How Do I Dissect Slovenian Surnames?

by Laura Crawley

Slovenia is located in central Europe, bordering Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Croatia to the southeast, and Italy to the west. It has been an independent nation since 1991. Slovenian surnames are similar to the surnames of other Slavic nations, especially Serbia and Croatia. The Slovenian language is a South Slavic language closely related to Serbo-Croatian.

Slovenian surnames generally fall into five basic surname categories: patronymics, nicknames, location-based names, occupational names and names that are words for ordinary objects.

Look at the surname to see if the name ends in -vic(h) or -ov. This signifies that the surname is a patronymic, such as Jankovic (son of John). The first ancestor to bear this kind of name would have created it from his father's first name. A woman's surname traditionally ended in -a or -ova.

Check a Slovenian dictionary for the surname that you are analyzing -- it may be a nickname. Some of these surnames, such as Gerbic (hunchback) or Plesko (bald) are based on physical characteristics. Others were based on a more intangible individual difference, such as Novak (newcomer).

Look at a map of Slovenia to find towns and areas that may form part of the surname in question. Locative names were based upon town, city or country names, and were taken by people to honor their place of origin. The name Korosec, for example, denotes a person from Koroska (i.e., Carinthia, an area of Slovenia now partly in Austria). The surname Vlasic would indicate that the person's ancestor was Romanian (Vlah, in Slovene).

Check the Slovenian dictionary for your surname. Surnames based on occupations, animals, or ordinary objects may all be researched in the dictionary. Occupational names such as Kovac (blacksmith) and Kopitar (shoemaker) indicate the profession of a distant ancestor. Dictionaries can also reveal the meaning of Slovene surnames such as Kaluza (puddle), Loncar (pot) and Kokot (rooster).

Items you will need

  • Slovenian dictionary
  • Slovenian genealogical websites
  • Map of Slovenia

About the Author

Laura Crawley has been writing professionally since 1991. She has written about urban history for "The Hillhurst-Sunnyside Voice." She has also written about New York City history at the Virtual Dime Museum website and about popular culture at Kitchen Retro. Crawley holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Swarthmore College and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Toronto.

Photo Credits