Lithuanian language: History, Orthography, Spelling | True Lithuania
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Lithuanian language

Lithuanian language belongs to the Baltic group of the Indo-European languages. The only other Baltic language is Latvian. Since the 19th century, numerous linguists regard Lithuanian language as the purest surviving Indo-European language which is least changed by outside influences.

History of the Lithuanian language

A couple thousand years ago Baltic languages were spoken in a much larger area, covering also large areas of today's Poland, Russia, and Belarus. This area shrunk due to Slavic expansion and also due to the Germanic crusades that have destroyed the Old Prussian language. The Baltic area continued to shrink in 15th-19th centuries as the Baltic languages, including Lithuanian, continued to be spoken mainly by peasants whereas the nobility switched to German or Polish (depending on location), regarded to be more prestigious.

The 19th century National Revival restored the prestige of speaking the Baltic languages. Peaceful resistance defended the language under Russian Imperial occupation when it was forbidden to print Lithuanian or to speak Lithuanian in public. A secret book smuggler network was established (recognized as unique by UNESCO) which illegally imported Lithuanian books and press from Germany. Under the influence of linguist Jonas Jablonskis, the language was purified by replacing Slavic loanwords with neologisms and establishing the modern orthography. Due to this reason, 19th century Lithuanian differs more from modern Lithuanian than English of the era does differ from the modern English. However, several centuries old Lithuanian is still intelligible for a modern person.

This pre-WW1 inscription in Rozalimas, Aukštaitija region, that attributes church yard restoration to a certain Gedvilas (Giedwillo), is written using old non-standardized orthography that was largely based on Polish, e.g. it used Sz for Sh sound (currently, Czech-inspired Š is used). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The culmination of national revival was the 1918 declaration of Lithuanian independence, although the language had to survive another onslaught of Russification under the Soviet occupations of 1940-1941 and 1944-1990. During that time, many Russian loanwords entered the Lithuanian language, often unofficially (every Lithuanian had to know and often speak in Russian, therefore, some of them began to include certain Russian words into their Lithuanian speech as well). Post-1990 generations, however, are unlikely to use Russian words in Lithuanian sentences (except for swearing) and such words are increasingly considered "not cool".

Since the 19th century, the Lithuanian language is regarded by many to be the primary definition of who is Lithuanian and who isn't. The importance of language in defining ethnicity is therefore much greater than in Britain or the USA where a person can easily be regarded to be Irish (for example) even if his native language is not Irish.

The decline of Lithuanian language and other Baltic languages over the centuries, stemmed by Lithuanian and Latvian national revivals and independence. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The Lithuanian language situation today

Today Lithuanian is the sole official language in Lithuania and while there are official areas where ethnic minorities may use their own languages (for instance as the medium of instruction in their public schools), the position of Lithuanian as a language for interethnic communication strengthened over the time since 1990. It remains to be seen whether this will be true in the future as the English language has displaced Lithuanian from many trademarks in the main cities and English slang entered the conversations.

The Lithuanian language commission which regulates the language takes a moderate stance on language purism. Unlike Icelandic, it allows new loanwords (and Lithuanian has many older loanwords). However, it often attempts to coin neologisms for new terms, with mixed success. E.g. "Spausdintuvas" (from "spausdinti" - "to print") displaced "Printeris" as the Lithuanian name for a printer, but "Skaitlys" failed to displace "Skaneris" (scanner) in popular speech.

Both local and foreign trademarks at the Panorama mall in Vilnius are mostly English-language. Only 5 out of 29 visible here are Lithuanian-language, all of them created at 1995 or earlier. European Union regulations largely render Lithuania powerless in promoting its language for local commerce. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Despite over a million of Lithuanians emigrating since the 19th century the emigrant communities typically lose the language over some three generations as nowhere do the Lithuanians make a majority and therefore they form mixed families with other linguistic groups. Currently, there are the largest overseas Lithuanian-speaking communities in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and Spain. Some historical Lithuanian communities "on the wrong side of the state boundary" have been more successful at preserving the language, namely the Punsk/Punskas community in Poland where Lithuanian language schools exist and Lithuanians make the majority of the population in some towns.

In addition to standard Lithuanian, there are dialects somewhat corresponding to the ethnographic regions. Discouraged under the Soviet occupation as "tongue of the uneducated" and thus heavily declined in use, the dialects recently earned some respect. Samogitian dialect (so unique it is sometimes called a language) is even used on some local signs.

Standard Lithuanian (left) and Samogitian (right) inscriptions in the Naisiai tourist village. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian alphabet, orthography and spelling

Lithuanian is written in the Latin script, but compared to English Lithuanian has 9 additional letters (Ą, Č, Ę, Ė, Į, Š, Ų, Ū, Ž) and lacks 3 (W, Q, X). Unlike English, the Lithuanian spelling is very regular, meaning the words are almost always pronounced as they are written, and most letters have only one possible way to pronounce them. "A" is always pronounced as in the English word "Barn", "I" is pronounced as in "Ship", "E" is pronounced as in "Get", "O" as in "Glory" and "U" as in "Pull".

The additional Lithuanian vowels sound similar to their ordinary counterparts but must be pronounced longer (e.g. "Ū" and "Ų" are both relatively similar to a long "U"). The only exception is "Ė". The additional consonants sound the following: "Č" is like "Ch" in "Charm", "Š" is like "Sh" in "Ship" and "Ž" is like "S" in "Measure". Unlike English, Lithuanian has only one digraph and that is "Ch", pronounced as "Kh" in "Khan".

In the common Lithuanian keyboard layout, all the Lithuanian letters are typed using the number keys. This way, the traditional QWERTY layout remains intact, however, the numbers have to be typed by the numeric keypad, creating an inconvenience in a computer that lacks a keypad. The keyboard pictured here also has stickers for the Russian letters (despite the long years of independence, many of the keyboards sold in Lithuania still have triple Lithuanian-Russian-English markings). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The exact pronunciation of several Lithuanian letters differs from their English counterparts. Lithuanian "J" is like "Y" in English while Lithuanian "Y" is like "ee" in "sheep".

Lithuanian grammar

Lithuanian is a synthetic language, meaning that the same word takes different forms when it is used in different contexts. This eradicates the need for grammatical particles. What is said in English in 2, 3 or even 4 words often may be said in Lithuanian using just a single word. For instance "I will come" is "Ateisiu" in Lithuanian, "You will come" is "Ateisi", "I did come" is "Atėjau", "He/she used to come" - "Ateidavo" and so on.

The changes a word takes in different situations can be predicted, as there are only several different versions of these changes. For instance, every noun that ends with "as" would end with "o" in circumstances when in English particle "of" would be used. E.g. the name "Jonas" (John) would change to "Jono" (of John) in this case and to "Jonui" if you would want to say "for John". Similarly "Kaunas" (name of the second largest city of Lithuania) would change to "Kauno" and "Kaunui" in these cases ("of Kaunas", "for Kaunas" respectively). Therefore you don't need to learn every form of every word to learn Lithuanian - you only need to learn the main forms and the basic rules for creating the other forms.

Due to this nature of the Lithuanian language, it is common to add Lithuanian endings to foreign names and placenames when speaking in Lithuanian. Without doing this the language would become ambiguous. Therefore "London" in Lithuanian is "Londonas", and it can be referred to as Londono, Londonui, Londoną, Londonu, Londone, Londonan or Londonai, depending on what exactly has to be said about the city. Traditionally the orthography of foreign personal names is also Lituanized, but this is now getting rarer, with many (though not all) daily newspapers dropping this practice. Therefore now you are more likely to encounter George'as Bushas than Džordžas Bušas as the name of the former US president. One exception is works of fiction where the character names are almost always transliterated into Lithuanian orthography (e.g. "Don Kichotas" instead of "Don Quixote").

There are 7 cases (and 2 additional rarely used ones) of the nouns in the Lithuanian language. The verbs have only 4 tenses, however. There is singular and plural. Unlike in English (but like in most other languages) there are genders, with each word being either masculine or feminine.

Lithuanian names

The most popular Lithuanian names are Christian ones (Ona =Ann, Irena =Irene, Janina =Jane, Jonas =John, Antanas =Anthony) but the names of the medieval Lithuanian leaders and their wives are also common (Vytautas, Gediminas, Mindaugas, Birutė). Moreover, some ordinary words are today used as names (e.g. Rasa =Dew).

Due to differences in masculine and feminine endings, there are no "universal names" which could be used for both males and females. Female Lithuanian names end in "-ė" or "-a" while most male names end in "-as", "-is" or "-us".

The endings of male and female surnames likewise differ. Furthermore, every female surname has 3 variants: one for an unmarried girl (ending by -aitė, -ytė, -ūtė or -utė), one for a married woman (-ienė) and one optional marriage-neutral, introduced in the 2000s per a European Union request (-ė).

Some ethnic minority people (especially the more assimilated ones) eventually add Lithuanian endings to their names, even if the names remain non-Lithuanian, e.g. an ethnic Russian citizen of Lithuania named "Ivan Ivanov" may alter his name to "Ivanas Ivanovas" or at least "Ivanas Ivanov".

Lithuanian words and phrases

You may find some of the common Lithuanian words, including mp3 files with their spellings, here.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. A triangulation point in geography is set on a hill and is a way of measuring distances, I think.To what extent is Lithuanian in a sense like this in being helpful to the Slavist who is constantly on the lookout for cognations between say English and Russian ( via a third language maybe) in his or her striving to Activate the memory for producing L2?How is it, for instance, that the English TO LEAVE (to depart, to go) is cognate with the Greek word LIPOS, sticky? Very opposite-ish meanings here: I can understand far better that LIFE “is a sticky thing” and an English word cognate to Lithuanian or Russian words on this the лип- root. My main question to Lithuanians who speak also Russian and English fluently: what are the best examples of such Lithuanian historico-linguistic “triangulation points” ?

    • Lithuanian language still has a meaning and sound relationship (originating from early language formation) when similar sounds name things that are connected or are related. In a particular case (-ti is an ending similar to -ing or additive word to) LIPTI (to stick, to climb), LIKTI (to stay), PALIKTI (to depart, to go) and there is a whole set of such words connected to each other LIPTI (to climb)->LIEPTAS (bridge)->LIEPA (Linden, also in old times a sacred tree)->LIEPSNA (fire)->LIEPTI (to order something to do)->LEPUS (gentle)->LEPTI (to become lazy)->LEPTELTI (to drop, or fall)->LEPTELĖTI (to fall, or tell a word out of context)->LAPĖ (fox). Also LIEPA->LAPAS (leaf), LOPAS (patch), LOPETA (showel or several other agricultural tools all of which were made from wood in old times), LIKTI->LIKIMAS (fate) and list goes on not only on this.

  2. Lithuanian inmigration in Argentina was also very strong:

    • Indeed, the Lithuanian heritage in Argentina is described in English in our sister website Global True Lithuania:

      However, Lithuanian language is on a major decline in Latin America as the Lithuanian communities there have mostly immigrated before 1940 and, now in their third generation, they tend to be largely intermixed with non-Lithuanians and not retaining the Lithuanian language across generations. Cultural/linguistic things such as Lithuanian newspapers, Lithuanian schools and Lithuanian-language church masses are now very rare in Latin America.

      • Augustinas

        I hope you may be able to help me clarify my grand parents surnames. They immigrated to Scotland in the late 1990’s. The names on the certificates that I have were written by ethnic Scots and therefore may not be the correct spelling or indeed pronunciation. I have Kwasauskis for my GF and Arlouiekute for my GM. Are these recognisable Lithuanian surnames?

        • The likely surnames:
          Kvašauskas (less likely Kvoščiauskas)
          Grandmother is more difficult. It is recognizeable as unmarried female surname (see the Lithuanian language article). Orlikaitė is a likely possibility.

    • By the way (not that it’s terribly important), it’s spelled immigration. Most imm- words in English correspond to inm- words in Spansh (for cognates, of course).

  3. Thank-you I always enjoy reading this site I am 2nd generation..I do not speak the language but when I hear it is magical …my poor Grandmather had such a difficult time saying my name …Cynthia … father dropped the a from our name Yarmala so I grew up as Yarmal

  4. Hello! I wonder if you’d be able to help me with something. As the original post mentions, there are male/married female/unmarried female versions of Lithuanian last names. When I came across my great-grandfather and his family on Ancestry . com, everyone had the same last name, Frankaitis (or some crazy spelling variation of it) but there were no Frankaite or Frankeine. I’ve actually searched multiple sites (American and international) for all versions of the name and have come up quite empty handed.

    My father was an only child and died when I was a baby. His father passed away when my dad was a teenager. The only records of my grandfather are census reports.

    Do you have any tips to help me find more about my family? I can use all the help I can get and would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

    • I can try. Tell me how can i hellp you? my name is Donatas

    • The wife of Frankaitis would be known as Frankaitienė, rather than Frankienė in Lithuanian (Frankienė is a wife of Frankas). Likewise, a daughter of Frankaitis would be Frankaitytė rather than Frankaitė.

      However, when people would move to America, they would typically use just a single version of their surname (male) as is common in America (just as you are known as Karen Frankaitis rather than Karen Frankaitytė). Some first and second generation migrants would however still have used the original Lithuanian female surnames in their speech, but officially had the male surname written in the passport and other documents.

      Moreover, in pre-independence (pre-1918) Lithuania that was ruled by the Russian Empire, Slavic versions of surnames were often used in documents, changing the as/ienė/ytė endings by ov/ova, and likewise changing the spelling.

      As such, the surnames in memories and documents may vary greatly, both in spelling (which may be either English, Lithuanian, Russian or Polish) and endings (male-only Lithuanian, authentic Lithuanian, Slavic, no-ending English-style, etc.).

  5. When a branch is cut from a tree it withers. When a language and culture are separated from their roots it dies. The early acquisition of a mother tongue within the languages cultural sphere achieves positive outcome. Even when transported into a different culture with a different language. When imprinted for the first 4-5 years in your mother tongue, learning a second language within a different culture, will not necessarily lead to the loss of your native tongue. I came to the US age 5 and learned to speak English in school. When I went to Lithuania, after 25 years of being immersed in American culture, I had no difficulty in speaking Lithuanian, but with no formal education, my ability to read and write Lithuanian is difficult. When comparing English and Lithuanian, the harsh Germanic mixed with softer French leaves the English language with a more technical and less emotional makeup, while Lithuanian is more empathetic and softer. All Indo-European language roots pass through the most archaic of the surviving Baltic languages Lithuanian. When the roots are not nourished the tree , no longer produces fruit but withers and dies. As the Lithuanian culture struggles to survive the respect for kindness is vanishing.

  6. Hope some one can help me. Trying to find origin of my family name, Urpsis.

  7. My grandfather came from Lithuania in the late 1800’s – different dates come up on various paperwork (immigration, census)…on one marriage document his name is priyasz roslovitz. I also saw roslovie or other similar variations. By 1900 he had anglicized his name. I can’t find him on a ship manifest. If I have a better understanding of the correct spelling of his name – maybe I will find what ship he came over to the USA. His wife was One Lebacovich.

    • Was your grandfather Jewish? In general, Jews had different names from ethnic Lithuanians. Also, there were different versions, e.g. Yiddish/Polish/Russian/Lithuanian of the same Jewish name. The best place to search is the Litvaksig database (for Jews) as there you can input a name and they may return results even if it is a bit different (but similar).

      As Jews spoke Yiddish language natively, rather than Lithuanian language, their names are not Lithuanian-language names, although they may have had Lithuanian versions of their names, especially after the 1918 independence of Lithuania. In the late 19th century, however, they would most likely had just Yiddish names and their Russian version (for Russian documents that were official in the Russian Empire) and sometimes Polish version (as Polish was the dominant cultural/literary language in Lithuania until some 1880s-1890s).

  8. I am trying to find out where my grandparents are from.

    My GF was born in Jaswoiny 5/9/1888 and my GM was born in Berlinia on 11/1/1892.
    However, I can not find any documentation with these areas listed. Did they exist?

    Thank you

    • Jaswoiny is likely Josvainiai. In Polish, it was known as Jaswojnie.

      Berlinia is likely Berlainiai, a village ~10 km from Josvainiai (~30 km by roads).

  9. Hi. Hope someone can help me
    My biological father is Lithuanian (which I never met,) I am trying to find some history of him. I don’t know the proper spelling. It sound like ,u konk is. I would really appreciate it,if someone someone help me with this.

  10. Labas,

    I’m hoping someone could tell me what the name ‘Frank’ may be translated to in Lithuanian. My great-grandfather migrated to the states somewhere around 1900 with the name ‘Frank Locacius’. I cannot find any immigration records with that name. I’m thinking maybe the last name could have been Lokosius at some point?

    I really enjoy your website 🙂

  11. Hello: I am doing some research on my great-grandparents, who were from Kaunas, Lithuania. My great-grandfather, Joseph Plekowicz, came to the U.S. in 1890 or 1891. He worked here for several years until he earned enough money to send for my great-grandmother, Amelia Plekowicz and their daughter, Blanche. I have been unable to find any Plekowicz listings for Ellis Island entry, however I DID find an Emilia Plechowicz who was about the right age and arrived at Ellis Island in 1895. She had with her a four year old daughter, Bronislawa Plechowicz. Would Bronislawa be a name that might translate to Blanche?

    • It does not – however, at the time it was common to change names not necessarily by directly translating them (e.g. Antanas>Anthony) but by adopting similar-sounding shorter names, etc. So, it is possible that Bronislava became Blanche.

  12. Just found this and am enjoying it, Wioll definetly check iot frequently

  13. Which one do to think more likely? Antanas Serutis os Antanas Sirutis ?

  14. Hello, my ancestors came to Brazil in 1926 but they were only registered in 1944.
    The names were: Agota Malakauskas, wife of Antanas Malakauskas.
    Agota’s mother was named Eva Gemilis and her father Antanas Gemilis.
    The parents of Antanas Malakauskas were registered with the names of Domicela Malakauskas and Nikolas Malakauskas.
    I am looking for brothers from Agota born Gemilis and from Antanas Malakauskas, to find out if I have family in Lithuania.
    Could you tell me if Domicela is a Lithuanian name? and if Nikolas translated it right.
    Thank you

    • They are from marijampole, and I am also looking for a registry of people from this city to find the other part of the family that stayed in Lithuania. Would you know where I can see this record?

    • Domicelė would be its Lithuanian variant.
      Nikolas would likely be Mykolas or Mikalojus.
      The records are available in the Lithuanian archives. We may offer heritage search services in the archives if you would need them. Please note that due to privacy protection it would most likely not be possible to find information about people currently alive this way.

  15. Can you tell me what region in Lithuania the name Witkus is from.

    • For many surnames, this is impossible to say as the same surnames appear in various parts of Lithuania.

      The original would be Vitkus or Vaitkus. These surnames exist in various parts of Lithuania.

  16. I am trying to gather information on my grandfather who passed away prior to my birth. His name was James Lugas. I have been told that his first name was originally Ignatius and was born in Vilnius. Although other family members who lived in his neighborhood had the same surname of Lugas, I have found it difficult to find information on the Lugas surname. Was this name “Americanized?”

  17. I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also visit this weblog on regular basis to take updated from most up-to-date reports.

  18. Hello,
    My family emigrated here 3 generations ago and no one knows much of anything due to the time they left. We know that they were Lithuanian but spoke a different language (possibly Austrian?) My Bubba and Bubby spoke no English, and I only met them a few times as a young girl, though each of them lived to be well over the age of 95. Much of the history has been lost or confused due to the weird origin differences and language barrier. The surname we are trying to figure out was changed to Sedar. We think that it had the evivius originally but was cut off, but no other names I can find start with those letters. Up until only about 25 years ago, my family were the only ones in the Nation with the last name Sedar. Any thoughts.

    • There is no Austrian language – Austrians speak German. If they were Jewish, they likely spoke Yiddish. If they were Lutheran – then the language was likely German. If they were Catholic and the language was definitely not Lithuanian – then probably Polish. If they were Orthodox or Old Believer – then it was likely Russian.

      There are surnames that sound vaguely similar and could be anglicized to this but no surname that would sound extremely similar. I know Sidrys. It can also be shortened from something much longer (and inconvenient in an English speaking country), e.g. Sidaravičius. “i” is spelled in Lithuanian like in the word “bit” in English, so it’s spelling would be similar to “e” in English in this case.

  19. Hello!
    I am so happy to find your website. I too have been looking for records of my maternal grandparents, specifically passenger lists to find their hometown in Lithuania. GF Julius immigrated in 1906, GM in 1909. I have seen his surname spelled Zunis, Zonis, Cunis and most commonly Cumis. My GM, Annie (Ona), is more of a mystery since she died in 1925 when my mother was 3. I have seen 2 spellings of her maiden name, Chrekistie and Chakutie. Another possible spelling is Czcjkinti. Are there Lithuanian spellings that would be more likely on passenger manifests?
    Thank you for any assistance you can provide!

    • There is a Lithuanian surname Ciunis. However, as for manifests of those times, the names may have been Anglicized/Germanized/Polonized depending on who wrote them. The Lithuanian people were often illiterate and could not write their name themselves. Šlekytė may be the name of GM, given it is possibly pronounced smilarly (“Shleh-kee-te”, which would seem similar to how “Chre-kis-tie” could be pronounced in English). The second spelling would rather point at Šeikutė, however (pronounced “Shey-koo-te”).

  20. Dear Augustinas,
    Thank you so much for your response. Do I understand correctly that you offer genealogy research of the Lithuanian archives? If so, please respond to my email address with your requirements. I have some documents, one found recently (Naturalization application) which lists Vilnius as their birthplace.
    Thank you and I look forward to your response.

    • Yes, we do offer such services. We will contact you by e-mail.

      • Thank you Augustinas – I will contact your service soon. After reading your spelling guidelines, I was able to locate a few more documents but the most interesting find was a 1910 passenger manifest for my grandaunt Marta Zŭnŭte, who was traveling to see her brother Julius Zunis, presumably my grandfather. The family may be from Perloja – it is difficult to read that part of the manifest.

  21. Hello Augustinas – Is there a place called “Perlia” in Vilnius? I cannot locate any information about it but that spelling comes up as the birthplace of my grandfather.
    Thank you,

    • I don’t think there is.

      Please note that if birthplace is marked as “Perlia (Vilnius)” it could be a village in Vilnius Voivodship or Vilnius Governorate of the time, that were about one-third of modern-day Lithuania in size and covered parts of Belarus too (i.e. not a district of Vilnius city but possibly a place as much as 100 or 200 km away).

      That said, even then, Perlia is at least misspelled.

  22. Hello Augustinas, I have enjoyed reading the information on this site. My great-grandparents are all from Lithuania and although I have found some information on them, I would love to understand their names better. Any information you can shed their names would be greatly appreciated.
    Great-grandfather: Gaspar/Kaspar/Jaspuras Jurgaitis/Yurgaitis
    Great-grandmother: Rozalia Ponelis/Ponulte
    Great-grandparents: Saudarg/Saudargas

    • Likely names:
      *Gasparas (or Kasparas) Jurgaitis
      *Rozalija Ponelytė (though Ponelytė would be her pre-marital surname. If she was a wife of Jurgaitis, her post-marital surname would be Jurgaitienė). Last name “Ponelytė” would have meant “daughter of Ponelis”, so her father’s last name would have been Ponelis and her mother’s – Ponelienė.

  23. Hi everyone!

    My mom has been trying to do research on her Lithuanian ancestry and I am trying to help her. We believe the family name was shortened when they first came to America. The name is Valatkas. Would there be another version of this?

    Thank you in advance!

    • It may have been Valatkevičius. However, Valatka is also a common surname in Lithuania.

      • Thank you so much! I found my great-great-great grandfather’s naturalization documents and it lists Valatka.

        Would there be any particular reason someone would change their surname simply from Valatka to Valatkas?

        • I cannot think of any. I think it may be probable that the original surname was Valatkevičius and it was shortened. Perhaps at one time he was unsure whether to take Valatka or Valatkas as the new short surname?

  24. Hi
    I am trying to find my lithuanian family’s origins. They lived in newtongrange scotland.
    I have several surnames to research.
    My GM was born in scotland 1907
    and was given the Christian name of Mihasi her surname was Baranckas.
    Do you know anything about the Christian name Mihasi.
    I am new to this but very interested in your posts.

  25. Hi,
    so this might be a weird one since I’m looking to translate a name to english from lithuanian rather than form english -> lithuanian. So my name is Aušrinė and there have been noumerous occasions where I’ve had to repeatedly explain to people how to pronounce it correctly and it’s getting to a point where it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I’m curious if there are any translations/nicknames of it or atleast simmilar sounding names that you know of.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated

    • While no name will sound similar, if you need to explain in writing, you may perhaps say that it should be spelled in English as Ow-shree-neh.

  26. I’m trying to learn more about my grandfather’s parents. He came to the US in the 1940’s but I’m not sure what year. His name was Henry Petniunas. His mother Manya was Russian and I never learned the spelling of her last name but it sounded like Shemchenko. Beyond that I don’t have any information on the rest of his family.

    • Do you know the area where they came from (at leas approximate), their ages (at least approximate)? We will send you an offer on a possible heritage search in the Lithuanian archives.

  27. Hi Augustinas, My surname, “Kwederis,” does not appear in any Lithuanian databases. The closest possiblilities that I have found are: Kvederauskas, Kvedarauskas, Kvedericius, & Kederis. Can you help with determining the most likely match & Meaning, and likewise for my Maternal Grandfather’s surname, “Rugenis?” I believe both sides of my family were from the Vilnius area and arrived in the U.S. around 1905-1910.
    Also, what do the endings “-auskas, -auskus, & icius” signify?
    Thanks a bunch!-Mike Kwederis

    • “Auskas”, “Ičius” are just endings. “Auskas” may have once meant “Son of” but it just became a surname rather than a patronymic.

      “Kvėderis” is the closest surname I find and this is most likely the one, although may have been shorted from a longer version. The letter “W” does not even exist in Lithuanian but the modern Lithuanian orthography did not exist before 1910s.

      Rugienis is the likely one for your maternal grandmother.

      These surnames do not have a direct meaning (most of the Lithuanian surnames don’t), although e.g. rugienis probably comes from rugiai which means “rye”.

  28. My question regards Lithuanian surnames, specifically the ending. I have researched my family tree going back to Lithuania. Our name is currently Unekis, and I have always believed the Lithuanian form was Jonikas. However, I have seen a couple documents that show the name to be Jonika (no “s”). I thought that most if not all Lithuanian surnames should end in “s”, i.e. -auskas, -is, -as, etc. Were there times when the suffix of a surname was changed for some reason? Is my Lithuanian surname Jonikas or Jonika? I understand the different endings for gender or marriage status, but this is different. Thanks.

    • Before ~1918 independence, Lithuanian surnames would have been written in official documents in foreign languages, e.g. Russian, German, or Polish, depending on the area and time (i.e. who ruled the land). The people themselves were often illiterate. When emigrating, they would choose (or various officials would choose for them) one of the versions of the name which may have been the one they called themselves, or based on the Polish or Russian versions that they knew were written on their documents, or based on the language of the country they emigrated to.

      As such, it may now be difficult to say how these people called themselves when speaking in Lithuanian. This may have depended on the region and dialect as well. Only after 1918 the Lithuanian spellings of various surnames were normalized.

      • Thank you for your reply. The records I have seen are from the Roman Catholic church in Prienai. They are in Russian but the translations on different documents seem to use Jonikas. A baptism record from a Lithuanian church in Scranton, Pennsylvania shows Jonika.

  29. I am looking for help finding information about my family from Lithuania; the Polish form of our name is Oratowski and I have recently found a couple of marriage records for them from Lapių in which it is listed as Oratauskas, and a couple from Kaunas that list as Orotauskas (1900 marriage between paternal GGF and GGM), in addition to records a genealogist found but couldn’t provide for us years ago that also put them at Raudondvaris (Czerwony Dwór) around 1815-1860 but I can’t find/read any information about it. The genealogist also mentioned a history at Winnica, or Ukmerge? I have found Oratowska women listed as Aratauskaite and Ardauskaite/Ordauskaite, the variations really confuse me. We have Russian Empire documents of Kazimierz Oratowski in Lithuania confirming nobility around 1856, the papers saying we owned an estate or property translated from Cyrillic Russian to ‘Pouslive’ between 1730-1760 but I haven’t been able to find a place called by that name either. I’ve been trying to make a breakthrough in variations of our last name or location of a ‘Pouslive’ but it’s been quite difficult. My grandfather Piotr was born in Salai, his brother Michal in Šatijai, and another brother Adam in Lapės/Lapių, and it seems they had sisters who were married to a Chmielauskas around 1900 in Lapių, and a Nomeika 1907 in Kauno (Sv. Kryziaus RKB). The lack of info has made me wonder if they went by a different last name at some point or what variation would produce the best results, but the Russian documents with family tree only list first names and Oratowski as our last; my paternal GM said that GF’s side might even have been Latvian but my DNA has only shown similarities in Lithuania and Poland. Any ideas about last name variations, sources, or about a place named similarly to ‘Pouslive’? Any insight would be great.

    • Puslovis near Joniškis (which is not far away from the Latvian border) may be likely, perhaps? The pronounciation would be relatively similar.

      As for the last name variations, the thing is that due to many different rulers and prestige languages of the area the names vary greatly, e.g.
      -Russian version used in the Russian Imperial documents.
      -Lithuanian version (native language or historically native language for those families who drifted away to Polish).
      -Polish version (Polish was a prestige language and also native to large parts of nobility).

      To complicate matters further, orthographies changed over the time (e.g. modern Russian orthography is not the same as the Russian othography back then, some letters changed), and there was no standard Lithuaniaan orthography back then, meaning that there were different Lithuanian versions back then, none of which is exactly the same as the one used in the modern orthography.

      So Aratauskas, Ordauskas, Oratauskas may actually even be real different Lithuanian versions of the same surname (as orthography was standartized, different families with the same surname or even different parts of the same family may have adopted / made permanent different versions).

  30. Labas, I have been looking for information on finding the origins of Lithuanian last names. Someone sent me a page from a book that explained where the name Leveris ( my mother’s maiden name ) came from. It is from the Napoleonic war when some French soldiers settled in Lithuania. I don’t know the name of the book. I want to learn the origins of other names. Any idea where I can find a book with this information?

  31. I joined Ancestry trying to trace my dad’s roots. Both sets of great-grandparents on my dad’s side came to the US with the last names Bartkus and Lukosevicius, which got shortened to Lucas. I know of several other Lithuanian surnames in my family, but I’ve run into nothing but dead ends while searching, mostly because I’m not sure how to spell them correctly. Although my dad could speak Lithuanian as a child, he’s forgotten a lot of it and isn’t sure of the spellings either.
    Some of the other names I’ve ruin across in my search are Gudevich, Kodavitch, Zutanis, and Chekitis. (Not sure of the spelling for any of those). I have my great-grandparents’ immigration papers, marriage certificate, and death certificates, but the spellings are all different on each hard-to-read document, or have been anglicized already.
    Do you have any suggestions how to go about finding the correct spelling? Are those last names similar to any Lithuanian surnames you know of? Thanks!

  32. I would be very grateful if you could help me work out what my grandmother’s name might actually have been… she was born around 1898 near Vilnius.
    I was told it was something like Manya Dervoyat or Dervoyet.
    A priest from Vilnius told my father that it was a ‘noble’ name., as in nobility.
    Unfortunately my grandmother never learned to read or write as she worked as a servant. Her father was the youngest in his family and as a result did not inherit any lands – at least that’s what I was told.

  33. Can you tell me what the true surname for “Kechis” would be. My Grandfather was born in Oklahoma from Lithuanian parents, a Mary Draugelis and a John Kechis. I’ve never been able to find any others by that last name except for those related to John Kechis. Can you help. I would really love to know what their true surname would have been.

  34. My husband and I have come across my mother-in-laws diary in some family papers. It was written in the 1940’s when her family fled Lithuania and was in a Displaced Persons camp. When I use Lithuanian in google translate it can’t translate everything. Just some words here and there. Is there a website or app that would have the correct Lithuanian language?

    • As Lithuanian language has relatively few speakers, the automatic translation isn’t that good and there are few specific apps besides the regular ones such as Google Translate (the market is too small). Furthermore, older documents may use some older words, which are also not available in any modern programs. Also, it is possible that the cursive is hard to read correctly and if you type it, some letters are changed.

      For these reasons, a better solution would be to hire a translator who would translate the letters. We may help you do this.

  35. I am looking for a family of Strupat back in 1860 ish. I find that a large number of
    Families from east Prussia had a surname ending in ‘at’ but no one seems to where it comes from. They Strupat name seems quite popular through east Prussia.

  36. Great Grandfather on mother’s side last name Ruseskas or Ruseckas? Not sure about the spelling. I believe his name was Paul?

    • Ruseckas is a Lithuanian name, name Ruseskas does not exist. The Lithuanian version of the name would be “Paulius”.

  37. ” European Union regulations largely render Lithuania powerless in promoting its language for local commerce. ”

    That stirred my interest. But what is it supposed to mean?
    I don’t have an idea how to reconcile that with regulations I know.
    Could you please explain?

    • The often-mentioned issue by the Lithuanian language institutions here is the EU trademark law.

      The thing Is such: while, in Lithuania, the language is protected by law and, for example, public inscriptions in non-Lithuanian languages have to be joined by Lithuanian inscriptions, this is circumvented by applying for a trademark. The trademarks are then protected by EU law and Lithuania is not permitted to limit their use.

      So e.g. while in Lithuania one could not name his or her company “Bicycle shop” due to language laws and could not write “Bicycle shop” as a regular advertisement of their business (without also writing “Dviračių parduotuvė”), they can register trademark “Bicycle shop” (written in some font they want to use to create distinctive value, or likely combined with some English name, e.g. “Bicycle shop Superbike”) and then use it on their signs without any Lithuanian translations. This is how many of the names of Lithuanian shops, services, and products are non-Lithuanian even when these businesses are Lithuanian-owned.

  38. Hello. My dad was born in Lithuania in 1940 by had to flee due to the Russian invasion. He eventually came to America and had myself. I’m curious about my name…both first and last. I am his youngest daughter. My name is Lithuanian…but a Lithuanian economist Rudely told me it is not. Please help!
    My Name is Stase’ Puotra.
    My father being the eldest…had to translate to German…then German red cross translated to English.
    My Father was extremely offended when I told him what the professor said….anyway ..just curious because I know most last names do not end with “ra”.
    Thank You!

    • Stasė is a Lithuanian name. There is a surname “Putra”. I wonder if this was the original version back in Lithuania?

      However, many Lithuanian surnames have several versions so it may be so that your particular family would have this more unique surname back in Lithuania as well (Puotra).

      One way to find out exactly would be to check the Lithuanian archives to see how was the family called while in Lithuania. We may offer such services if needed.

      • Thank you…its good to know Stase is a common lithuanian name and i believe the last name got translated wrong in spelling upon entering America.
        Thank you!

  39. Hello, I find your information most helpful! I am trying to find information about my great grandparents. The surnames are Gregones and Beytner (Bainer/Bejnerowicz are alternate spellings found). I am hoping to find the correct spelling of their last names, and any information on the town or province that they came from. An in-law was identified in a Draugas obituary as having come from the area of Ziezmariai and her last name was Bunziene, which had been shortened to Bunza.

    • The original spelling of Gregonis is rather certainly Grigonis, whereas Beytner is likely Beitneris, although there are similar surnames (e.g. Beinorius).

      • Thank you. I appreciate the information. I hope that I can uncover some more connections to how and when they arrived in America.

  40. I have been trying to research my family but cannot go back very far. My grandmother’s maiden name was anglicized to Shales. I’m not sure what the Lithuanian equivalent is. My grandfather’s name was Lautz but that too appears to have been changed. Any help would be appreciated

  41. My grandfather (b. 1894) left now Lithuania/then Russia in 1912. Family lore says that he was born in Vilnius. All of the documents I have been able to find (including his US naturalization papers) show a birthplace of WLADISLAORA, RUSSIA. Allowing for misspellings, do you have any idea where this is? Or what this city/village/town is called now? Thank you.

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