Brief dictionary of offensive surnames

What do the names of Durakov and Pupkin really mean and how to reconcile with the fact that you are Neudachin or Cheburashkin

Balabanov, Barabashiny and Balakirev

There is probably no people who love overly talkative people or speak too fast. So, the nickname “balaban” (the surname usually came from nicknames) is a derogatory designation of a person who speaks a lot and in vain. But this word could be called a joker or a wit. The surname Balabanov can also come from the name of one of the species of the falcon – the balaban, with whom they loved to hunt hare (in those days when surnames were formed, hunting for hares in Russia was widespread). Judging by the reduced form, the owners of the one-root surname Balaboshkina could still be empty, but even in this case, if we rely on the dialect values ​​provided by Dahl, the surname could well be formed from the name of the type of fritters – balaboshok.

In the names of Barabashin and Barbashov, the onomatopoeia “barbara” is heard: the ancient Greeks called “barbarians” or “barbarians” people who did not speak Greek (for example, names like the Tararashkins, Tararaevs, Tararuevs and Tararykins: “Tarara” is an onomatopoeia, meaning loud and non-stop chatter).

The surname Balakirev could be associated with the word “balak”, that is, “speak,” but there is a birth with this last name, derived from the word “balakir”, which means “clay jug”: this could reflect the external data of its owner – a stout short man.


There are a lot of Russian surnames from the root “dur”: these are the Durakovs, Durakovskys, Durasovs (a noble family in whose honor the Durasovsky lane in Moscow is named), Durashenko, Durashiny, Durashkiny, Durashov, Durinov, Durnevy, Durniny, Durnovy, Durnovtsev, Durigins, Durigins, Durilins, Durindins, Duryshkins, Senko-Fools, Dururins, Durkins and others.

A nickname with such a root has been known since at least the 15th century. So, the peasant of the Yazholobitsky churchyard Kornilko Durak is mentioned in sources in 1495, and the Moscow clerk Durak Mishurin – in 1535. There are villages Durakova and the river Durakova in the Komi Republic. But the word “dura” is recorded only in 1704: in the Slavic-Greek-Latin dictionary it corresponds to “stulta”, “stupida”, “fatua”, “morosa” (“stupid”, “stupid”, “moron”, “stubborn”).

Perhaps the origin of the root is related to the old Russian “durovati” (“madness, bliss”) – hence the “dur'”, “durnoj”, “duret'”. But, most likely, the surname from this root comes from the worldly male name Dur, Duras, which means ugly, stupid: such a name was given as a deterrent of evil spirits, protection from them – with the hope that the boy would become handsome and healthy (in the same way, for example, other amulets became surnames – Zlobin, Nekrasov, Bezobrazov, Neverov, Nevzorov, Nezhdanov, Bessonov, Dokukin, Plaksin).


“Greedy” means the nature of a person who is insatiable, too greedy for anything, unable to share, greedy, and the surnames of this series — Zhadenov, Zhadinov, Zhadanov, Zhadobin, Zhadny, Zhedanov, Zhadnin — are perceived as criticizing.

But in the Old Russian language, from the XI century, the words “greedy”, “greedy” meant “thirsty,” “thirsty,” “needy.” In the “Word of Igor’s Regiment” this word is used with the meaning “strong-willed.” Later in the dialects there appears a meaning noted by Dahl as “to be immodest in one’s desires”, “to passionately and voraciously want to acquire something.” When nicknames formed, which became the basis of the surname, it is difficult to say, so surnames with this root could contain different ratings.


This surname most likely appeared in the 19th century, and the nickname of its founder – “swindler” – could indicate the nature of his activity: a thief, a fraudster. But this is not the original meaning of the word.

In 1820, a list of the words “ofen dialect” was compiled — a conditional language used by the aeneas, wandering haberdashery. These merchants called the knife a word “swindler”. “Cheating” – that is, cutting; “Jul” – a knife; “Scammers” are scissors. In the first volume of Dahl’s dictionary we find precisely this meaning of the word “swindler”, in the same place “swindler” is a knife in the Tver dialect, and “swindle” means “cringe”, “writhe”. Etymologically, the word is unclear, but it is clear that the Zhulikovs, Zhulnikovs, Zhulins, Zhulevs have their kind, most likely not from thieves.


According to the first version of the origin, the surname is formed from a personal nickname, that is, by the name of a person an animal – a rat. The gray rat appeared on the Russian plain no earlier than the 17th century, and in Siberia at the beginning of the 20th century. The origin of the word “rat” itself is most likely foreign and also dates back to the 17th century: in Ukrainian this animal is called “patsyuk”, “shchur”; in Belarusian – “Patsuk”; in Serbo-Croatian – “Patsov”; in Polish – “szczur”.

What set of characteristics could include this nickname? Perhaps there was something rat in the face of the person, for example, large prominent teeth, or his behavior caused such an association. If in modern Russian culture this nickname has a negative emotional connotation, including the meanings “secret” and “greed” (“to rattle” – “to steal from one’s own people”), “bureaucrat” (stationery rat), “mind”, “curiosity”, “aggressiveness”, what was the perception of the properties of the image of a rat in antiquity is unclear.

The second version is a nickname given by profession: we know the word “armchair” (flint for carving fire), and the verb “sit” in dialects, as Dahl points out, meant “carve fire”, “crumble”. Then the founder, the rat family could be a master, a strong and agile person.

The third version – the basis of this surname is not Russian, but Polish, and came from the diminutive form of the name Kristina (Krystyna) – Krysia (Krysia).


In Eldar Ryazanov’s film “Say the word about a poor hussar”, Count Merzlyaev, an official on special assignments (performed by Oleg Basilashvili), turns into Merzyaev: “… somehow the letter “l“ suddenly disappeared from my old noble family Merzlyaev.” So both he and his descendants began to be called Merzyaev among the people.

Indeed, the root of the surname during the loss of “l” has not changed: “scum” (“insignificant, despicable person”) and “vile” (“causing strong disgust”) – these are the same-root words to “freeze”, “frost”. And here everything becomes not so offensive: in Russian surnames the fact that people froze, were afraid of the cold and suffered during the winter season is varied. The business acts mention the Vologda peasant Gridya Ozyabloy Martiyanov son (1554), the Olonets peasant Fedor Merzlyak (1564), the Arzamassian Yakov Mikhailovich Patrikeev Merzly (1596), the Slamon resident Ivashko Kholodnaya (1609), the ambassador to Kiev with the royal leaflet Evkim Zyabka (1623). If we add to this the figurative-associative series of meteophenomena of the cold season, the list of names bearing semes associated with bad weather will be very long: Nepogodin, Zima, Zimin, Zimny, Kholodov, Metelitsyn, Merzlyuk, Merzlyukov, Merzlyakov, Nenastyev, Snegov, Snezhin, Tuchin, Chicherov (“chicher” – in some dialects “cold wind with rain, with snow”), Dozhdev, Zavyalov (“wilted” – “bring with snow”), Vyuzhin, Vyugin, Buranov, Goleledin, Gololedov, etc.


Among the surnames formed from nicknames, there is a large group that reflects speech defects: mumble, growl, lisp, stutter, hiss, mumble, grumble, babble, spatter, mutter, gundos, gnaw or burr. The slurred annoyed, attracted attention and entrenched itself in surnames such as Zaikin, Myamlin, Shepelev, Shepelin, Shepelkin, Sheptunov, Burchalov, Gnusavin, Mymrin and Mymrikov.

“Mymra” is a Finno-Ugric word; in the Komi language it is “gloomy”. So it is with this basic meaning and exists in Russian. In other dialects, mummy was called a sullen or thin, ugly or boring person. There is the verb “to die” – in the northern dialects it is “to speak slurred”; and in Dahl’s dictionary “mumble” – “it’s safe to stay at home.” In Ephraim’s Explanatory Dictionary, “myrrh” is “a sullen, unpleasant woman.”

But, in addition, “myrrh” is a popular name for the larvae of butterfly mayfly and dragonflies in Altai, a very good bait for fishing.

Neustroyev, Neudachiny and Nekhoroshevs

These surnames, most likely, came from name-charms like Neustroy, Nekras, Nekhorosh, Neyela, who were supposed to discourage the children who were called so, evil spirits and bad, envious glances.

It is also possible that Neustroyev is a modified Nevstroyev (and its variants of Nevostruev and Nestruev), where the stem comes from the home name of Neustroy, with the vowel “u” turning into a consonant “v”. Failure also has options, Nevdachin and Nevdakhin – this happens in many cases when the diphthong (a combination of two vowels in one syllable) is replaced by a more convenient combination of a vowel and a consonant. The surname Neyolov most likely came from a word with a similar meaning: “nyala” means “failure”. So such surnames as Nekhoroshev or Nekhoroshev, Nekhoroshin, Nekhoroshkin, Nekhoroshkov, Nekrasov, Nekrasochkin, are only called upon to protect their births.


Old Russian nicknames Grom, Zvonko, Krik, Pisk, Ryk, Rykun, Rychko, Reva, Revun, Revyako gave rise to many names. However, the surname, for example, Gromov may not come from a nickname, which was given in addition to the name, but from the worldly name Grom – given to the child according to the weather on his birthday or for amulet from evil spirits, and Revin – from the home form of the Christian name Revokat, one from the Carthaginian martyrs of the 2nd – 3rd centuries AD.

So Piskun could call a tearful child, but, most likely, this is a protective name, which was given so that the child had a good sleep, so that he would not be scared. Such an nickname could be given to an adult – by the height of his voice. There is another, simpler version of the origin of the family name – by the name of the village of Piskunovo, where its carriers lived.


Vasya Pupkin – that’s what they usually call an unremarkable person, whose name we forgot or it doesn’t matter to us, or famous, but we intentionally do not call his real name to show his insignificance. Such names are called exemplifiers, as they seem to give a concrete example – in English, for example, there is John or Jane Doe.

One of the first references to the Pupkin name in fiction is the children’s adventure novel “Republic of SKID” of 1926:

“In all the classes there were small posters, handwritten in watercolor:
Friday at 8 o’clock
in the white room
1st episode of the cycle
The Adventures of Anton Pupkin
Skidtsy were perplexed. Nobody knew whose invention it was, what kind of “Shkidkino” they were, they all asked with incomprehension:
– Shkidkino? What the hell? You do not know?
– I do not know. Vitya probably dug up the device somewhere.
– A magic lantern, it must be.
– Not … It’s the Youngsters, vague pictures — all anatomy — will be shown.
– Anatomy! Fool! What does Pupkin have to do with anatomy?
– Pupkin? Navel…
– Well, and again a fool!
– And I think so – all this has been done for the buza, someone is mocking, that’s all…
– We’ll see.”

The root of the Russian surname – “pup”, “pupok” (that is, the scar that remains after birth at the place where the umbilical cord fell off) – has been recorded since the XI century (in dialects – in the meaning of “kidney”, and, perhaps, this is the oldest value on Slavic soil). So the names Pupov, Pupkov, Pupkin, Pupochkin, Pupynin, Pupyshev, Pupyrev, Pupchenkov come from a very flattering nickname – this is the “navel of the earth” and in general a place important for a person.


The words “coward”, “coward” now mean the psychological property of a person who easily and often without serious reason gives in to fear. In other Slavic languages, words with such a basis in a similar sense are absent: in Ukrainian there is a “boyagu”, “strahopoloh”; in Bulgarian – “strahlivec”.

In Russian, the concept was formed in the 16th century, and in 1731 the words “cowardly” and “cowardly” were recorded in the Weismann dictionary “German-Latin and Russian vocabulary purchased with the first principles of the Russian language…”. The word “coward” in the meaning of “cowardly man” appears in the dictionary later, in 1771. However, the old Russian “coward”, from which most likely the nickname came, and then the surname, meant “shake”, “earthquake” or “awe”.


When Eduard Uspensky came up with the name Cheburashka (in the initial version it was a “clumsy ugly creature with small ears and brown hair that walks on its hind legs”), he did it through the mouth of the director of the store in which Cheburashka got along with a box of oranges:

“He sat, sat, looked around, and then he picked up and cheburahnulsya from the table into a chair. But he did not sit on the chair for a long time – he chewed himself again. On the floor.
– Phew you, what a Cheburashka! – said the store director about him. – He can’t sit still!”

Indeed, in the dictionaries of the Russian language “cheburahatsya”, “cheburahatsya” means “to fall”; hit, knock with force. The base “chuburok”, “chapurok” or “cheburakh” means “a wooden ball at the end of a burlak becheva”. Thus, Cheburashkin is a surname from a professional nickname of the one who made burlak straps and cheburashki, that is, wooden balls and floats for fishing nets.

Sources: Veselovsky S.B. Onomasticon. Old Russian names, nicknames and surnames. M., 1974., Nikonov V.A. Dictionary of Russian last names. M., 1993., Unbegaun B.O. Russian surnames. M., 1989., Fedosyuk Yu.A. Russian surnames. Popular etymological dictionary. M., 1992.
Author: Marina Avdonina.

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