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The use of family names is common in most cultures around the world, with each culture having its own rules as to how these names are formed, passed and used.
However, the style of having both a family name (surname) and a given name (forename) is far from universal.
Other cultures use other structures for full names.
Depending on the culture, all members of a family unit may have identical surnames or there may be variations based on the cultural rules.
Thus, the term "maternal surname" means the patrilineal surname which one's mother inherited from either or both of her parents.
In this article, family name and surname both mean the patrilineal surname, handed down from or inherited from the father's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
Issues of family name arise especially on the passing of a name to a new-born child, on the adoption of a common family name on marriage, on renouncing of a family name and on changing of a family name. Traditionally in many European countries for the past few hundred years, it was the custom or law that a woman would on marriage use the surname of her husband and that children of a man would have the father's surname.
If a child's paternity was not known, or if the putative father denied paternity, the new-born child would have the surname of the mother. The surname for children of married parents is usually inherited from the father.
In the English-speaking world, a surname is commonly referred to as a last name because it is usually placed at the end of a person's full name, after any given names.
In many parts of Asia, as well as some parts of Europe and Africa, the family name is placed before a person's given name.
First/given/forename, middle, and last/family/surname with John Fitzgerald Kennedy as example.