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Smetana Coat of Arms / Smetana Family Crest

The surname of SMETANA is a Czech and Ashkenazic Jewish nickname. It was derived from the Czech word SMETANA (soured cream) perhaps applied to someone who was particularly fond of this food. It may also have been an occupational name for a trader in dairy products. Other spellings of the name include SMETANKA, SMIETANK, SMIETANKA and SCHMETTEN. The modern state of Czechoslovakia is going through a transitional phase as a result of the fall of the Iron Curtain. Its various regions encompassed the medieval provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. The first two of these, where the language properly called Czech is spoken, were heavily subject to German cultural and linguistic influence from the Middle Ages onwards, being administratively a Crownland of Austria for much of the time until independence in 1918. This influence is reflected in the many Czech surnames derived from German, both from given names, and from vocabulary words. Occupational names are quite common in Czech as are nicknames, especially those referring to some physical feature. Many of the most common Czech surnames have the diminutive ending 'CEK', which is often found attached to these names. A notable member of the name was Bedrich SMETANA (1824-84) the Czech composer, born in Litomsyl. He studied in Prague, and in 1848 opened a music school with the financial support of Liszt, who recommended his music to the German publisher Kistner. From 1856 to 1859 and again in 1860, he was conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Goeteborg, Sweden, but after his return to Prague he opened a new music school and in 1866 became conductor of the new National Theatre for which his operas were composed. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.

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Last Updated: May 9, 2020

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