A surname or family name is a name added to a given name. In many cases, a surname is a family name and many dictionaries define “surname” as a synonym of “family name”. In the western hemisphere, it is commonly synonymous with “last name”, since it is usually placed at the end of a person’s given name.
In most Hispanophone and Lusophone countries, two or more last names (or surnames) may be used. In China, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Madagascar, Nepal, Vietnam, parts of India and in many other East Asian countries, the family name is placed before a person’s given name.
The style of having both a family name (surname) and a given name (forename) is far from universal. In many countries, it is common for ordinary people to have only one name or mononym.
The concept of a “surname” is a relatively recent historical development, evolving from a medieval naming practice called a “byname”. Based on an individual’s occupation or area of residence, a byname would be used in situations where more than one person had the same name.
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