How to Find the Nationality of Last Names

Sometimes it doesn't take a lot of digging to decipher the nationality of a last name. Look at the spelling for some clues about the country of origin.


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You Will Need

  • Surname to investigate
  • Spelling and counting skills


  1. Step 1

    Count the letters

    Count the letters in the surname. If the name is less than 4 letters, like Wu or Li, it may be of Chinese origin.

  2. Step 2

    Look at the ending

    Look at the ending. If the name ends in "-icz" or "-ski" the name is most likely Polish.

  3. If the name is also the name of a city or landmark in a country, like Ashby named after Ashby Castle, then that is probably the country of origin.

  4. Step 3

    Look at the beginning

    Look at the beginning of the name. Most Irish surnames start with "Mc" or "O'" like McCauley and O'Brien.

  5. Step 4

    Check for a vowel

    Check for a vowel on the end of the name. Most Italian surnames end in a vowel.

  6. Step 5

    See if there is a "-berg"

    See if there is a "-berg" or "-berger" at the end of the name. These names, like Niederberger, are of German origin. Now get investigating!

  7. As of the 2000 census, Smith was the most popular surname in America.