Origin of surname Smrt

Discussion in 'Looking for Ancestors' started by John Bachtell, Jan 4, 2020.

  1. John Bachtell

    John Bachtell New Member

    Hi, My mother's paternal surname is Smrt. The name was changed during immigration to the U.S. to Smirt, and at least this branch settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

    Can anyone explain the origins of this surname? I understand the translation is death.

    Thanks,

    John Bachtell
     
  2. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi John,

    The word smrt is a generic Czech word meaning "death". It can also mean "skeleton" in some contexts. The word can be used to refer to a thin or unhealthy looking person (vypad√° jako smrt - he looks deathly thin/unhealthy), and it can be the name of a character depicting death in a carnival procession or during Halloween etc. I found that there are currently 77 people in the Czech Republic with that last name and that the name is ranked 20,821 on the popularity chart. The female version of the name is Smrtov√°, which is probably what your mother's last name was before she emigrated.

    Dana
     
  3. John Bachtell

    John Bachtell New Member

    Hi Dana,

    Thank you very much for your reply and information. I'm also curious why a family would adopt "death" as their surname. Do you have any insight into that? Or could it have dealt with a profession of some sort?

    Thanks again,

    John Bachtell
     
  4. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi John,

    I don't have a good enough insight into the origin of Czech last names but my understanding is that they were often given based on a person's profession, looks, character, place of residence, place of origin, etc. I'm not sure if a person adopted his last name himself or if the name was used by others to describe him and it simply stuck over time.

    Czechs started using last names in the 14th century. Last names were first given to the wealthiest and most important people and were a sort of privilege. Only over time did they spread through all levels of society. Last names became required by law under emperor Joseph II in 1780.

    Dana
     
  5. John Bachtell

    John Bachtell New Member

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