The Top 40 Russian Surnames and Meanings

Wall decorated with the names of Russian writers and poets at Rasskazovka metro station in Moscow
A passenger walks past a wall decorated with the names of Russian writers and poets at Rasskazovka metro station in Moscow.  YURI KADOBNOV / Getty Images

Russian surnames have many origins, including occupation, father's first name, personal nickname or family nickname, geographical location, and even personal surnames given to seminary students based on their good or bad qualities. The following list includes the 40 most popular contemporary Russian surnames, their meanings, and variations.

Surname in English Meaning Details and Variations
Ivanov son of Ivan female: Ivanova
Smirnov from смирный - peaceful, quiet, calm female: Smirnova
Petrov son of Pyotr female: Petrova
Sidorov son of Sidor female: Sidorova
Kuznetsov from кузнец - blacksmith female: Kuznetsova
Popov from поп - priest female: Popova
Vassiliev son of Vassily

female: Vassilieva. Can also be spelled as Vasiliev / Vasilieva

Sokolov from сокол - falcon, hawk female: Sokolova
Mikhailov son of Mikhail female: Mikhailova
Novikov from Новик - old Russian for newcomer from the secular (mirskoe) name/nickname Novik, which comes from the word 'new'
Fyodorov son of Fyodor female: Fyodorova
Morozov from мороз - frost Female: Morozova
Volkov from волк - wolf female: Volkova
Alekseev son of Alexei female: Alekseeva
Lebedev from лебедь - swan female: Levedeva
Semyonov son of Semyon female: Semyonova
Yegorov son of Yegor female: Yegorova
Pavlov son of Pavel female: Pavlova
Kozlov from козел - goat female: Kozlova
Stepanov son of Stepan female: Stepanova
Nikolaev son of Nikolai

female: Nikolaeva. Can also be spelled as Nikolayev / Nikolayeva

Orlov from орел - eagle female: Orlova
Andreev son of Andrei

female: Andreeva. Can also be spelled as Andreyev / Andreyeva

Makarov son of Makary female: Makarova
Nikitin son of Nikita female: Nikitina
Zakharov son of Zakhar / Zakhary female: Zakharova
Solovyov from соловей - nightingale female: Solovyova
Zaitsev from заяц - hare female: Zaitseva
Golubev from голубь - dove, pigeon female: Golubeva
Vinogradov from виноград - grapes female: Vinogradova
Belyaev from Беляй

female: Belyaeva. Originates from the secular name or nickname that meant 'white'

Tarasov son of Taras female: Tarasova
Belov from Беляй or Белый

female: Belova. Originates from the secular name or nickname that meant 'white

Komarov from комар - gnat, mosquito female: Komarova
Kiselyov from кисель - kissel

female: Kiselyova. Originates from the name of a Russian traditional fruit drink similar to mors with the addition of starch or arrowroot

Kovalyov female: Kovalyova
Ilyin son of Ilya female: Ilyina
Gusev from гусь - goose female: Guseva
Titov son of Tit female: Titova
Kuzmin son of Kuzma female: Kuzmina

The Most Popular Russian Surnames and Their Origins

Ivanov (Иванов) remains one of the most popular last names in Russia. This surname comes from the first name Ivan, which was for centuries a very common name, especially among the peasant class. There are almost 100,000 Ivanovs just in Moscow, despite the fact that the majority of Ivanovs live in Russian regions. Russians often use the expression 'Иванов, Петров, Сидоров' (Ivanov, Petrov, Sidorov) when talking about the average Russian. Ivan Ivanych Ivanov is equivalent to the English John Smith.

While the surname Ivanov came from a first name, another popular Russian surname, Smirnov, originated from a nickname that means 'the quiet one' (смирный). It is thought to have appeared in peasant families that had many children and considered having a child who was quiet and calm to be a blessing. The surname Smirnov is typical for the Northern Volga region (Povolzhye) and the central parts of Russia (Kostromskaya Oblast, Ivanovskaya Oblast, and Yaroslavskaya Oblast). It is the 9th most popular name in the world, with over 2.5 million people called Smirnov.

Changes in Russian Surnames Over the Centuries

Russian surnames appeared at different times in different classes of Russian society. For example, citizens of the Novgorod Republic, or the Novgorodian Rus', already had surnames in the 13th century, while many peasants, especially those who lived in less central parts of Russia, did not receive official records of their surnames until the 1930s.

The first Russian surnames were Slavic pagan names that described the person's character or a particular trait, and, less often, occupation. These appeared long before the first official surnames were recorded, and continued to be used alongside Christian names for many centuries. While some of them were nicknames bestowed on a person during their life, others were names that newborn babies were given as an intention for the kind of character or life they would have, or to describe the conditions surrounding the baby's birth, such as particularly cold weather. For example, Nekras - Некрас (nyeKRAS) - was often a name given in the hope that the child would be beautiful. Некрас means 'not beautiful', and the opposite meaning of the name was meant to ward off bad spirits and guarantee the realization of the parents' intention for their child. These names eventually transformed into surnames, creating such names as, in this example, Некрасов (nyeKRAsuff).

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Nikitina, Maia. "The Top 40 Russian Surnames and Meanings." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Nikitina, Maia. (2020, August 25). The Top 40 Russian Surnames and Meanings. Retrieved from Nikitina, Maia. "The Top 40 Russian Surnames and Meanings." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).