I have many Apap's from Gozo (Malta's sister island) on my family tree and I know that the surname goes back a long way, to the 16th century at least. I haven't trace my Maltese line this far yet and I can't fathom what the surname means or where it originally may have came from.

Malta as a language derives from Sicilian, Arabic and some English and French as well but I can't find a meaning for Apap in any of these languages.

  • 1
    "Apap" is one version of the Ancient Egyptian god of Chaos, "Apophis" (Other versions included "Apep", "Ap", "Apepi", and "Apop"). I think the word also had a number of other meanings at various times in Ancient Egypt, some of which may have made their way into the later Coptic language. Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 19:10

2 Answers 2


(This is too long for a comment, but is not complete answer)

Surname origin is an interesting topic. Most cultures use the same basic inputs (geographical, occupational, personal and descriptive), but language, history and neighboring influences make a more individual mix.

The following book includes Apap, but the excerpts at GoogleBooks are too limited to evaluate:
The surnames of the Maltese Islands: an etymological dictionary (Mario Cassar, 2003)
It may be available through a local library.

The article Place-names and Personal Nomenclature of Gozo in Oriental Studies (1980), most of which can be read at GoogleBooks, implies that Apap is a surname imported to the island after the sack of 1551, but does not specify an origin. The article does discuss surname patterns that may be applicable to your name of interest.

When analyzing a name for possible origins, one must consider syllable and sound shifts (due to time and changing languages). A-pap or Ap-ap. P or B or V. A or O. Knowledge of the Maltese language would help tease out which trends really occurred. (FYI Ab(a) is Arabic for father)

  • Do you think the Ab (father) proposition may be correct? Wouldn't that just mean father of father?
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 23:51
  • Since I don't know Maltese, I was only speculating -- note the simularity with Papa, which is the same syllables reversed. But surname origin isn't quite that simple. In many places, Father and its variants can refer to a priest, as well as other elders.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 12:36

Apapis seems to have been the original surname - mention is made of Don Lorenzo Apapis who managed to escape captivity in Turkey (the well known slavery event) and Notary Apapis in Gozitan papers.

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