Greek name

With Greek given names, until the late 18th century, almost all Christian Greeks were named for Orthodox saints from the Old and New Testaments and early Christian traditions. With the Modern Greek Enlightenment and the development of Greek nationalism, names of ancient Greek figures, both deities and mortals, became fashionable and they remain so today.[1] Byzantine names are also used.

Given names

Male names usually end in -ας, -ης, and -ος, but sometimes ancient forms are also used. Female names almost always end in -α and -η, though a few end in -ώ with -ου being possible.

When Greek names are used in other languages, they are sometimes rendered phonetically (e.g. Eleni for Ἑλένη) and sometimes by their native cognates, e.g. English 'Helen' and French 'Hélène'. In the United States, there are conventional anglicizations of some names that are not otherwise related, e.g. Jimmy/James for Δημήτρης, when in fact James is cognate to Ἰάκωβος Iakovos/Jacobus.

Ancient names

Old (Septuagint) and New Testament names

Early Christian (Byzantine) names



Since antiquity, there has been a strong tradition of naming the first son after the paternal grandfather, and the second after the maternal grandfather.[2] This results in a continuation of names in the family line.

There is a strong clustering of first names by locality according to patron saints, famous churches or monasteries. Examples include the name Spyridon and Spyridoula in Corfu, Gerasimos in Kefalonia, Dionysia and Dionysios in Zakynthos, Andreas and Andriana in Patras, Markella and Markos in the Aegean Islands long under Venetian rule, Savvas among refugees from Asia Minor, Emmanuel (Manolis), Joseph (Sifis), Manousos and Mēnas in Crete, etc.

Greek surnames

Greek surnames are most commonly patronymics. Occupation, characteristic and location/origin-based surnames names also occur. The feminine version of Greek surnames is generally the genitive of the girl's father's or woman's husband's name; so, for example, Mr. Yannatos and Mrs. Yannatou.

Because of their codification in the Modern Greek state, surnames have Katharevousa forms even though Katharevousa is no longer the official standard. Thus, the Ancient Greek name Eleutherios forms the Modern Greek proper name Lefteris, and former vernacular practice (prefixing the surname to the proper name) was to call John Eleutherios as Leftero-giannis. Modern practice is to call the same person Giannis Eleftheriou: the proper name is vernacular (and not Ioannis), but the surname is an archaic genitive. Female surnames, are most often in the Katharevousa genitive case of a male name. This is an innovation of the Modern Greek state; Byzantine practice was to form a feminine counterpart of the male surname (e.g. masculine Palaiológos, Byzantine feminine Palaiologína, Modern feminine Palaiológou).[3] [4]

In the past, women would change their surname when married, to that of their husband (again in genitive case) signifying the transfer of "dependence" from the father to the husband. In earlier Modern Greek society, women were named with -aina as a feminine suffix on the husband's first name: for example "Giorgaina" or "Wife of George". Nowadays, a woman's surname does not change upon marriage, though she can use the husband's surname socially. Children usually receive the paternal surname, though there are cases where children receive the maternal surname in addition or exclusively.[5]

In official documents, the father's name in the genitive will be inserted between a person's first and last names. For example, if John Papadopoulos has a daughter named Mary and a son named Andrew, they will be referred to as María Ioánnou Papadopoúlou and Andréas Ioánnou Papadópoulos. When Mary marries George Demetriádes, she may retain her original name or choose to be called María Geōrgíou Demetriádou. If she is widowed, she will revert to her father's patronymic but retain her husband's surname: María Ioánnou Demetriádou.

Some surnames are prefixed with Papa-, indicating ancestry from a priest, i.e. ."Papakostas", the "son of Kostas, the priest (papas)". Others, like Archi- and Mastro- signify "boss" and "tradesman" respectively. Prefixes such as Konto-, Makro-, and Chondro-, describe body characteristics, such as "short", "tall/long" and "fat". "Gero-" and "Palaio-" signify "old" or "wise".

Other prefixes include Hadji- which was an honorific deriving from the Arabic Hadj or pilgrimage, and indicate that the person had made a pilgrimage (in the case of Christians to Jerusalem) like "Hatzipanagis", and Kara- which is attributed to the Turkish word for "black" deriving from the Ottoman Empire era[6][7] such as "Karatasos".

Arvanite and Albanian surnames are also common. Many Arvanite surnames are found in Albania, in the modern Albanian form. For example, the word in Arvanitika for "brave" or "pallikari" (in Greek) being "çanavar" (Turkish canavar meaning "monster") or its shortened form "çavar" was pronounced "tzanavar" or "tzavar" giving birth to Arvanitic family names like "Tzanavaras" and/or "Tzavaras".[8] Most Greek patronymic suffixes are diminutives, which vary by region. The most common Hellenic patronymic suffixes are:[5]

Greek surnames also can indicate different ethnic origins, such as Frangopoulos (Φραγκόπουλος) meaning "Son of a Frank", Persopoulos (Περσόπουλος) meaning "Son of a Persian", Servopoulos (Σερβόπουλος) meaning "Son of a Serb" and Voulgaropoulos (Βουλγαρόπουλος) meaning "Son of a Bulgarian/Bulgar," among many others.

See also


  1. Peter Mackridge, Language and National Identity in Greece, 1766-1976, Oxford, 2009, p. 21
  2. "Naming practices" in British Academy and Oxford University, Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, online
  3. Hart, Anne (2004). Search Your Middle Eastern And European Genealogy: In The Former Ottoman Empire's Records And Online. ASJA Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-595-31811-8.
  4. "Main page". Database of Greek surnames. Dimitrios J. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
  5. 1 2 "The Transition of Modern Greek Names". Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Oxford University. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
  6. Davis, Jack E.; Fariba Zarinebaf; Bennet, John (2005). A historical and economic geography of Ottoman Greece: the southwestern Morea in the 18th century. Princeton, N.J: American School of Classical Studies at Athens. p. 286. ISBN 0-87661-534-5.
  7. Greek Personal Names, Central Intelligence Agency, revised and updated by Anastasia Parianou, 2007.
  8. Tzavaras, Ath.: "Agapite Aderfe Vasileie", Ekdosis Exantas, Athens 1999.
  9. Il Corriere della Sera (Sept 15, 2006), L'Italia è il regno dei cognomi & La provenienza geografica dei cognomi
  10. Kendrick, Tertius T. C. (1822). The Ionian islands: Manners and customs. J. Haldane. p. 106. Retrieved 8 February 2011.

External links

Further reading

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