Sometimes there appear questions at Genealogy & Family History.SE asking for etymology of Ukrainian family names: Family name which sounds like сипа?

This makes sense to me: by knowing etymology, people may know profession of their ancestors, and this may be helpful for them to find their relatives.

This made me thinking, do we let questions asking for etymology of family names on-topic here?

Or maybe even all types of proper names like toponyms, for example: Has anyone ever heard of the town of Husinice, Russia or Ukraine, circa 1912?

Pro's: this may be a quality content which can be answered by our Ukrainian language experts;

Con's: these questions may be "too specific" and hardly can help future visitors (unlike G&FH.SE)

  • For common surnames, the "too specific" condition wouldn't apply. Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 8:54
  • @FracturedRetina, I don't disagree, but my concern is the impossibility to search. Imagine we have a question about Петренко. The next day, someone else comes up with the question about Іваненко. They search, find nothing, and post a dupe. Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 15:31

2 Answers 2


Questions about etymology of Ukrainian surnames, toponyms and other proper names are just kind of a questions about .

Still, question examples you provided are not really about etymology of Ukrainian words, per my opinion, rather a "guess a word (name/city) by it's approximate sound"-questions. At least, from our point of view.

If a foreign visitor asks about possible origins of surname Mdirteko… We'll from his point of view this may look like investigating etymology of the word. But, heck, Дмитренко is no more Ukrainian word as soon as it was misspelled to "Mdirteko" by some officers. From our point of view it's rather word-guessing, than etymology. (Off-topic: some visitor looked for Sorbonna Square in Lviv; guess what was the actual place name?)

In my opinion: etymology of Ukrainian word is certainly on-topic, but this doesn't apply to misspelled or non-Ukrainian words. I suppose smth like: "We may answer such questions if a word is not so corrupted or just as a gesture of goodwill, but that's not guaranteed: the questions about etymology of non-Ukrainian words or of Ukrainian words that were corrupted in a way that it looks more like 'guess an Ukrainian word by it's approximate sound' than actual investigation of etymology for Ukrainian word, are generally off-topic".

As for separate questions for Петренко, Іваненко, Сидоренко — we'll, if it'll happen, we can write one self-answered question like "How to determine etymology of a surname ending with -енко?" — and mark all these as duplicated — or do I miss something? Still, some of енко-surname questions really worth individual questions (with unclear root).

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    Absolutely, the question examples I provided are perfectly on-topic there at G&FH; they just inspired me to think about our scope. Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 16:17

I think etymonogy of family names should be on-topic. First of all for foreigners it is not obvious which part can be removed (like -ко ending) to find the word which etymology can be used for futher search.

So, etymology of family names are a part of etymology and is on-topic. Also usually there are many people with the same family name so it won't be "too specific" as noted by @FracturedRetina.

As for proper names - though search for historic town names may be quite "specific", but, from the other hand I'm not sure that there would be many enquiries of such kind. I think they may be allowed for now, but may be made off-topic later if there would be too many questions.

  • Can confirm; as a foreigner I did not know that. Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 19:25

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