For most common Slovak surnames:

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Names with -ák

Some Slovak last names developed from first names along a well established pattern of word- and name-formation with the ending -ák:

Janák (from John), Jurák, Ďuriak (both from George), Petrák, Krištofiak, Martinák, Pavliak, Ondrák (from Andrew), Jozefiak, Matušiak (from Matthew), Jakubiak, Kubiak (both from James).

There were many other endings that created Slovak last names from first names.


Sv. Jur (St. George) altar at Spišská Sobota from 1516 – no link to last names.

European names

The Bible was the main source of first names in Europe for about a thousand years. Most of them changed somewhat in each langauge over the centuries.

The most common European male name for much of the past millennium was picked up from the Latin Iohannes (taken over from the Greek Ιωάννης) and gave John in English, Ján (pronounced [yahn], usually called Jano) in Slovak, Hans in German, Juan in Spanish, János in Hungarian, Ivan in Russian, etc.

Biblical names and names of saints have, therefore, equivalents across distant languages: John – Ján, Mary – Mária, George – Jur(aj), Elisabeth – Alžbeta, Nicholas – Mikuláš.

Other names typically do not: Joyce (based on "joy") and Ľuba (based on "love") may be remotely reminiscent of each other, but neither has an equivalent in the other langauge.

Last names in -ák

Q: Did my Slovak last name relate to a saint?

Slovak last names based on first names came about as names that related a person to a particular family, household, farm, manor, not to a saint. For about a thousand years, most European first names were based on the names from the Bible or of saints, and parents often chose their child's first name because of that, but last names did not come about that way. The transfer of someone's first name to an all-inclusive name for the whole household was a slow, haphazard, communal process, not a deliberate act. It had no clear motivation except to identify a subset of villagers linked by birth, marriage, and occasionally just the place of residence.

The ending -ák

The ending -ák/-ak/-iak (all three are merely versions of the same ending) in names like Jurák, based on Jur, "George," is a common derivation used with nouns (rebrinák “wagon” – based on “rib” + -ák; lejak "downpour" – based on "pour" + -ak; vešiak “hanger” – based on “hang” + -iak; bodliak “thistle” – based on “stab”+ -iak; and hundreds more).

A number of Slovak family names end in-ák: Novák, Hrivnák, Ušiak, Maliniak, and dozens more. Some nationality names have it – Slovák, Poliak, and so do some regional identifiers – Lipták, "a man from Liptov County"; Spišiak – "a man from Spiš County."

Historically, -ák was one of the endings commonly added to first names to create family designations. For instance, the name Jur (more commonly Juraj now), “George,“ was modified with the ubiquitous ending -ák to give Jurák. Its original function was to identify someone as pertaining to the George household, pertaining to the George farm, etc. It was the same with other Slovak family names based on first names. Such last names did not develop as deliberate references to saints.

Latinization, Hellenization

For a period of time, especially from the late 16th through the 18th century, it was fashionable among accomplished Slovak Lutheran families to Latinize or Hellenize their last names. The suffix -ides was often used to derive such a family name. For instance, the last name of Ján Ladislaides, the author of the world's first known smiley, was based on the first name Ladislav. Its initial meaning was "pertaining to Ladislav's family."