Bulgaria Personal Names

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Understanding customs used in surnames and given names can help you identify your ancestors in records. Learn to recognize name variations and see clues in names.

Online Tools[edit | edit source]

Surnames[edit | edit source]

  • Bulgarian naming traditionally consists of three names:
  • the first name (the given name)
  • the middle name (traditionally the father's name)
  • the last name (surname/family name)
  • In the early 1800s, the majority of Bulgarians were known by only their first names, occasionally accompanied by an occupation as an additional identifier.
  • Before 1880, family names/surnames began to come about, typically based on the paternal grandfather's name (a practice not common today).[1]
  • Many surnames are the adjective form of the masculine given name, formed by adding -ov/-ev for males, or -ova/-eva for females.

Given Names[edit | edit source]

  • Traditionally, children were often named after an older relative, so as to keep that relative's name in the family. This practice is not binding today.
  • Traditions to name a child after the parents' best man or maid of honor or the saint on whose name day the child is born also exist.
  • Traditionally, the Bulgarian given names are either of Slavic origin or from Greek, Latin or Hebrew when reflecting Christian faith (e.g. Petar, Maria, Ivan, Teodora, Georgi, Nikolay, Mihail, Paraskeva, Dimitar).
  • The Slavic names may describe the appearance or character of the person, may constitute a wish or even stem from pre-Christian conjuring rituals and meant not to attract the evil spirits.[2]
  • In addition, some Bulgarian names may be of Thracian (e.g. Neno, Dako, Boto, Geto) or Bulgar (Boris, Boyan, Biser) origin.
  • Since the Bulgarian National Revival and the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1878, names of successful medieval Bulgarian rulers, like Asen, Asparuh, Ivaylo, Samuil, Simeon or Krum, have also gained a lot of popularity.
  • Masculine given names can end in a variety of letters, such as "l", "r", "n", "o", "i", etc. whereas feminine names more commonly end in "a" and occasionally "i".

Patronymics[edit | edit source]

  • Typically, a Bulgarian person inherits the last name of his father's family (family name), as well as a patronymic based on his father's given name, with a gender-agreeing suffix usually added. For example, Stoyan Georgiev Draganov would be the son of Georgi Petkov Draganov. The same person's daughter would bear the names Georgieva Draganova. *Another way of preserving the family name and the name of a specific ancestor would be the following circulating of the names: if the father's name is Ivan Petrov Mihailov, the son is named Petar Ivanov Mihailov. Then if Petar has a son, his name will be Ivan Petrov Mihailov, and so on.
  • Until recently, if the father's name was not a specific family name, the child would take his patronymic as a family name, so names in a chain of generations would shift. For example, the son of Petar Stoyanov Ivanov would be Georgi Petrov Stoyanov, his son would be Ivaylo Georgiev Petrov, his son would be Marin Ivaylov Georgiev. This practice often caused confusion in the past, especially when dealing for foreign institutions, since a child did not bear his father's family name. However, the recent generation has all but abandoned this practice.[3]

Women's Names[edit | edit source]

When marrying, today a woman may choose either to adopt her husband's family name, retain her maiden name or combine the two using a hyphen. For instance, when marrying Nikolay Petrov, Maria Bogdanova could become Petrova, remain Bogdanova or adopt Petrova-Bogdanova or Bogdanova-Petrova. Historically, she would adopt her husband's name. In any case, a woman retains her patronymic, which she has inherited from her father.[4]

Suffixes[edit | edit source]

  • Most Bulgarian surnames end with "–ov/–ev" (masculine) and "–ova/–eva" (feminine).
  • As these "–ov/–ev" surnames are indistinguishable from patronymics, it is not uncommon for people to have the same patronymic and surname; for instance the children of Petar Ivanov Petrov would be Georgi Petrov Petrov and Lyudmila Petrova Petrova.
  • The second most popular suffix is "–ski/–ska" (sometimes "–ki/–ka") (e.g. Zelenogorski, Stoykovska, Petrinska).
  • Another suffix is "–in/–ina" (e.g. Kunin, Ganina, Radin). Unlike all other Bulgarian patronymics and family names, these stem from a female name (e.g. "of Kuna", "of Gana", "of Rada"). They are most common in the region of Razlog and Bansko.
  • For these three most popular suffixes, there is also a plural form used when referring to the family as a whole or several members of it . For "–ov/–ova" and "–ev/–eva" it is "–ovi/–evi", for "–ski/–ska" it is "–ski" and for "–in/–ina" the form is "–ini".
  • Historically, the universal suffix "–ovich" and "-evich" was quite popular in some regions (bearers of such names include Gavril Krastevich, Hristofor Zhefarovich, Petar Parchevich, Kiril Peychinovich, etc.), particularly among the Roman Catholic Bulgarians.
  • In addition, other suffixes also exist: for instance, names like Tihanek, Kozlek, Lomek (suffixed "–ek") were historically dominant in the town of Koprivshtitsa.[5]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

FamilySearch Library[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Bulgarian Naming Patterns, http://www.bulgarica.com/2012/03/12/%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B8/bulgarian-naming-patterns/, accessed 2 March 2021.
  2. "Bulgarian name", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_name, accessed 2 March 2021.
  3. "Bulgarian name", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_name, accessed 2 March 2021.
  4. "Bulgarian name", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_name, accessed 2 March 2021.
  5. "Bulgarian name", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_name, accessed 2 March 2021.