Patronymic

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A patronym, or patronymic, is a component of a personal name based on the name of one's father, grandfather or an even earlier male ancestor. A component of a name based on the name of one's mother or a female ancestor is a matronym. Each is a means of conveying lineage.

In many areas patronyms predate the use of family names. They are common as middle names in Russia, and in Iceland surnames are an exception, with the law in favour of patronyms (or more recently, matronyms).

Many Celtic, English, Iberian, Scandinavian and Slavic surnames originate from patronyms, e.g. Wilson (son of William), Powell (from "ap Hywel"), Fernández (son of Fernando), Rodríguez (son of Rodrigo), Carlsson (son of Carl), Stefanović (son of Stefan) and O'Connor (from "Ó Conchobhair", meaning grandson/descendant of Conchobhar). Similarly, other cultures which formerly used patronyms have since switched to the more widespread style of passing the father's last name to the children (and wife) as their own.

Patronyms can simplify or complicate genealogical research. A father's first name is easily determinable when his children have a patronym; however, migration has frequently resulted in a switch from a patronymic to a family name because of different local customs. Most immigrants adapt as soon as birth, marriage, and death certificates must be written. Depending on the countries concerned, family research in the nineteenth century or earlier needs to take this into account.

In biological taxonomy, a patronym is a specific epithet which is a Latinized surname. These often honor associates of the biologist who named the organism rather than the biologist himself. Examples include Gopherus agassizii, named by James Graham Cooper after Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, and Acacia greggii, named by botanist Asa Gray after explorer Josiah Gregg.

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