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Slovenian Last Names: “Kako se pišeš?” (What is your last name?)

Slovenian last names have an interesting history of development through time. Last names (priimki) have arisen in the past from professions, trades, associations with nature (animals, trees, birds…), personal characteristics, first names and places where people settled. Slovenians usually have only one last name which they get from their parents (mostly fathers). For example, in Latin America and elsewhere where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken, they have more last names, and in the English speaking countries they also have a middle name. Nowadays’ trend is that particularly women and children have two last names in Slovenia; women keep their maiden name (dekliški priimek) after they get married and some children have last names from both parents.

The Slovenian last names are the same for both males and females, there is no change in endings. So we have, for example, Jana Novak (F) and Peter Novak (M). In Slovenian, we decline first names, but when it comes to last names we decline only male ones, the female last names remain the same in all 6 cases.

It is surprising that there are so many Slovenian last names related to animals, quite common ones are also those that originate from occupations and settlements. Below, you can see where some Slovenian last names supposedly originate from.

10 most common Slovenian last names from 2022 statistics:

  1. Novak
  2. Horvat
  3. Kovačič
  4. Krajnc
  5. Zupančič
  6. Kovač
  7. Potočnik
  8. Mlakar
  9. Vidmar
  10. Kos

Last names derived from professions and trades

Slovenian last nameEnglish translationOrigin
Godecmusicianfrom the word “godec”
Kmetfarmerfrom the word “kmet”
Kopačdiggerfrom the word “kopač”
Kovačsmithfrom the word “kovač”
Kuharcookfrom the word “kuhar”
Lončarpotterfrom the word “lončar”
Mlinarmillerfrom the word “mlinar”
Pevecsingerfrom the word “pevec”
Ribičfishermanfrom the word “ribič”
Šuštarshoemakerfrom the word “šuštar” which is an old expression for a shoemaker
Žagarsawyerfrom the word “žagar”

Last names derived from nicknames

Animal last names were supposed to indicate the person’s physical or mental features.

Slovenian last nameEnglish translationOrigin
Bolhafleafrom the word “bolha”
Golobpigeonfrom the word “golob”
Jelendeerfrom the word “jelen”
Ježhedgehogfrom the word “jež”
Kosblackbirdfrom the word “kos”
Mačekmale catfrom the word “maček”
Medvedbearfrom the word “medved”
Srakamagpiefrom the word “sraka”
Volk/Vovkwolffrom the word “volk”
Zajc/Zajecrabbitfrom the word “zajec” which means a rabbit
Zverbeastfrom the word “zver”

Last names derived from status

Slovenian last nameEnglish translationOrigin
Knezprincefrom the word “knez”
Kraljkingfrom the word “kralj”
Papežpopefrom the word “papež”
Škofbishopfrom the word “škof”
Zupanmayorfrom the word “župan” which means a mayor

Last names derived from settlements

Slovenian last nameOrigin
Blatnikfrom the word “blato” which means mud (swampy regions)
Dolencfrom the word “Dolenjec” which is an inhabitant of the Dolenjska region
Dolinšekfrom the word “dolina” which means a valley
Furlanfrom the word “Furlanija”  – a region in Italy which is close to west Slovenia
Gorencfrom the word “Gorenjec” which is an inhabitant of the Gorenjska region
Hrastnikfrom the word “hrast” which means an oak
Hribarfrom the word “hrib” which means a hill
Korošecfrom the word “Korošec” which is an inhabitant of the Koroška region
Mlakarfrom the word “mlaka” which means a puddle
Novakfrom the word “novinec” which means a novice
Potočnikfrom the word “potok” which means a stream
Ravnikarfrom the word “ravnina” with means a plain
Smrekarfrom the word “smreka” which means a spruce

Last names derived from first names

Here you can see the suffix –ič, which is typical for the last names that derive from the first names (mostly father’s names).

Slovenian last nameOrigin
Gregorčičfrom the first name “Gregor”
Janežičfrom the first name “Janez”
Majdičfrom the first name “Majda”
Pavličfrom the first name “Pavel”
Petričfrom the first name “Peter”
Primožičfrom the first name “Primož”
Tomažičfrom the first name “Tomaž”
Uršičfrom the first name “Urša”

Last names derived from connections with other nationalities

Slovenian last nameOrigin
Čehfrom the word “Čeh” which means a Czech
Horvat/Hrovatfrom the word “Hrvat” which means a Croat (it meant a newcomer from Croatia)
Nemecfrom the word “Nemec” which means a German
Rusfrom the word “Rus” which means a Russian
Turkfrom the word “Turek” which means a Turk

Other interesting Slovenian last names

Slovenian last nameEnglish translationOrigin
BožičChristmasfrom the word “božič”
Častimefrom the word “čas”
Grbechump/humpbackfrom the word “grba” which means a hump
Hrenhorseradishfrom the word “hren”
Jugsouthfrom the word “jug”
Mrakduskfrom the word “mrak”
Oblakcloudfrom the word “oblak”
Ocvirkcracklingfrom the word “ocvirek” which means a crackling
PetekFridayfrom the word “petek”
Potrebuješyou need (the 2nd person singular)it literally means “you need” (“ti potrebuješ”)
Prešerenmerryfrom the adjective “prešeren”
Severnorthfrom the word “sever”
Slugaservantfrom the words “sluga” or “služabnik” which means a servant
Štrukeljštrukelj (rolled dumpling)from the word “štrukelj”
Vesel/Veselkohappy, joyfulfrom the adjective “vesel” which means happy
Vodnikguidefrom the word “vodnik”
Vodopivecperson who drinks waterfrom the words “voda” (water) and “pivec” (drinker)
Zlobecevil personfrom the adjective “zloben” which means evil

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  1. What is the origin of the surname “Osvald” in Slovenija? Where does that name originally come from?: Austria? Germany? Gottscheer?

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