What is a given name and how is it different from a surname?


What is a given name and how is it different from a surname?

A given name, also called a first name or a forename, is the part of a personal name that identifies an individual and distinguishes them from other members of a group, clan, or family. It is usually chosen by the parents of the newborn and bestowed at or close to the time of birth. A given name can be used in informal situations, in a familiar and friendly manner.

A surname, also called a family name or a last name, is the part of a personal name that is inherited and shared with other members of one’s immediate family. It is usually placed after the given name and indicates the family or clan affiliation of the person. A surname can be used in more formal situations, to show respect or distance.

The order of given name and surname varies across cultures and regions. In most European countries and in countries influenced by European culture, such as North America, Australia, and India, the order is given name – surname. This is known as Western name order. In East Asian countries, such as China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, the order is surname – given name. This is known as Eastern name order. In some cases, part of the given name may be shared among all members of a given generation within a family to differentiate them from other generations.

Given names can be derived from various sources, such as ordinary words, other names, religious beliefs, family traditions, or personal preferences. Sometimes, given names can reflect the time or circumstances of the birth or the wishes or hopes of the parents for their child. Some people may change their given names later in life for various reasons, such as personal choice, religious conversion, marriage, or adoption.

Examples of given names and surnames

Given names and surnames can vary widely across cultures and regions. Here are some examples of how different people use given names and surnames in different ways:

  • In Western countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, people usually have one or more given names followed by a surname. For example, John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth II, Barack Obama, and Emma Watson.
  • In East Asian countries, such as China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, people usually have a surname followed by one or two given names. For example, Mao Zedong, Abe Shinzo, Kim Jong-un, and Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.
  • In some Spanish-speaking countries, such as Mexico, Argentina, and Spain, people usually have two surnames: the first one from their father and the second one from their mother. They may also have one or more given names before their surnames. For example, Diego Armando Maradona Franco, Juan Carlos I de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias, and Frida Kahlo Calderón.
  • In some African countries, such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya, people may have a given name that reflects their ethnic group, religion, or family history. They may also have a surname that indicates their clan or lineage. For example, Olusegun Obasanjo (Yoruba), Kwame Nkrumah (Akan), and Jomo Kenyatta (Kikuyu).
  • In some Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan, people may have a given name that is derived from Arabic or Persian words or names. They may also have a surname that shows their tribal affiliation or ancestry. For example, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (House of Saud), Hassan Rouhani (Rouhanian family), and Imran Khan Niazi (Niazi tribe).

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