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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, "Camryn Wiens" asks: "Where did last names come from ?"

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Hi, I'm Craig, I also have a last name and this is mental floss on YouTube.
Today I am going to answer Camryn Wiens big question - Where did last names come from?
Well Camryn Wiens the adoption of last names or surnames happened at different times for different cultures. But I'm going to try to give you  
an overview of a few key moments of last name history today. 
Lets get started Smith. That's right I gave that last sentence a last name. I can do that. I can do what I want. Smith.

[Intro music]

In China family names go back so far that they are only explained by legend. The story goes that Emperor Fu Xi who was a god-like ruler that lived for almost 200 years implemented the family naming system in around BCE. Originally people took their mothers name, but around 12th century BCE they started using their fathers name. These names came from many places including a dynasty's name, a persons title and a persons occupation. And a persons butt, if their name was Butt.
There were no last names in Japan or Korea until around 1900. In Korea most of these last names were actually borrowed from the Chinese. In Japan people chose their names or they asked their priests to give them their names.
Before 500 BCE people were only known by their first name in ancient Greece. Then last names were introduced. At first they were just ways to identify people in Athens. Politician Cleisthenes set up a system in which people would have to be known officially by their region in addition to their name. Last names evolved from this system.
In the Roman Empire people were originally known by a single name, but its hard to pinpoint when last names became common there because there were so many shifts in leadership and naming policies.
Eventually Romans ended up having three names. The praenomen, nomen and cognomen.  The praenomen was the name parents gave children. The nomen identified the persons clan and the cognomen was either a nickname or a hereditary name like a last name. And the abdomen is part of the body.
England started using last names around 1066 after the Norman Conquest of Britain because the Normans imposed the system. The English developed four different ways to come up with a surname; by occupation, hometown, nickname or baptismal name. From occupation we get last names like Baker, Taylor and Smith.  From locations we get Moore, Hill and Wood. Nicknames were things like Blunt that meant blond, or Fox like the animal or the Michael. J. Finally there were baptismal names for example people would go by Williams or Williamson if their father was named William. Sometimes these English names weren't obvious enough for example Brewster meant a woman brewer, Fletcher was an arrow maker and Jenner meant engineer.
If you have a big question you would like answered leave it below in the comments. Thanks for watching Mental Floss on YouTube see you next week. Smith.