In old English name-making, every surname was essentially based on one of four reasons (1) personal, from a sire or ancestor, (2) local, from place of residence, (3) occupative, from trade or office, (4) a nickname, from bodily attributes, character, etc. Today, we say a patronym is a personal name suited to its owner. For some, like ‘Smith,’ the person was a metal worker; for others, like Johnson, he was ‘son of John.’
In the Islands, missionaries were given Hawaiianized names (that sounded somewhat like the original name). These weren’t the only Hawaiianized name changes. The Chinese-Hawaiian surname was formed by adding a letter or syllable ‘a’ or ‘ah’ to the Chinese given name. For example, if a person’s name used in the Chinese style with the surname first is Lau Say Kan, his Hawaiianized name becomes Ah Kan. Later, that may become Akana. Some other examples are: Tang Hung Sin became Ahsin or Akina. Tang Chow became Akau or Akao. Lau Fai became Hapai.