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Many French surnames end with the letters I N (Blouin, Potvin, Morin, Jolin). What does that mean?

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    Why would surnames mean anything? – Teleporting Goat Jul 9 at 13:34
  • @TeleportingGoat Surnames are not what the question is about; endings are what it all about; endings might means something and they sometimes do in English, for instance: Smithson, Johnson, … Il y a des noms comme cela en français: Gagnerault, Langlade, Patureau ; ces trois-là semblent avoir été formés à partir de « Gagner », « Langlais », « Pâture ». – LPH Jul 9 at 14:10
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    @TeleportingGoat All surnames used to mean "something". – Laure Jul 9 at 14:46
  • @LPH Gagnerault vient de gagnier (laboureur), Langlade vient d' anglade (parcelle de terrain formant un angle), Patureau vient probablement de pâture mais peut-être directement de pâtre (berger). – jlliagre Jul 9 at 23:07
  • Thank you, yes, I'm curious about any clue that we might glean from the surname to a family's possible origins in France..among other reasons. Prefixes/suffixes are interesting ways to distinguish one person or family from another. – Shirley Jul 10 at 0:21
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In can be a suffix but when a surname ends with the letters in it is nowadays rarely (never ?) understood as a suffix, even if centuries ago it would have meant something.

The suffix in added to a noun means "of or pertaining to, of the nature of", it shows the relationship to whatever that words represents. The same as the English suffix ine.

A citadin is someone from the city (cité).
An angevin is someone who lives in the town of Angers (or the Anjou area).
Chevalin is an adjective to show the relationship to horses (cheval in French).
Serpentine is a spotted stone that looks like the skin of a snake (serpent in French).
An Augustin is a monk belonging to the order of Saint Augustine.

Giving people surnames started in the Middle Ages in France (and in a lot of European countries I think, the custom is a lot older in China I've been told). The surname was given according to the person's location or job. But nowadays, even when people know that, they have forgotten the origin of their surname, or just do not think about it, it has no significance to them whatsoever.

You say "many French surnames end with the letters IN", I wonder where you got that idea, "many" would not be the word I would use. Among your examples, Blouin, Potvin, and Jolin are fairly rare, only Morin is relatively frequent.
The most popular French surname: Martin does end with IN though. It was a first name before it was also used as a surname.

I would surmise that someone with the surname Potvin had ancestors that originated from Poitou (a Poitevin nowadays is someone who lives in Poitou).

Jolin might be related to jol (a Nordic winter solstice celebration, it's called "yule" in modern English and unknown in France).

Morin could have been given to someone coming from a place called Maury (there are several places with that name).

I had no idea about Blouin but I found it on Wikipedia. It is of Germanic origin, it means "soft" (bili-) "friend" (-win). I do not know of a place called Blouin in France, but there seems to be one in Quebec.


Edit : I have found confirmation about Jolin here. And as you see it is a quite a rare name.

  • Thanks. We visit Quebec & Ile d'Orleans frequently and have noticed a high frequency of names ending in IN so I was curious if it meant anything special ...maybe a diminutive perhaps. (Poulin, Drouin, Pellerin, Gosselin, Aubin, Paquin, Asselin, Lemelin, Chauvin, Fortin, Toupin, Turpin), along with the ones I mentioned before - and others.... – Shirley Jul 10 at 0:29
  • I can confirm we have a lot of surnames ending in -in. But I'm not prepared to speculate if it has a meaning or even a generalized rule. Pellerin for example literally means something along the lines of "traveler", whereas Drouin is a diminutive of Drouet, which itself comes from the old French "droue", meaning "German warrior". We have a lot of diminutives in surnames here. Jolette -> Jolet -> Jolin. Gaudette -> Gaudet -> Gaudreau, etc... – Drunken Code Monkey Jul 10 at 2:41
  • As for Morin, it's derived from a prejorative old French word, "more" or "maure", describing brown skinned Muslim men who conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the 18th century. – Drunken Code Monkey Jul 10 at 2:53
  • @DrunkenCodeMonkey About Morin the maure origin is only one of the theories given by specialists. The place/job origin of surnames is a very strong theory prevailing in lots of countries. About Drouet our different sources agree, I never said in always depicted the origin, I just said it usually did. Just as ette is almost always a diminutive. – Laure Jul 10 at 6:00
  • Thank you...very interesting. Regarding Jolin (my patrilineal line), I've seen documents where they sign alternately Jolin, Jollin, Jollain. My early research showed Jolins in Oulins, France (Eure-et-Loire) so I wondered if Jolin was a possible perversion of that place name - as in Je viens d'Oulins, degraded to J'oulins, Jolin – Shirley Jul 10 at 12:20

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