Last Name

Ok heres my question…Why are there so many last names
I would think that they would be slowly dissapering…When we get married someone gives up a last name, we don’t give our kids last names just first names, when we die we give up our last names…sometimes. Granted immigrants and name changes happen but why are there so MANY last names…If we came from small groups of people in the begining of time what happened…thats my questions thanks please reply =)

Last names (by which we mean, in this context, “hereditary patrilineal names”) aren’t coeval with mankind. They came into use slowly and sporadicly, as population became so dense that people had to be distinguished by epithets: “Bob…I mean Bob the baker, not Bob with the brown hair”. Later, these became Bob Baker and Bob Brown.

Last names came into use at various places at various times. In a few places, you still won’t find them to be universal.

As for their number:[list=1]
[li]Yes, when a woman gets married in Westernized cultures, it was common for her to adopt her husband’s name up to, say, 1970. Of course, the woman might well have a brother, to preserve their surname. Also, despite my saying that last names are patrilineal, a man who married a woman of significantly higher rank might well take her family’s surname, instead.[/li][li]The number of last names can be increased by various factors. My father-in-law had four brothers; no two of them agreed on how to spell their surname, so there are now five families with five surnames, whereas a century ago there was effectively one.[/li][li]Someone can (and people do) adopt new surnames for various reasons. The new surnames might well be an existing one, but it might not.[/li][/list=1]