the name ends in "ian", it must be Armenian
Most people around the world
associate the ending "ian" in the last name with the person
being of Armenian Heritage.
The meaning of "ian" in the end of
last name of most Armenians means "son of" or "belonging
to" . Lately in Diaspora, some Armenians have changed these
endings to blend in their host societies. Today in Turkey "oglu"
often replaces "ian," while Russian Armenians may change the
endings to "ov"; e.g., Gary Kasparov, Serge Parajanov. A
name ending in "ian" is not always exclusively Armenian,
since the ending can also be occasionally found in names in
Irish, Persian, English, Philippine and some other cultures.
Armenian last names generally fall
into five specific categories: Aristocracy, Parent,
Geography, Occupation or Trait.
The ancient Armenian aristocracy ("Nakharar" c lass) was
derived from Parthian-Persian stock and many of their names
ended in "uni" or "ooni." Most of these families were
destroyed over the centuries but some still survive today;
e.g., Bagradouni, Rshtuni.
Many Armenian names are derived from the first names of an
ancestor; e.g. Davidian, "son of David," Stepanian, "son of
Stepan," or Krikorian, "son of Krikor/Grigor." Until the
19th century, virtually all first names had a religious
origin, so most of those last names are also religious.
Some last names are based on geographic origin and end in
"lian" (Turkish) or "tsian" (Armenian). Typical examples are
Sivaslian "from Sivas," Urfalian "from Urfa" and Vanetzian
"from Van." These names were typically given to an immigrant
who migrated from a different region of Armenia. Obviously
everyone living in Marash would not call himself or herself
Most last names were taken from the professions of an
ancestor. These names frequently originated with the tax
collectors who needed to identify all individuals for tax
purposes. Typical examples are Najarian "son of a
carpenter," Arabian "son of a wagon/ teamster," and
Vosgarichian "son of a goldsmith." Many of these occupations
are not Armenian, since the tax man (typically a Moslem
Turk, Persian, Arab, etc.) would use his own native word for
the occupation; e.g., the name Boyajian is based on the
Arab/Turkish term "boyaji" "one who dyes." I guess some
where along my ancestry there must have been an Ironsmith
and since "Demirdjian", my last name.
The most confusing and curious names are those based on some
trait of an ancestor. Typical examples are Topalian "son of
the cripple," Dilsizian "son of the tongueless one," or
Sinanian "son of the spearpoint." Many of the origins of
these names are unclear unless one understands the original
context. As an example, Dilsizian indicates that an ancestor
had his tongue cut out by the Turks for using the Armenian
language, while the term "Sinan" was a slang term applied to
somebody either with a very erect military-like carriage or
who was "hung like a horse." Some of these traits are not
physical, but rather reflect personality or social status;
e.g., Melikian "son of the king" or Harutunian "son of the
resurrection." The name Harutunian could be based on an
ancestor named Harutune (so-named because he was born around
Easter time), or adopted by a convert to Protestantism to
show his status as a "born-again Christian."
Many last names today have been shortened or modified to aid
pronunciations by non Armenians; e.g., the name
Mugerditchian/ Mkrtichian" becomes "Mugar," "Husseniglian,"
become s "Hewsen," and Samourkashian" becomes "Samour."
These abbreviated names often drop the ian" ending, and are
not immediately identifiable as being Armenian to an
The name categories of Occupation
and Trait can differ significantly between Eastern Armenians
and Western Armenians, since the eastern names often have
Persian, Georgian or Russian roots, while the western names
may have Turkish, Arab, or Greek roots.
Names with the prefix "Der" or "Ter"
show that one of the ancestors was a "Der Hayr" a married
parish priest), a position of great social status among
Armenians; e.g., DerBedrosian, Ter Petrosian.
The study of Armenian Names is a fascinating exercise, since
virtually every aspect of the culture is reflected in names.
There have been extensive studies of Armenian names in the
Armenian language, but little has appeared in English and
many Armenians (born outside of Armenia) do not understand
the significance of their own names.