Fixed last names are a fairly recent concept in Kazakh society. Before the 20th century, Kazakhs had a first name and a patronymic, or their father’s name (i.e. Kairat’s son would be Kairatuly, and Kairat’s daughter would be Kairatkyzy).
During the Soviet era, those surnames were given Russian endings -ov/-ova, -ev/-eva, and -in/-ina in official documents. Although many have stuck to those names since, removing the ending or adopting a new surname altogether has become a popular trend in the last decade.
Nowadays you can meet people whose surnames were inspired by their hometown (Tarazi) or clan name (Dulati).
The Bureau of National Statistics has recently published a list of the most common last names in Kazakhstan in 2022. These are the ten most popular last names among the population of 19,715,782 (as of November 1):
Bolat can be both a first and last name. The word has Turkic origins and translates as “steel”. There are 24,542 people with this surname.
This name is a combination of two words, aman (well) and keldi (come), to mean that the child has “safely come” to the world. According to data, 27,297 people carry the surname Amangeldi.
Marat is a common name in the Central Asian region and the eighth most popular last name in Kazakhstan. About 28,008 people have this surname. It can be translated from the Tatar language as “desired” or “wish”.
7. Suleimenov (a)
The Bureau documented 29,988 people to have this surname. Suleimen or Suleiman is an Arabic name meaning “man of peace”. Notable figures in Kazakhstan include poet and activist Olzhas Suleimenov.
In South Korea, Kim is one of the most common surnames, with more than 10.6 million people carrying this surname. There are about 34,811 people in Kazakhstan with this last name, which stands for “gold”.
5. Aliyev (a)
Aliyev and Aliyeva are also really common in the Central Asian region and Turkic-speaking world. Kazakhstan alone has 35,387 people. The name Ali translates to “sublime” or “exalted” in Arabic.
4. Ospanov (a)
Many successful figures across all industries – from politics to sports – in Kazakhstan seem to have this surname. A bright example is MMA fighter Arman Ospanov. There are 36,142 people with this last name, which means “courage” in Arabic.
3. Omarov (a)
Omar, sometimes written as Umar, is a name that translates as “long-lived” or “flourishing” in Arabic. In Kazakhstan, there are 40,322 people carrying this surname.
This name is found in both the ancient Turkic language and Arabic. Kazakhs used to name their child Serik in hopes that he would grow up to be a loyal “support” or “friend” to others. There are 45,193 Seriks in Kazakhstan.
1. Akhmetov (a)
Akhmetov and Akhmetova have remained the most popular last names for years. In 2022, there are 66,091 people carrying this surname. They say there is power to a name: the meaning in Arabic is literally “worthy of praise”.