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In the modern world, Greek names are the personal names among people of Greek language and culture generally consist of a given name and a family name.
Ancient Greeks generally had a single name, often qualified with a patronymic, a clan or tribe, or a place of origin. Married women were identified by the name of their husbands, not their fathers.
Hereditary family names or surnames began to be used by elites in the Byzantine period. Well into the 9th century, they were rare. But by the 11th and 12th centuries, elite families often used family names. Family names came from placenames, nicknames, or occupations.
During the Ottoman period, surnames with Turkish prefixes such as "Hatzi-", "Kara-" and suffixes such as "-(i)lis", "-tzis", and "-oglou" became common, especially among Anatolian Greeks. It is not clear when stable family surnames became widely used. Though elite families often had stable family names, many of the "last names" used by Greeks into the 19th century were either patronymics or nicknames. It is also possible that family names were simply not recorded because Ottoman administrative practice preferred patronymics, and did not require surnames.
In the 19th century, patronymic surnames became common.
For personal names, from the first century CE until the nineteenth century CE, pagan names from antiquity were mostly replaced by names from Christian scriptures and tradition. With the Modern Greek Enlightenment and the development of Greek nationalism, names from antiquity became popular again.
Family names may be patronymic in origin or else based on occupation, location, or personal characteristic. These origins are often indicated by prefixes or suffixes. Traditionally a woman used a feminine version of her father's family name, replacing it with a feminine version of her husband's family name on marriage. In modern Greece, a woman keeps her father's family name for life but may use a husband's name.
Until the late 18th century, almost all Christian Greeks were named for Orthodox saints from the Old and New Testaments and early Christian tradition. Since then, names of both deities and mortals from antiquity have been popular as well.
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.
Most Greek first names in Katharévousa (which can be considered the "official" form of the first name) generally correspond to a demotic form, as well as customary shortened and/or diminutive variations. The Katharévousa form, itself equivalent to the name's form in Ancient Greek, is used in official papers, while the demotic form or the shortened/diminutive forms are the forms used in everyday life.
|Ιωάννης (Ioannis)||Γιάννης (Yiannis)|
|Γεώργιος (Georgios)||Γιώργος (Yiorgos)|
|Μιχαήλ (Michail)||Μιχάλης (Michalis)|
|Γαβριήλ (Gavriil)||Γαβρίλος (Gavrilos)|
|Αντώνιος (Andonios)||Αντώνης (Andonis)|
|Ιάσων (Iason)||Ιάσονας (Iasonas)|
|Εμμανουήλ (Emmanouil)||Μανώλης (Manolis)|
Demotic forms tend to demonstrate endings that have undergone regularization. (For instance, in men's names, the oblique stem in the Katharévousa form is sometimes suffixed with -ας (gen. -α) to create the Demotic form of the name.)
*The oblique stems of the ancient names in -ις, whose descendants appear with -η/-ης and -ιδα/-ιδας, varied. At the very least, the initial origins of Demotic's -ιδα/-ιδας was almost certainly Ancient Greek's -ις/-ιδος (with the oblique stem being suffixed with -α/-ας).
Since antiquity, there has been a strong tradition of naming the first and second sons after the paternal and maternal grandfathers and the first and second daughters after the paternal and maternal grandmothers. Although this tradition is partially challenged in modern urban Greece, it is still practiced in much of the country.
This results in a continuation of names in the family line, but cousins with the same official name are almost always called by different shortened forms or diminutives. These variants make it possible to differentiate between cousins despite these traditionally having the same official names because they are traditionally named after their grandparents.
The use of shortened forms is widespread in Greek. Most Greek first names correspond to a customary shortened form. These are constructed by breaking one or more syllables, at the beginning or at the end of the first name, resulting in a form generally in two or even three syllables. The formation of these can be done according to different phenomena, alone or associated with each other:
Another method of variation is the use of diminutives. The construction of diminutive forms is done by adding a suffix, either to the first name, or to the shortened version of the first name. The suffixes are generally:
|First name||Shortened Form||Diminutives(s)|
Furthermore, diminutives themselves have shortened forms. For example, Takis may be short for Kostakis or Panagiotakis, themselves derived from Konstantinos and Panagiotis.
|First name||Shortened Form||Diminutive||Shortened Diminutive|
There is a strong clustering of first names by locality according to patron saints, famous churches, or monasteries. Examples include:
When Greek names are used in other languages, they are sometimes rendered phonetically, such as Eleni for Ἑλένη, and sometimes by their equivalents, like Helen in English or Hélène in French. The Vasiliki (Βασιλική) is Basilica in Italian or Basilique in French. The Elisavet (Ελισάβετ) is Elizabeth in English or Elliezet in French. In the United States, there are also conventional anglicizations based on phonetic similarity rather than etymology, for example James or Jimmy for Δημήτρης/Dimitris (nickname Ντίμης/Dimi, hence Jimmy), despite the English name James and its diminutive Jimmy actually coming from Greek Ἰάκωβος Iakobos, English Jacob (through Vulgar Latin Iacomus from Latin Iacobus, which is the Latinized form of Ἰάκωβος Iakobos in the Vulgar Latin and originally Greek New Testament).
Greek family names are most commonly patronymics but may also be based on occupation, personal characteristics or location. The feminine version is usually the genitive of the family name of the woman's father or husband; so, for example, Mr. Yannatos and Mrs. Yannatou.
As a result 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. In the past, people in speaking used the family name followed by the given name, so John Eleutherios was called Leftero-giannis. In modern practice he is called Giannis Eleftheriou, where Giannis is the popular form of the formal Ioannis but Eleftheriou is an archaic genitive. For women, the surname is usually a Katharevousa genitive of a male name, whereas back in Byzantine times there were separate feminine forms of male surnames, such as Palaiologína for Palaiológos which nowadays would be Palaiológou.
In the past, women would change their surname on first marrying to that of their husband in the genitive case, so marking the change of dependence to husband from father. In early Modern Greek society, women were named with -aina as a feminine suffix on the husband's given name, for example "Giorgaina" signifying "wife of George". Nowadays, a woman's surname does not change upon marriage but she can use the husband's surname socially. Children usually receive the paternal surname, though some children receive the maternal surname in addition or exclusively.
The use of the patronymic as part of a personal name in everyday language is scarce and virtually non-existent, unlike languages with Eastern Slavic naming customs. It is used in lieu of the father's full name and it is inserted between a person's given name and surname. The use of the matronymic is even more rare.
In a dated, self-styling practice, if Ioánnis Papadopoulos has a daughter whose first name is María and a son whose first name is Andreas, their full names will be María Ioánnou Papadopoúlou and Andréas Ioánnou Papadópoulos. If María then marries George Demetriádes, she may retain her maiden name or choose to be styled María Geōrgíou Demetriádou. If she is widowed, she will revert to her father's patronymic but retain her husband's surname to become María Ioánnou Demetriádou. This largely obsolete styling practice is not reflected in official documents or the spoken language, but could be utilized by, e.g., authors or anyone who uses his/her name for business purposes.
The foremost-and compulsory-identification document in Greece, the Greek identity card, includes name information as follows:
Out of the six fields, only the first three are transliterated in English per ELOT 743/ISO 843. The first two comprise the personal name and the rest is just identity information. The Cypriot identity card also includes father's and mother's name and surname in Greek and English; however all fields are transliterated.
In other significant identity documents, like the Greek passport and Greek driving license, compliant to European standards, the mother's and father's names are completely omitted. Corresponding documents in Cyprus omit them as well.
In other official documents in Greece, like, exempli gratia, a marriage certificate, names are included accordingly (Surname/Given Names/Father's Name/Father's Surname/Mother's Name/Mother's Surname).
In report cards and the Apolytirion, the students' names are displayed as "(student's full name) of (father's full name) and (mother's full name)".
However, in universities and specifically university degrees, the practice varies. For example, university degrees of the Aegean University displays graduates' names as "(student's surname and name) of (father's given name)", whilst degrees from the University of West Attica display both the patronymic and the matronymic.
Further information: List of ancient Greeks
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