In German, having “von” in your surname almost always means that your family is of the nobility. In French, “de”, “des”, “du”, and “de la” might mean the same thing, although I suspect that if the name is something like “du Chemin” (of the road), or “du Moulin” (of the mill) it probably doesn’t mean the family is noble.
What about Japanese names? Is there any kind of immediate indicator of nobility, analogous to the German “von”?
One of the reasons for the mild air of snottiness that clings to hyphenated names in English in some people’s opinion, is that that originally did use to indicate nobility (or at least gentry).
If a gentleman or nobleman died without male issue, his daughters were entitled to inherit his arms and titles. However, he could require in his will that if they were to be passed on, his daughters’ husbands would have to assume his name. (The children of an heraldic heiress were entitled to quarter their mother’s and father’s arms rather than simply inheriting their father’s.) The upshot of which is, having a hyphenated name indicated at one time that one of your female ancestors was an heiress.
Sooo, my cousin Piesski is a son of a Pies? Pies = female dog…
Actually, it was a semi-whoosh, a bit of troll bait attached to a fishline of knowledge: Here’s a quote: Emphasis mine.
-ski is also a place name suffix, or toponymic (not a patronymic, which would be 'son of), and when nobility (landed gentry) was configured in Poland, you got your name from the estate you owned. To check if a name has a noble origin or peasant origin, you can check heraldic crests. Or check if a name has a profession tied to it. Kowal is the Polish equivalent of Smith, a blacksmith. Kowalski is not noble. Golina is an estate district, now a town. Golinski is noble.
You can find the cites for this into at This siteski and links to other pages as well.