Connecting People, Traditions & Generations

Did you know that a Greek surname reveals a lot about history and geography? Greek names did not come about randomly – they reflect Greek customs over the centuries.

Different periods in Greece correspond to different criteria used for names. Before the 1400s, Greeks did not have official last names but would sometimes make one out of their fathers’ first names, a patronymic tradition that has carried over into modern history. If your father was named Demetriou, your last name would become Demetrios. Wives and daughters adopted the feminine version of the name. Names can also be matronymic (from the mother’s name) or toponymic (from a town or geographical feature), and some surnames even come from professions, animals, or special abilities.

Prefixes and suffixes of names can denote the area of Greece the person is from. For example, “-askis” refers to Crete, “-ellis” signifies Lesbos, and “Kara-” refers to the east.

What are the most common Greek last names? Topping the list is Papadopoulous. Other popular ones are Papadakis, Ioannou, Demetriou, and Georgiou.

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