Monday, January 21, 2013

What's in a Name? Pt. 2: Surnames

Back in July of 2011 I wrote a blog post about names and what they mean. I talked about the meaning behind names and even explained my name:

"My name Samantha actually has two meanings. The first part “Sam” is derived from the Hebrew male name of Samuel and it means “God heard.” The second part “antha” is derived from Greek which means “flower.” So apparently I’m a flower that God hears. My middle name, Eileen, is Gaelic meaning “light.” My mom gave me these names because she had always wanted a very girly girl who was full of light and flowery I guess. Funny though how I know go by Sam and am pretty much the opposite of how she thought I would turn out. This shows that every intention is not always the result. But regardless she put thought into naming me because she wanted it to reflect who I was (or rather who she thought I would be). Also she wanted her maiden name of “Sampson” to live on through the generation so my name is homage to the Sampson clan."
Now one thing I failed to mention was the origins of my last name which at the time I didn't feel as important since that wasn't given to me. So now I want to explore my last name of "Curtin" and what it means.

Curtin is Gaelic just like my middle name is. Before it was translated into English it was actually Mac Cuirtin derived from the personal name Cuirtin which in Gaelic means "hunchbacked." There are many variations of this name including Curtain, Curtin (which is the name my family uses), McCurtin (the Mc means "son of"), O'Curtin, McCurtain, and so on. I always found it ironic that my last name meant hunchbacked when I actually have a slight curve in my spine. When we were younger and my brother found out what our last name meant he actually started to endearingly call me Hunchy (I mean that's what little brothers are for right?)

The reason I wanted to write this post today is that now the engagement has sunk in I realize that my name is going to change. Instead of Samantha Eileen Curtin, I will now be Samantha Eileen Dambach (and later after I get my PhD I will be Dr. Samantha Dambach). Huh, that kind of has a ring to it doesn't it?

So the origins of Dambach? Well I don't know too much about it so I decided to do a little research. I knew it was German but beyond that I had no clue. Upon researching on and similiar sites it appears that the running meaning is that it's a German "habitational name from any of the numerous places" (

Due to the meaning, we can assume it was a place so I did a little research on Dambach, Germany. Turns out that Dambach is an Ortsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality, in the Birkenfeld district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It belongs to the Verbandsgemeinde of Birkenfeld. Dambach was settled 3,000 years ago and a great number of archaeological find were made at barrow. The majority of these were from the Iron Age, and can be found at the Birkenfeld State Museum. Later in the 1st century BC, the municipality was actually conquered by the Romans. Dambach remained under their hegemony for roughly 400 years and it is apparent that the Roman culture has left its mark to this day (,_Germany).

Even though I love my last name of Curtin I'm loving the story behind the origins of Dambach as well. We have no Germans at all in  my family (all Irish and Norwegian) so I'm excited to become part of another family with rich history like mine. I will however be keeping Curtin as my pen name for my writing.So now it's your turn. What does your last name mean?


Eliora said...

Hey Sam - You sure asked an intriguing question; one I love to answer.

My married last name is Gumbiner - taken from Gumbinnen province in the former East Prussia, now Gusev, Russia. My husband's paternal family fled Jewish persecution in Europe, settling in Iowa, in 1862 during the U.S. Civil war. Eventually, seven brothers from the same family immigrated.

My maiden name was Michel (Michl) German (Bavaria) and Jewish (Ashkenazic): from a variant form of the personal name Michael (Hebrew: Who is Like God. Thought to have been adopted as a surname by Crusaders.

Incidentially, our written family records indicate my paternal family has been for centuries (and still is)well- established in the area of Eppingen, Germany. And, long before the the Romans brought their religions to the area, the place was populated by the Celtic Nemetes tribe. My following of the Goddess Nemetona is in honor of these ancient ancestors.

Alexis Kennedy said...

Good post DFAL!! Kennedy is my mother's maiden name. It means head o the clan or ugly MY maiden name is Coons, which means bold, daring.

Sam Curtin said...

I always wondered where you got the name Kennedy from. Very nice! lol

Sam Curtin said...

Such a rich history, Lori! I love it. :)

Anonymous said...

This is GREAT! I love learning backgrounds to different names. :)

My maiden name is Kolcz. When I was younger -- maybe late teens? earlier than that? -- I emailed a genealogist who knew a lot about Polish last names. Ends up that mine is common overseas, but not so much in the Americas. He informed me that our last name means "little peg" in Polish, and since Polish last names, like many others around that area, often correlate to the type of profession in which they were engaged, he guessed that our family was one of carpenters and other woodworkers.

My married name is Fox. We recently learned the history behind the name, so this post comes at an interesting time. :) Before Matt's family came over from... wherever it was (I'm guessing, I believe, Germany > Britain > the US, but Matt knows better than I do), they had the last name Fuchs. I don't recall if the name has meaning, but when his family came over via Ellis Island, the name was continuously pronounced "fucks", lol. In the time that his family has been here, there have been family members who instead started calling themselves Fox, and only recently has that been officially suck (as official as it can be, I guess!). His bio-uncle told him this story, and he mentioned that he, the bio-uncle, will be the first to be born and die with the name Fox.

Pretty cool history. :D

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