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Greece: Brief History and Culture
Greece is the southernmost country in Europe, and the country is divided into three geographical regions: the mainland, the islands, and Peloponnese, the peninsula south of the mainland.
Ancient Greece is often known as the birthplace of Western civilization for its immeasurable contributions to culture, art, governments, philosophy, and so much more! Ancient Greece was a powerful civilization that reached its peak between 500 BC and 300 BC.
During ancient times Greece was divided into different city-states including Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes. Ancient Greek mythology and religion worshiped many different gods and goddesses, and these mythological figures were featured in countless stories, plays, and works of art.
Today, Greece is known for its stunning coastlines, lakes, and sun-filled landscapes, as well as for introducing the world to popular Mediterranean food and customs. Family life is a very important part of life in Greece. Children often live with their parents even after they get married.
The Origins of Greek Last Names and Naming Practices
Last names were rare in ancient Greece. Baby names for boys and girls were typically singular and passed down through generations. In the 11th and 12 centuries, upper-class families began to use family names. Last names have historically been derived from a nickname, a place name, or from the patron of the family.
Most Greek names are patronymic names that add a suffix to the first name of the father. Many Greek surnames end with "-opoulos" meaning "descendant of" or "son of." So for example, the surname Theodoropoulos translates to “son of Theodoros." Theodoros is a common Greek given name that means “God-given” or a “Gift of God”.
In other regions of Greece, different suffixes are used more often. For example, in Crete, the --akis suffix is very popular and means diminutive of "child of." The suffix "ou" also means "of" and is part of many popular Grek last names. For example, Christoforou translates to "son of Christophoros."
Many Greek surnames are also occupational surnames derived from a person's job or role in society. For example, "Hasapis" is a word of Greek origin meaning "butcher."
Before the 1980s, Greek women traditionally used a feminine version of their father's name until they got married. Then, they used a feminine version of their husband's name.
However, in 1983, the feminist movement in Greece passed legislation that made it a requirement for women to keep their family names for life. Since this time, women have kept their birth names after marriage rather than adopting the surnames of their husbands.
10 Popular Greek Surnames (and English Name Meanings)
- Papadopoulos - Patronymic name meaning, "son of a priest."
- Pappas - variant spelling of the Greek word Papas meaning "priest."
- Drakos - From the personal name Drakos, meaning "dragon" or "ogre."
- Christodoulopoulos - A religious name meaning "son of the servant of Christ." This name can also be translated to "son of Christian."
- Iraklidis - a Greek name meaning "son of Heracles." Heracles was one of the greatest heroes in Greek mythology.
- Alexopoulos - from the personal name Alexios (see Alexis) + the patronymic ending -poulos. This ending occurs chiefly in the Peloponnese. It is derived from Latin pullus "nestling", "chick."
- Angelopoulos - From the personal name Angelos, Greek for "messenger" or "angel"
- Doukas - A common first name as well as surname. This name means "duke." Doukas was a family of imperial rank in medieval Byzantium
- Vasilakis -Patronymic name meaning "son of Vasilis or Basil."
- Bakirtzis - An occupational Greek surname derived from the Turkish word meaning "coppersmith."
Unique Greek Surnames (and English Name Meanings)
With such a long and rich history, there are many beautiful Greek names with unique and interesting meanings. Here are a few last names from Greek with interesting or odd origins.
- Aetos - Aetos is taken from the Greek word meaning "eagle."
- Danielopoulos - A popular patronymic greek last name that directly translates to “son of Daniel”
- Diamandis - A name that translates to "diamond." In pop culture, Peter Diamandis is a Greek-American engineer, physician, and entrepreneur, and Marina Diamandis is best known as the popular singer Marina and the Diamonds.
- Gataki - Greek name meaning “kitten.” A very popular surname among Greek descendants in Cameroon.
- Galanis - A descriptive Greek last name meaning someone who has blue eyes.
- Karagiannis - Greek last name meaning “Black John.” This surname is composed of the Turkish word kara meaning “black” and the first name Giannis or John.
- Kouris - topographic name for someone who lived in a forest.
- Onasis (or Onassis) - a unique Greek name meaning "lover."
- Samaras - an occupational surname that means “saddle maker.”
- Thanos - Greek surname meaning “immortal.”
- Xiphias - The Greek word for "swordfish."
- Zafeiriou -Greek name for the gemstone “sapphire.”