Surname Patrilineality The Seven Daughters of Eve
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A matrilineal surname or matriname[1][a][2] is a family name inherited from one's mother, and maternal grandmother, etc. whose line of descent is called a mother-line, or matriline. A matriname given from a mother to a child is unchanged, as compared to a matronymic, which is a derived name given from a child's mother.

The term "matriname" was introduced by Prof. Bryan Sykes in his book The Seven Daughters of Eve, stating that "We would then all have three names: a first name, a surname and a new one, a matriname perhaps."[1]

Single surname

Some matrilineal cultures use surname, in which case they often would use matriname. The Minangkabau people and the Mosuo for example use matriname.

Although the term "maternal surname" can be confused with "matriname", there is a difference in patrilineal cultures, where the maternal surname is the mother's patriname, or father's last name. In addition, in some cultures, women inherit a surname from their mother as well as from their father.[citation needed][which?]In such patrilineal cultures, matrinames are able to co-exist with patrinames.

The usual lack of matrinames to hand down in patrilineal cultures makes traditional genealogy more difficult in the mother-line case than in the normal (father-line) case.[1] After all, father-line surnames originated partly to identify individuals clearly and were adopted partly for administrative reasons;[b] and these patrinames help in searching for facts and documentation from centuries ago. Patrinames are stable identity-surnames, surnames which identify an individual, whether now or in the past or future; and matrinames similarly are identity-surnames for women.

In the 1979 "Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women," or CEDAW, the UN officially adopted a provision, item (g) of CEDAW's Article 16, to the effect that women and men, and specifically wife and husband, shall have the same rights to choose a "family name", as well as a "profession" and an "occupation".[3] These three rights are only a small part of the document's long list of rights related to gender equality meant to ensure women have equal opportunities to men. However, according to the article, the United States has not yet ratified this UN Convention or the multilateral treaty.

In non-discriminating states, women may eventually gain the same right to their own matriname as men have traditionally had (within father-line cultures) to their own patriname. And similarly, within mother-line or matrilineal cultures, men may gain the right to their own patriname. In other words, the handing down of both matrinames and patrinames would co-exist within each culture to avoid discriminating against either women or men. (Note that some cultures have no surnames – but if a culture has surnames then in this regard a non-discriminating culture would be a both-lines [mother-line and father-line] or ambilineal culture.)

The actual use of a matriname would involve, first, invention or choice of a name by a group of women who share mtDNA (from their common matriline ancestor)[1][4] and then using it in their daughters' birth records (or birth certificates).

This use of the mother's matriname would be parallel to and symmetric with the normal use of the father's patriname in each new son's birth record. Note well; this is the above-mentioned "handing down of both" the matriname and the patriname.

It should be mentioned that the patriname is normally a single surname, like Smith or Jones, normally not a double surname like Smith-Jones or Smith Jones.[c] And, just as men normally do not change their patriname,[c] so also women would normally not change their matriname. Thus, both identity-surnames should be equally stable over the generations.[1]

Note that one's birth surname is one's legal surname, unless one changes the latter – such as in some purely patrilineal cultures where women traditionally change to their husband's patriname at marriage, as described in Married and maiden names and in Name change.

Here is a specific example to illustrate and summarize these concepts: the father and sons in a nuclear family have the very-familiar patriname Smith while the mother and daughters have the matriname Momline as their own (and thus equally stable) identity-surname.

Double surname

Some cultures use both paternal and maternal surname, such as Spanish naming customs, Portuguese name, and naming customs of Hispanic America. Again, there exist the distinction between inheriting the mother's patriname and inheriting the mother's matriname. The patrilineal surname or patriname that is received from the mother in patrilineal cultures does not qualify as a matriname.

There exist variation in the ordering and whether to hyphenate the surnames. Conventions of double surnames were proposed in The Seven Daughters of Eve,[1] and an English family with the matriname "Phythian" actually used one of them, as demonstrated and discussed in an online "feature" article.[5]

As a hypothetical example of these double surnames, let the matrinames be "Mamaname" and "Momline" and the patrinames be "Smith" and "Jones". The mother, with birth double surname "Momline-Jones", and the father, with birth double surname "Mamaname Smith", both choose to retain their birth double surnames unchanged throughout their lives and agree in some wise to denominate all of their daughters and sons with the birth double surname "Smith Momline": The mother hands down her matriname and, symmetrically, the father hands down his patriname. All of their sons have the Y-DNA of and, accordingly, the patriname "Smith" of their patriline, while all of the daughters have both the mtDNA of and, accordingly, the matriname "Momline" of their matriline.[1][5] (Note that most societies give all children of a family the same surname, as in this example.) Thus, each person has only one identity-surname, which in this example is either "Momline" or "Smith". The identity-surname of each is stable throughout life[c] and always half of whatever double surname(s) he or she assumes throughout life, including at birth and marriage(s).

The family in this hypothetical example could choose to adopt a convention, given its 3 co-existing surnames "Momline-Jones", "Mamaname Smith", and "Smith Momline", of all members using only one family "usage name" in daily social life. Possible samples of this family's usage name might be any one of its 3 co-existing double surnames; one of its identity-surnames "Momline" or "Smith"; or an invented surname, e. g., "Momith", which combines "Momline" and "Smith".[6] Single surname families could use such usage names also. There is some relevant discussion in this footnote.[d] This family's 3 surnames, however, should be used in their respective members' personal legal documents, and could also be used otherwise such as in the respective members' personal profession/vocation.

Rather than keeping their own birth or legal surnames, the parents in this example might prefer at marriage to change their surnames to "Smith Momline", the same as their children-to-be, so that the members of their nuclear family would all share this one surname.

Of course, one's own identity-surname (here, the matriname "Momline" or the patriname "Smith") would always be available as one's own usage name, such as in one's profession/vocation.

This double surname example should be compared with its single surname counterpart at the end of the preceding section.

In toto, the gender-symmetric single surnames presented in the preceding section have the advantage of being simpler and briefer, but if used alone, would give different surnames for members of the different genders in a nuclear family. In contrast, all of the children in a nuclear family would have the same double surname. Also, these double surnames would record on legal documents both the matriname and patriname, with both identity-surnames later aiding each gender in genealogy and other searches of historical records.[1][5][6]

See also


  1. ^ The word "matriname" was used in scientific literature for many years before Professor Sykes' 2001 book. The Reference[2] provides a 1992 example, parts of which are available for Wikipedia readers to readily see, via "Google books".
  2. ^ For a more complete historical background, see Surname § History.
  3. ^ a b c By reading within the Family name article, one notices that the single-surname (or patriname) is indeed used as the identity-surname, such as Smith or Jones, and that the double-surname Smith-Jones is normally used as two patrinames. Similarly one notices that patrinames normally are not changed.
  4. ^ Not only this double-surname family, but also its single surname version at the end of the previous section might both somehow choose to use a single name as a usage name, whether "Momline", "Smith", "Momith", or another invented single surname. In principle, any new friends have no way of knowing whether either of the family's surnames are actually single or double. These 2 cases would look the same to all others – except someone handling their legal documents.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Sykes, Bryan (2001). The Seven Daughters of Eve. W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-02018-5; pp. 291–2. Professor Bryan Sykes uses "matriname", only, and states that women adding their own matriname to men's patriname (or "surname" as Sykes calls it) would really help in future genealogy work and historical-record searches. This effectively suggests the double surname presented in this article. Professor Sykes also states on p. 292 that a woman's matriname will be handed down with her mtDNA, the main topic of his book.
  2. ^ a b Fernandez. James W. (1992). About "moradas vitales". Cultures 2 (from Academia de la Llingua Asturiana), p. 69. Here is the "Google book", using matriname.
  3. ^ UN Convention, 1979. "Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women", or CEDAW. Archived at WebCite [1] on 1 Apr 2011.
  4. ^ Stannard, Una (1977). Mrs Man. San Francisco: Germainbooks. ISBN 0-914142-02-X; pp. 334–37.
  5. ^ a b c Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams, 20 Aug. 2008. "In the Name of... Archived 2011-04-01 at WebCite", an featured article by the author. (To find the family tree etc. of this pioneering matriname double-surname case, search the article for the word "proposal".) Archived at WebCite [2] on 1 Apr 2011.
  6. ^ a b Stannard 1977; pp. 334–37 on actual invented surnames and pp. 84–88 on double surnames.