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My understanding of Russian names is that for women, the names end in "-ova", and for men they end in "-ov" or "-off".

But Black Widow's last name if always listed as "Romanoff" - shouldn't it be "Romanova"? They might have gotten it wrong when the character was first created, but they would have fixed by 2008.

Is there a reason, or is this just poor design?

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    Looks like in some places it's listed as Romanova and other places Romanoff (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Widow_(Natasha_Romanova) My guess is this is going to be a case of "writers didn't know any better" when the character was created. May 23, 2019 at 20:44
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    In that entry it also says: "She has sometimes chosen the last-name alias "Romanoff"—evidently as a private joke on those who are not aware that Russian family names use different endings for males and females." So I suppose, in universe, it is possible she uses Romanoff as an alias?
    – Odin1806
    May 23, 2019 at 20:45
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    It's usually like that with gender-sensitive Russian last names when they are converted to English. I'm not sure how it started, but it possibly had to do with married couples having a name that registers as a single name in Russian (spelled in two different ways due to gender), but as two different names in English. Either way, to an English speaker the ending "ova" is an unusual one, since English defaults to giving the male Russian name to both men and women. Stan Lee is not a Russian speaker - so I'd guess that, when he originally created Black Widow, he thought Romanoff was correct.
    – Misha R
    May 23, 2019 at 20:54
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    Simplest explanation is that when she was created the writers weren't hugely aware (or care) about Slavic naming conventions. May 23, 2019 at 21:30
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    Interesting factoid. I am not sure whether the Russian naming convention is based on Slavic or Greek customs or possibly both. In the middle ages the Russian Orthodox church was dependent on the Patriarch of Constantinople. After about 800 the noble families of the eastern Roman or "Byzantine" empire used family names, and each family name had a different form for males and females. May 24, 2019 at 16:37

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Romanoff is the Anglicisation of the Russian surname Romanov/Romanova. Because of Anglicisation, the gender attached to the surname is lost in translation.

Now because she defects to the west, it is an accurate change in the surname.

The same has happened with the Romanoff Family Association, they anglicanized because of what little survived (distant relatives from Nicholas II & Feodorovna) were basically exiled out of Russia.

Living members are in UK, Greece, France, and the United States.

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    This feels like pure guesswork. Can you offer any evidence that this is what the writers intended?
    – Valorum
    Aug 11, 2020 at 20:59

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