I understand that the Russian word shatun was applied in Siberia to describe a grizzly bear that didn’t go into its usual hibernation, or was awakened before spring, and prowls around in winter, desperately looking for food.

But what did it mean when applied to family names in the past century? Did it ascribe any qualities or meanings to Russian families carrying the name “Shatun” who lived at the beginning of the 20th century?

By cultural significance I meant the reputation or geographical location/history of the family.

People could be named according to what they did for a living, like Cook, Farmer, or Fisher. Goldsmith might have descended from an ancestry known for success in banking.

Geographical names are of a town or village where someone lived or worked (London or Sutton), or even a feature of the landscape (Hill, Stone, Wood, or Field).

Descriptive names like Young, White, Short, or Lightfoot most likely described the first person to use the surname.

  • forebears.io/surnames/shatun
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 1:49
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    Apart from Alaska which Russia lost long ago there's no place in Russia with grizzly bears present.
    – shabunc
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 11:48
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    How funny that you're asking this! Part of my family is russian, it was my great grandpa who was a refugee, and his mother's surname was Shatun! I'm having a lot of trouble to track it, and to track his other surname as well since he had to change it after he got separated from his brothers and came to Brasil. But it's nice to know other people (possibly) have the same experience! Good luck for you!
    – Valentina
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 22:47

2 Answers 2


Шатунов is a possessive form of Шатун, and Шатун is a noun derived from the verb шатать(ся), meaning тот, кто шатает(ся). This verb has the literal meanings "to rock", "to sway", and the figurative meaning "to wander" (with a certain nuance of disapproval).

In modern Russian, this word (шатун) has survived mainly as a name for a mechanical part, "connecting rod", derived from literal meaning, "something that sways"; and as a name for a bear that isn't hibernating in winter, медведь-шатун, from the figurative "somebody who wanders when they shouldn't". But it was much more widely used in the past in its figurative meaning.

The nickname Шатун seems to be too generic to have any special significance. It could be a vagrant, a fugitive, or just somebody who has travelled a lot. It could also refer to somebody who has a restless temperament. Or it could be a peasant who travels to nearby villages off-season to offer his services as a tailor, shoemaker, joiner, etc.


Не медведь гризли, гризли не живет в Евразии - а обычный бурый медведь, но это между прочим. Конечно, "шатун", хотя и используется для медведя, который не впал в спячку(во второй раз), однако это ещё и просто слово для того, кто "шатается где-то","staggers somewhere", бродит или прогуливается ... и это не единственные значения, хотя и наиболее тут вероятные. "Шатун" также может относиться к механической детали — "connecting rod".

  1. разг. тот, кто любит бродить, шататься ◆ Давно повелось — у некоторых шатунов бульвара — приставать, под вечер, ко всем молодым женщинам. П. Д. Боборыкин, «Однокурсники», 1900 г. [НКРЯ] ◆ Бобыль, бродяга, шатун, вообще человек без семьи считался обиженным судьбою и Богом. «О крестьянских истоках национального бытия», 2002 г. // «Жизнь национальностей» [НКРЯ]

  2. зоол., разг. медведь, не залёгший в спячку или преждевременно разбуженный, вышедший из спячки ◆ Дядюшка остановился, взял детей за руки, тихо увёл от берлоги, да ещё и поплутал с ними по лесу, чтобы потом не нашли, не убежали смотреть берлогу втайне, медведя нельзя будить, сказал дядюшка, шатуны опасны, непредсказуемы, свирепы. Наталья Галкина, «Вилла Рено», 2003 г. [НКРЯ]

  3. техн. подвижная деталь механизма, соединяющая поступательно перемещающуюся деталь с вращающимся валом ◆ Пришлось вытачивать новый коленвал, менять шатуны, втулки, клапаны, поршни, пружины, подшипники, а также сделать новый алюминиевый бак. Владимир Маккавеев, «Судьба подружки Гонзалеса», 2001 г. // «Формула» [НКРЯ] ◆ На выходном валу редуктора установлен кривошип, шарнирно соединённый с шатуном. «Ресурсосбережение — веление времени», 2001 г. // «Локомотив» [НКРЯ]"

Эта фамилия вероятнее всего базировалась на первом или втором значении,

"Этимология Происходит от глагола шататься, далее из праслав. *šętati, от кот. в числе прочего произошли: др.-русск. шатати ся «блуждать», также «хвалиться» (Александрия, ХV в.), ст.-слав. шѩтаниѥ (φρύαγμα; Супр.), сербск.-церк.-слав. шѩтати сѩ (φρυάττεσθαι), русск. шатать, укр. шата́тися «шататься», болг. ше́там «хожу туда-сюда, хозяйничаю, прислуживаю», сербохорв. ше́тати, ше̑та̑м, ше̑ħе̑м «ходить», словенск. šétati sе «гулять», чешск. šátati «двигать». Праслав. *šętati сравнивали, принимая начальное ks-, с готск. sinþs «ход, раз», др.-в.-нем. sinnan «отправляться, стремиться, помышлять», ирл. sét «дорога». Кроме этого, предполагали *sket- (*kset-) с носовым инфиксом, связанное чередованием гласных с лит. skàsti «прыгать, скакать». Использованы данные словаря М. Фасмера. См. Список литературы. "


  • 1
    Thanks for your response and the correction about the grizzly bear information. I cannot read Russian. I am only an English speaker. Let me ask this: if there were a family living in the 19th century with names like “Shatunov” and “Shatunova”, how would they get that name from? Would names like “Shatunov” and “Shatunova” have any cultural significance in the 19th century and early 20th century, or would they have no cultural significance whatsoever?
    – Phillip
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 18:58
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    I suppose it should be one of these three versions only :) There are also more rare options - but they are only narrow-local, dialectal, rarely, and besides they are less similar to subject - from шата (an icon frame) or шат -a fainting. names.neolove.ru/last_names/24/sha/shatunov.html ________ the suffix(ending) -ов means a descendant, follower. ________ "have any cultural significance?" - i didn't quite realise the your question. :> Initially, obviously , this was a nickname, as it often happens. Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 19:10
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    @Phillip, it's not clear what you mean when you say "cultural significance". Surnames are just surnames, a way to distinguish people with the same first name. "Shatunov" is a possessive of "shatun", so most likely there was some ancestor registered in a parish book with the surname "Shatunov" because he belonged to a house (was a son, grandson, whatever) of somebody with a nickname "Shatun". And since then his descendants were registered with this surname. In modern use, "shatun" is a bit dated, but the word "шататься" is quite common in colloquial speech.
    – il--ya
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 17:12
  • Philip, "By cultural significance..." - in fact, given the well-known metaphorical nature of people, and the Fisher could mean not the fishing in the sea or river, but, for example, - robbery on the roads:> And Шатун, just f.e., - could be a Casanova and it сould mean his adventures among women :> All this is pure speculation, I just want to say that it's hard knowing precisely. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 8:10

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