Origins of last names
Q: What are the most common surnames in Slovakia and Hungary?
The frequency and shape of the most common last names (as well as place names) in Slovakia and Hungary have been influenced by their joint history of over 800 years. Hungarian initially borrowed names of professions from Slavic (Slovak, Croatian), Slovak names were later spelled in Hungarian, and there were massive waves of migrations of the Croats, less so Slovaks, and partly Hungarians, all subjects to the Crown of St. Stephen, within their kingdom.
The Slovaks, Hungarians, Croats, Rusyns, part of the Romanians, Germans, Serbs, Roma (Gypsies) shared the kingdom, moved about their homeland, and the linguistic mixture of the family names in the kingdom's descendant countries, Slovakia, Croatia, Hungary, parts of Ukraine (Subcarpathian Rus', now Transcarpathian Ukraine), Romania (Transylvania), Serbia (Vojvodina), shows that.
After the Asian Ugric (later Hungarian) herders arrived in Central Europe around 900 CE, they borrowed words from the local Slavs (later Slovaks, Croatians, Slovenes), especially some connected with agriculture, Christianity, and professions the nomads did not have. Among the ones relevant to Slovakia's last names were the old words for "blacksmith," "miller," and others.
11th centruy: farming Slavs (blue, darker with mixed-in Ugrics) in the foothills, basins, and valleys enclosing the Ugric herders' lowland prairies where Slavs had been all but wiped out after 900 CE (Hungarian estimates).
A main source of the overall mixture of Slavic (Slovak, Croatian) and Ugric (Hungarian) names in modern Slovakia and Hungary were migrations within all those people’s kingdom, marked by three major surges. There was some influx of Hungarians seeking refuge in the Slovak majority area when modern Hungary was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire as its province of Macaristan in the 16th century, and at least three substantially more massive waves of refugees from Croatia found new homes in south-western Slovakia and western Hungary during the same period.
19th-century Hungarian majority areas (brown) in the kingdom (yellow) and 16th-century Hungarians' and Croats' flights from the Turks
Massive migrations of Slovaks and Croats to the then substantially depopulated Hungarian majority areas followed the eventual defeat of the Turks, especially in the 18th century. Then a steady stream of Slovaks and Croats flowed to Budapest and other lowland towns, most ethnically German at that time, during their boom in the 19th century. For instance, the large, celebrated church in Deák Square in the center of Budapest, had services almost exclusively in Slovak (German once a month, Hungarian once every 3 months) with Ján Kollár (his last name meaning "wheelwright" in Slovak) as the pastor in the first half of the 19th century.
When a man moved out of his ethnic majority area, his ethnic identity became one of the obvious attributes to turn into his and his family’s last name. The internal migrations, along with the pockets of ethnically German population established throughout the kingdom, turned the ethnic names "Slovak," "Croatian," "German" into some of the most frequent last names in modern Slovakia and Hungary.
The professions of a (black)smith and miller are among the most common surnames in several European nations. The frequency of some of those names does not register as obviously in Slovak statistics because Slovak introduces variations to last names with little change to the original meaning.
When last names were being standardized, there was only one option to adopt, for instance, one's profession of a miller as a last name in English (Miller), German (Müller), Hungarian (Molnár). The main Slovak option was Mlynár, but both from the start and in order to differentiate families with the same name in one village later, the Slovaks also used name variations like Mlynarčík, Mlynarovič, Mlynárik, Mlynka, Mlynkovič, Minár, Minárik, Minarovič, Mlynček, Mlynčár, Mlynský, and others, all based on "miller."
It would be necessary to identify and add up all the variations (and spellings) of a name derived from the same profession, ethnic group (e.g., "German" resulted in Nemec, Nemčovský, Nemčovič, Nemčák, Nemčko, Nemčík, and others), or attribute in order to get a Slovak frequency meaningfully comparable to that of the last name Molnár among the Hungarian last names or Miller among the English last names.
Budapest began to force the inhabitants of the kingdom to use the Hungarian spelling for their names and even replace their original names with their Hungarian parallels especially in the decades preceding World War I. Like the Slovak-Americans who keep their Anglicized names, many Slovaks did not change their last names back to their ancestors' names after the creation of Czecho-Slovakia.