Putting a name to a face


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Ahoj! Welcome to ABC of Czech Radio Prague's special language program. Today we're looking at Czech surnames that come from physical descriptions as well as descriptions of personality.

Let's start right on top with the head - hlava. We find an obvious surname related to the word for head - Hlava itself. But be careful not to confuse the origin of Hlava with the name of the former president Havel, which comes from the first name Havel, which has a Latin origin - it's the Czech name for Gallus. The same goes for Havlíček, a diminutive of Havel.

Oh but we forgot what we might find on the top of a head. There are two last names that are found in Czech referring to curly hair or a curly-head kučeravý. So from kučeravý we find Kučera. The second name Kraus does not come from Czech at all, it comes from the German adjective kraus for curly. Another surname that is traced to hair and also sometimes skin colour is černý or černík from the adjective black - černý. At the time the population was overwhelmingly fair, and the names Černý or Černík were given to people who had darker hair or darker skin.

Sometimes the German word for black - schwarz is found in Czech as a surname but it is usually spelt in a Czech way - Švarc. While we are on the topic of skin, the Czech adjective red is červený. And from that we find the surname červenka, meaning someone who is red in the face. But červenka could also be for someone who blushes frequently, the Czech verb to blush is červenat se.

How about other facial features or names related to facial actions? Hovorka is the surname for someone who is overly talkative. Hovorka comes from the verb hovořit - meaning to talk or discuss. The surname Huba while meaning literally mouth, more specifically snout, certainly has mixed origins. To say shut up in Czech you say - drž hubu, hold your mouth. A sharp tongue is huba jako břitva, literally mouth like a razor.

The surname Noha and Nožka are also found in Czech. They both come from the Czech word for foot - noha. Apparently the name Noha was for someone with a big foot. While Nožka, the diminutive was for someone with especially small feet. Of course there was no name for someone with average feet because surnames like this were always given to the exception!

Thanks for listening and take care! Mějte se!