Map of most common Czech surnames in 76 statistical districts:
  Novák or Nováková
  Dvořák or Dvořáková
  Novotný or Novotná
  Svoboda or Svobodová
  Černý or Černá
  Navrátil or Navrátilová
  Other (they might be more common in certain municipalities than in the others)

Czech names are composed of a given name and a family name (surname). Czechs typically get one given name – additional names may be chosen by themselves upon baptism but they generally use one. With marriage, the bride typically adopts the bridegroom's surname.

Given names

In the Czech Republic, names are simply known as jména ("names") or, if the context requires it, křestní jména ("Christian names"). The singular form is jméno. Generally, a given name may have Christian roots or traditional Slavic pre-Christian origin (e.g. Milena, Božena, Jaroslav, Václav, Vojtěch).

It used to be a legal obligation for parents to choose their child's name from a list that was pre-approved by the government. Special permission was necessary for other names with exceptions for minorities and foreigners. Since the Velvet revolution in 1989, parents have had the right to give their child any name they wish, provided it is used somewhere in the world and is not insulting or demeaning. However, in recent years the common practice has been that most birth-record offices look for the name in the book Jak se bude vaše dítě jmenovat? (What is your child going to be called?),[1] which is a semi-official list of "allowed" names. If the name is not found there, authorities are unwilling to register the child's name without a professional opinion (odborné stanovisko) from the Czech Language Institute (Ústav pro jazyk český).[2]


The most popular boys' names between 1999 and 2007 were Jan (John), Jakub (Jacob or James), Tomáš (Thomas) and Martin. Among the most popular girls' names were Tereza (Theresa), Kateřina (Katherine), Eliška (Elise), Natálie and Adéla.[3] In 2016, Jakub, Jan, Tomáš, Filip and Eliška, Tereza, Anna, Adéla were the most popular names.[4]


Names, like all nouns in Czech language, are declined depending on their grammatical case. For example, one would say Pavel kouše sendvič ("Paul bites a sandwich"), but Pes kouše Pavla ("A dog bites Paul") and Pes ukousl Pavlovi prst ("The dog bit Paul's finger off"). Unlike the closely related Slovak language, Czech has a vocative case used when calling or addressing someone. For instance, one would say, Pavle, pozor pes! (Paul, watch out for the dog!).


While Czechs share relatively few given names—roughly 260 names have a frequency above 500 in the Czech Republic—there are tens of thousands of Czech surnames (singular and plural: příjmení). These are similar in origin to English ones and may reflect:

What is not shared with English but is similar to North American native languages[citation needed] is the colorful nature of some Czech surnames, such as Brzobohatý (soon to be rich), Volopich (pricking an ox), Urvinitka (tear a string), Rádsetoulal (liked wandering around), Stojaspal (slept standing), Vítámvás (I welcome you), Tenkrát (back in those days), Schovajsa (hide yourself!), Nebojsa (don't be afraid!), Skočdopole (jump in a field!), Vozihnoj (driving with manure), Osolsobě (salt for yourself!), Ventluka (knocking outward), Nejezchleba (don't eat bread!), Potměšil (he sewed in the dark), Přecechtěl (he wanted anyway), Drahokoupil (he bought costly), Nepovím (I'm not going to tell).

German surnames are also quite common in the Czech Republic; the country was part of the Austrian Empire before 1918 and had a large German population until World War II. Some of them got phonetically normalized and transcribed to Czech (Müller (miller) as well as Miler; Stein (Stone) as well as Štajn, Schmied (Smith) as well as Šmíd (or Šmýd), Fritsch (Frič), Schlessinger (Šlesingr), etc. Some of them retain their original German surnames e. g. : Gottwald, Feiersinger, Dienstbier, Berger, Koller, Klaus, Franz, Forman, Ebermann, Lendl, Ulihrach, Gebauer, Kaberle, Vogelstanz, etc.

Many of Czech surnames occur in a diminutive form which was used to distinguish father and son (similar to John → Johnnie) or as a patronymic (John → Johnson), e. g. Petr → Peterka or Petřík → Petříček, Václav → Václavek or Václavík or Vašek → Vašinka, Sedlák → Sedláček, Polák → Poláček, Novák → Nováček, Zajíc → Zajíček, Němec → Němeček, Kalous → Kalousek, Havel → Havlík → Havlíček, Štěpán → Štěpánek → Štěpnička, Kovář → Kovařík → Kovaříček, Holub → Holoubek, Kocour → Kocourek, Cibula → Cibulka, Petržela → Petrželka, Chalupa → Chaloupka, Čáp → Čapek, Beran – Beránek.

The most common Czech surnames are Novák ("Newman"), Svoboda ("Freeman," literally "Freedom"), Novotný (same origin as Novák), Dvořák (from dvůr, "court") and Černý ("Black").[5]

Female surnames

As in English-speaking countries, Czech women traditionally receive their father's surname at birth and take their husband's name when they marry. However, the names are not exactly the same; the endings differ to fit into the Czech language's systems of gender adjectives. For example, the tennis players Cyril Suk and Helena Suková are brother and sister; Suková is the feminine form of Suk. In fact, Czech female surnames are almost always feminine adjectives. There are several ways of forming them, depending on their male counterpart:

A few Czech surnames do not differ for men and women in the nominative case (the case used for the subject of a sentence). Those include surnames whose male form is genitive plural, (e.g. Jirků, Janků) and those whose male form is an adjective with the suffix (e.g. Tachecí, Jarní). Note that these are only identical in two of the seven grammatical cases; in the other five, the male and female forms differ, as per the soft adjective declension.

The woman's surname is also[clarification needed] not declined if it is of foreign origin and adding the suffix -ová would be awkward or unfeasible: Olga Walló, Blanka Matragi.

Czechs tend to add a feminine suffix to the surnames of Czech as well as foreign women surnames. Thus, e.g. Michelle Obama is referred to as Michelle Obamová in the Czech press.[6] Science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin appears in Czech translations as Ursula Le Guinová.[7] This phenomenon is not universal, however. In recent years, there has been lively discussion whether or not to change foreign female surnames in public use (such as in media references etc.). Supporters of abandoning this habit claim that adding a Czech female suffix to a foreign surname means deliberately changing a woman's name and is therefore both misleading and inconsiderate, whereas traditionalists point out that only by adding the suffix can the name be used as a flexible feminine adjective within a naturally sounding Czech sentence. Although the discussion continues, the majority of newspapers and other media use the "adopted" versions.[citation needed]

Until 2004, every woman who married in the Czech Republic and wanted to change her name had to adopt a feminine surname, unless her husband was a foreigner whose name ended in a vowel or she was a registered member of a Czech minority group. A law passed in 2004 allows all foreign women, and Czech women who marry foreign men, to adopt their husband's exact surname.[8]

An amendment proposed[9] to allow women to use male family name versions was approved by the Senate of the Czech Republic in July 2021.[10]

As in English-speaking countries, some Czech women decide to keep their maiden name after marriage or adopt a double surname. A couple can also agree to both adopt the woman's surname, with the husband using the masculine form.

Surnames in the plural

Surnames that are nouns in the masculine singular:

All forms of the surname Novák are possessive adjectives in the plural; their endings depend on the gender and case.

Surnames that are adjectives in the masculine singular:

All forms of the surname Novotný are adjectives in the plural; their endings depend on the gender and case. The form Novotných is in the genitive case.

See also


  1. ^ Knappová, Miloslava [in Czech] (2010) [1st pub. Jak se bude jmenovat, 1978]. Jak se bude vaše dítě jmenovat? (in Czech) (5th expanded ed.). Praha: Academia. ISBN 978-80-200-1888-5.
  2. ^ ""Stát rozhoduje, jak se bude jmenovat vaše dítě"". Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. Retrieved 2007-09-16.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Czech Statistical Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-14. Retrieved 2010-09-30.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Nejčastější jména narozených dětí v lednu 2016" (in Czech). Czech Statistical Office. Retrieved 2021-07-09.
  5. ^ Czech Ministry of the Interior, "Četnost jmen a příjmení," 18 May 2007(in Czech). Retrieved 19 July 2008.
  6. ^ "Nenuťte potomky, ať mají rodinu. Šťastní mohou být i bez dětí, míní Obamová". (in Czech). 2022-12-26. Retrieved 2023-04-02.
  7. ^ Williams, Gwydion M. (2012-07-08). "2008_09_05_DSC01465 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  8. ^ Lenka Ponikelska, "Law would mean surname options," The Prague Post 4 March 2004. Retrieved 24 June 2007.
  9. ^ Fraňková, Ruth (2020-05-15). "Czech women might finally be allowed to drop the suffix -ová". Radio Prague. Retrieved 2021-07-09.
  10. ^ Kenety, Brian (2021-07-03). "Senate approves amendment to let women to remove -ová suffix from surname". Radio Prague. Retrieved 2021-07-09.