Zappa thought up unique names for his children. He named his daughter Moon Unit, and his son Dweezil.”
“With names like those his children probably hated their dad.”