75+ Russian Last Names Rich in Meaning

Published September 14, 2021
Eldelry couple from Russia

Coming up with convincing character names can feel like an impossible feat sometimes, especially if they're not from your home country. Yet, there's a neverending compendium of Russian last names to help you give your Slavic characters an immediate sense of regional authenticity. However, you don't have to be a writer on a mission to appreciate the beauty of these surnames from Eastern Europe.

Behind the Russian Naming System

Slavic-based Indo-European languages don't follow the same pattern for the historic determination of their last names as English and other romance languages do. For Russian, specifically, a wide majority of their surnames come from patronymic origins. This means that their names are derivative in some capacity of the father's first name.

Similarly, you'll find that last names are typically gender specific. For example, surnames ending in "ov" are usually masculine, while those ending in "ova" are feminine. However, these names are identical in their meaning and almost in their spelling. While native Russian speakers can immediately differentiate between these various suffixes, it's much more difficult for English speakers to grasp, since this type of naming system doesn't exist in English.

Patronymic Surnames

Petrova means daughter of Petrov

Some of the most common types of Russian surnames you'll encounter are patronymic surnames - those originating from the father's name. These surnames are rooted in generational legacy and have deep familial connections. Although the surnames listed below are masculine versions, they have feminine versions as well.

  • Alekseev: Son of Aleksey
  • Andreyev: Son of Andrey
  • Antonov: Son of Anton
  • Barinov: Son of a Boyar
  • Ermakov: Son of Yermak
  • Federoff: Son of Feder
  • Grigorey: Son of Grigory
  • Gurin: Son of Gury
  • Ilyin: Son of Ilya
  • Ivanov: Son of Ivan
  • Lukin: Son of Luká
  • Mikhailov: Son of Mikhail
  • Nikitin: Son of Nikita
  • Orlov: Son of Oryol
  • Pavlov: Son of Pavlo
  • Petrov: Son of Peter
  • Reznikov: Son of Reznik
  • Sidorov: Son of Sidor
  • Vasilyev: Son of Vasil
  • Viktorov: Son of Viktor

Surnames Pertaining to Everyday Life

Lebedeva means Swan

Another common practice that arose when Russian surnames were being adopted was acquiring family names which represented the common things in everyday life. This includes aspects of nature, emotions, different types of animals, and so on.

  • Agapov: Love
  • Agafonov: Goodness
  • Borovkov: Little Boar
  • Bychkov: Young Ox/Bull
  • Chernoff: Black (referring to dark complexions)
  • Fedorov: Gift of God
  • Gorky: Extremely Bitter
  • Gobulev: Dove
  • Kalashnik: Breadmaker
  • Kamenev: Stone
  • Komarov: Mosquito
  • Kotov: Cat
  • Laskin: Nickname for Favor
  • Lebedev: Swan
  • Molachalin: Silent
  • Molotov: Hammer
  • Morozov: Bitter Cold/Frost
  • Novikov: New
  • Putin: A Way or Road
  • Rudenko: Rudy
  • Smirnov: Obedient/Quiet
  • Sobakin: Dog
  • Sokolov: Falcon
  • Stepanov: Crowned
  • Utkin: Duck
  • Varkov: Cooking/Boiling
  • Vinogradov: Grapes
  • Volkov: Wolf
  • Vorobyov: Sparrow
  • Voronin: Crow
  • Vyatkin: Crowd/Band
  • Vyronov: Raven
  • Zhukova: Beetle/Bug
  • Zhuravlev: Crane
  • Zima: Winter

Occupational Surnames

Rybakov means Fisherman

While English is well known for having a lot of surnames that stem from occupations or activities, it's far less common to find such surnames in Russia. However, this doesn't mean that there aren't surnames from the region which do relate to historic occupations.

  • Balakirev: Ceramics Worker
  • Bocharov: Copper
  • Chaban: Shepherd
  • Goncharov: Potter
  • Kovalchuk: Blacksmith
  • Kuzentov: Smith
  • Melnik: Miller
  • Rybakov: Fisherman
  • Shvets: Cobbler
  • Sobol: Fur Trading/Trader

Unique Surnames

Zolotov means Gold

As with all languages, some of the most interesting surnames are those that aren't so easily classified. Not belonging to any particular category, these Russian surnames are wonderfully unique in their own way.

  • Baladin: A Small Crater on the Moon
  • Chekov: Czech
  • Devin: Sorcerer/Fortune Teller
  • Dmitriev: Given to People From Dmitriyev
  • Gorbachev: Hunchback
  • Minsky: Given to People From Minsk, Belarus
  • Pasternak: Parsnip
  • Popov: Son of a Priest
  • Romanov: Son of Roman
  • Stalin: Man of Steel
  • Zadachin: Good Luck
  • Zolotov: Gold

The Beauty of Eastern European Traditions

Western Europe and the global west have long overshadowed the eastern world and its fascinating history. Family traditions such as the various Russian surnames that you can find across the massive country give outsiders just a hint of a culture that's not highlighted often enough. Next time you need to choose an impressive last name for a Russian character in your new novel, or you're searching for a beautiful Slavic name, turn toward these enchanting Russian surnames.

75+ Russian Last Names Rich in Meaning