Difference Wiki

Given Name vs. Surname: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sara Rehman || Published on November 28, 2023
A given name is a personal name assigned at birth or baptism, while a surname is a family name passed down through generations.

Key Differences

A given name, often referred to as a first name, is the name given to individuals at birth or baptism. It is a personal identifier, usually chosen by parents, and can be influenced by culture, religion, or family tradition. In contrast, a surname, commonly known as a last name, is a hereditary name shared with family members, passed down from one generation to another, and reflects ancestral lineage.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
The purpose of a given name is to uniquely identify a person within a family or social group. It often carries personal or cultural significance, and in some cultures, the choice of a given name can be influenced by events or qualities hoped for the child. On the other hand, a surname serves to identify a person's familial background, connecting them to their ancestors and often indicating geographical, occupational, or clan origins.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
In many cultures, the order of names is such that the given name precedes the surname. For instance, in Western cultures, John Smith would have John as the given name and Smith as the surname. However, this order can vary in different cultures. Surnames often remain constant within a family line, while given names are chosen individually for each child.
Huma Saeed
Nov 28, 2023
Given names can be changed or chosen by individuals later in life, especially in cases of adoption, religious conversion, or personal preference. Surnames, however, are less frequently changed and are typically altered in specific circumstances such as marriage or legal name change procedures.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
The diversity in given names is vast, reflecting cultural richness and linguistic variety. Surnames, while also diverse, tend to have a more limited range within each culture, as they are rooted in historical and familial contexts and are meant to signify continuity and heritage.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Personal name given at birth
Family name inherited
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Cultural Significance

Reflects individual identity
Indicates family lineage
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Variability

High, with personal choice
Lower, tied to family heritage
Huma Saeed
Nov 28, 2023

Order in Full Name

Usually comes first
Typically follows given name
Janet White
Nov 28, 2023

Changeability

Can be changed personally
Changed in specific situations
Janet White
Nov 28, 2023
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Reflects

Personal, cultural identity
Ancestral, geographical roots
Harlon Moss
Nov 28, 2023

Given Name and Surname Definitions

Given Name

A name that identifies an individual within a family.
Among her siblings, Lisa's given name is the most unique.
Huma Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Surname

A family name passed down from generation to generation.
The surname Smith has been in their family for centuries.
Sara Rehman
Nov 15, 2023

Given Name

A personal name assigned at birth or baptism.
Emma's given name was chosen because it was her grandmother's name.
Sara Rehman
Nov 15, 2023

Surname

A name often indicating geographical, occupational, or clan origins.
The surname Baker was historically associated with the baking profession.
Huma Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Given Name

The first part of a person's full name.
In the name David Johnson, David is the given name.
Sara Rehman
Nov 15, 2023

Surname

The last part of a person's full name.
In John Doe, Doe is the surname.
Harlon Moss
Nov 15, 2023

Given Name

The name used in day-to-day life to address a person.
Although her full name is Elizabeth, her given name used daily is Beth.
Harlon Moss
Nov 15, 2023

Surname

A name indicating a person's ancestral lineage.
Her surname, O'Sullivan, reflects her Irish heritage.
Janet White
Nov 15, 2023

Given Name

A personal identifier selected by parents.
His given name, Alexander, was chosen for its historical significance.
Sara Rehman
Nov 15, 2023

Surname

A hereditary name common to all family members.
Despite their diverse given names, all siblings share the surname Nguyen.
Harlon Moss
Nov 15, 2023

Surname

A name shared in common to identify the members of a family, as distinguished from each member's given name. Also called family name, last name.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

A nickname or epithet added to a person's name.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

To give a surname to.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

(obsolete) An additional name, particularly those derived from a birthplace, quality, or achievement; an epithet.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

(obsolete) An additional name given to a person, place, or thing; a byname or nickname.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

The name a person shares with other members of that person's family, distinguished from that person's given name or names; a family name.
James is my first name, and Smith is my surname.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

(Classical studies) The cognomen of Roman names.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

A clan.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

(transitive) To give a surname to.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

(transitive) To call by a surname.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

A name or appellation which is added to, or over and above, the baptismal or Christian name, and becomes a family name.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

An appellation added to the original name; an agnomen.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

To name or call by an appellation added to the original name; to give a surname to.
Another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
And Simon he surnamed Peter.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Surname

The name used to identify the members of a family (as distinguished from each member's given name)
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

FAQs

What is a given name?

It's a personal name given at birth or baptism.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

What does a given name signify?

It signifies personal identity and can reflect cultural or family values.
Janet White
Nov 28, 2023

What does a surname signify?

It indicates family lineage and ancestral background.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 28, 2023

What is a surname?

A surname is a family name passed down through generations.
Huma Saeed
Nov 28, 2023

Can a given name be changed?

Yes, given names can be changed or chosen later in life.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Can surnames change?

Surnames typically change in specific situations like marriage.
Harlon Moss
Nov 28, 2023

Is the given name the same as the first name?

In many cultures, yes, the given name is the first name.
Harlon Moss
Nov 28, 2023

How are given names chosen?

Given names are usually chosen by parents, influenced by various factors including culture and religion.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 28, 2023

Are surnames chosen?

Surnames are not chosen; they are inherited from family.
Harlon Moss
Nov 28, 2023

Do given names have cultural significance?

Yes, they often carry cultural, religious, or familial significance.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 28, 2023

Can given names reflect personal characteristics?

Sometimes, especially if named after an admired trait or person.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Do surnames have geographical significance?

Often, as they can indicate geographical origins or family roots.
Harlon Moss
Nov 28, 2023

Is the surname always the last name?

Typically, but the order can vary in different cultures.
Harlon Moss
Nov 28, 2023

Are surnames important for genealogical research?

Yes, they are crucial in tracing family history and lineage.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 28, 2023

How common is it to have multiple given names?

It varies by culture; in some, multiple given names are common.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 28, 2023

Are given names unique to individuals?

They are meant to be personal and can be unique or common.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Do surnames change across generations?

Generally, surnames remain constant within a family line.
Janet White
Nov 28, 2023

Are given names legally binding?

Yes, they are part of a person's legal identity.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 28, 2023

Can surnames be based on occupations?

Yes, many surnames originated from ancestral occupations.
Harlon Moss
Nov 28, 2023

Do surnames reflect social status?

Historically, some surnames could indicate social status.
Sara Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sara Rehman
Sara Rehman is a seasoned writer and editor with extensive experience at Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Information Technology, she combines her academic prowess with her passion for writing to deliver insightful and well-researched content.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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