Slovenian Last Names: “Kako se pišeš?” (What is your last name?)

Slovenian last names have an interesting history of development through time. Last names (priimki) have arisen in the past from professions, trades, associations with nature (animals, trees, birds…), personal characteristics, first names and places where people settled. Slovenians usually have only one last name which they get from their parents (mostly fathers). For example, in Latin America and elsewhere where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken, they have more last names, and in the English speaking countries they also have a middle name. Nowadays’ trend is that particularly women and children have two last names in Slovenia; women keep their maiden name (dekliški priimek) after they get married and some children have last names from both parents.

The Slovenian last names are the same for both males and females, there is no change in endings. So we have, for example, Jana Novak (F) and Peter Novak (M). In Slovenian, we decline first names, but when it comes to last names we decline only male ones, the female last names remain the same in all 6 cases.

It is surprising that there are so many Slovenian last names related to animals, quite common ones are also those that originate from occupations and settlements. My last name, Zupan, is quite common here and is supposed to originate from the word “župan”, “mayor”, but some sources also claim that that last name meant that someone was a farmer. What a combination!

Below, you can see where some Slovenian last names supposedly originate from.

10 most common Slovenian last names from 2015 statistics:

  1. Novak
  2. Horvat
  3. Kovačič
  4. Krajnc
  5. Zupančič
  6. Potočnik
  7. Kovač
  8. Mlakar
  9. Kos
  10. Vidmar

Last names derived from professions and trades

Slovenian last name English translation Origin
Godec musician from the word “godec”
Kmet farmer from the word “kmet”
Kopač digger from the word “kopač”
Kovač smith from the word “kovač”
Kuhar cook from the word “kuhar”
Lončar potter from the word “lončar”
Mlinar miller from the word “mlinar”
Pevec singer from the word “pevec”
Ribič fisherman from the word “ribič”
Šuštar shoemaker from the word “šuštar” which is an old expression for a shoemaker
Žagar sawyer from the word “žagar”

Last names derived from nicknames

Animal last names were supposed to indicate the person’s physical or mental features.

Slovenian last name English translation Origin
Bolha flea from the word “bolha”
Golob pigeon from the word “golob”
Jelen deer from the word “jelen”
Jež hedgehog from the word “jež”
Kos blackbird from the word “kos”
Maček male cat from the word “maček”
Medved bear from the word “medved”
Sraka magpie from the word “sraka”
Volk/Vovk wolf from the word “volk”
Zajc/Zajec rabbit from the word “zajec” which means a rabbit
Zver beast from the word “zver”

Last names derived from status

Slovenian last name English translation Origin
Knez prince from the word “knez”
Kralj king from the word “kralj”
Papež pope from the word “papež”
Škof bishop from the word “škof”
Zupan mayor from the word “župan” which means a mayor

Last names derived from settlements

Slovenian last name Origin
Blatnik from the word “blato” which means mud (swampy regions)
Dolenc from the word “Dolenjec” which is an inhabitant of the Dolenjska region
Dolinšek from the word “dolina” which means a valley
Furlan from the word “Furlanija”  – a region in Italy which is close to west Slovenia
Gorenc from the word “Gorenjec” which is an inhabitant of the Gorenjska region
Hrastnik from the word “hrast” which means an oak
Hribar from the word “hrib” which means a hill
Korošec from the word “Korošec” which is an inhabitant of the Koroška region
Mlakar from the word “mlaka” which means a puddle
Novak from the word “novinec” which means a novice
Potočnik from the word “potok” which means a stream
Ravnikar from the word “ravnina” with means a plain
Smrekar from the word “smreka” which means a spruce

Last names derived from first names

Here you can see the suffix –ič, which is typical for the last names that derive from the first names (mostly father’s names).

Slovenian last name Origin
Gregorčič from the first name “Gregor”
Janežič from the first name “Janez”
Majdič from the first name “Majda”
Pavlič from the first name “Pavel”
Petrič from the first name “Peter”
Primožič from the first name “Primož”
Tomažič from the first name “Tomaž”
Uršič from the first name “Urša”

Last names derived from connections with other nationalities

Slovenian last name Origin
Čeh from the word “Čeh” which means a Czech
Horvat/Hrovat from the word “Hrvat” which means a Croat (it meant a newcomer from Croatia)
Nemec from the word “Nemec” which means a German
Rus from the word “Rus” which means a Russian
Turk from the word “Turek” which means a Turk

Other interesting Slovenian last names

Slovenian last name English translation Origin
Božič Christmas from the word “božič”
Čas time from the word “čas”
Grbec hump/humpback from the word “grba” which means a hump
Hren horseradish from the word “hren”
Jug south from the word “jug”
Mrak dusk from the word “mrak”
Oblak cloud from the word “oblak”
Ocvirk crackling from the word “ocvirek” which means a crackling
Petek Friday from the word “petek”
Potrebuješ you need (the 2nd person singular) it literally means “you need” (“ti potrebuješ”)
Prešeren merry from the adjective “prešeren”
Sever north from the word “sever”
Sluga servant from the words “sluga” or “služabnik” which means a servant
Štrukelj štrukelj (rolled dumpling) from the word “štrukelj”
Vesel/Veselko happy, joyful from the adjective “vesel” which means happy
Vodnik guide from the word “vodnik”
Vodopivec person who drinks water from the words “voda” (water) and “pivec” (drinker)
Zlobec evil person from the adjective “zloben” which means evil