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Updated January 24, 2024

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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 B.C. and 300 B.C.

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. 

family in greece by the beach

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)

  1. 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."
  2. Angelopoulos -  From the personal name Angelos, Greek for "messenger" or "angel"
  3. Bakirtzis - An occupational Greek surname derived from the Turkish word meaning "coppersmith."
  4. Christodoulopoulos - A religious name meaning "son of the servant of Christ." This name can also be translated to "son of Christian."
  5. Doukas - A common first name as well as surname. This name means "duke." Doukas was a family of imperial rank in medieval Byzantium
  6. Drakos - From the personal name Drakos, meaning "dragon" or "ogre."
  7. Iraklidis - a Greek name meaning "son of  Heracles." Heracles was one of the greatest heroes in Greek mythology.
  8. Papadopoulos - Patronymic name meaning, "son of a priest."
  9. Pappas - variant spelling of the Greek word Papas meaning "priest."
  10. Vasilakis -Patronymic name meaning "son of Vasilis or Basil."

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. 

  1. Adamos: In Greek, this surname means "the son of Adam."
  2. Aetos - Aetos is taken from the Greek word meaning "eagle."
  3. Anastasakis: This unique Greek surname means "resurrection."
  4. Andreadis: This surname means "manly" in Greek.
  5. Antoniou: This Greek surname means "son of Antonios."
  6. Danielopoulos - A popular patronymic greek last name that directly translates to “son of Daniel”
  7. 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. 
  8. Gataki - Greek name meaning “kitten.” A very popular surname among Greek descendants in Cameroon.
  9. Galanis - A descriptive Greek last name meaning someone who has blue eyes.
  10. Georgiou: This surname means "farmer" in Greek.
  11. Ioannidis: This Greek surname means "son of Ioannis."
  12. 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.
  13. Katsaros: This surname means "curly" in Greek.
  14. Kontos: This surname means "short" in Greek.
  15. Kouris - topographic name for someone who lived in a forest.
  16. Lazaridis: This means "son of Lazaros" in Greek.
  17. Loukanis: This surname derives from the Greek word “loukanika,” meaning “sausages.” Loukanis is an occupational surname given to a butcher or a sausage maker.
  18. Nikolaidis: This surname means "son of Nikolaos.
  19. Onasis (or Onassis) - a unique Greek name meaning "lover."
  20. Papadakis: Similar to Papadopoulos, this surname means "son of a priest."
  21. Petridis: This Greek surname means "son of Petros."
  22. Samaras - an occupational surname that means “saddle maker.”
  23. Sotiris: This surname is derived from the Greek name Sotirios which means "savior."
  24. Thanos - Greek surname meaning “immortal.”
  25. Theodoropoulos: This unique Greek surname means "son of Theodoros."
  26. Xiphias - The Greek word for "swordfish." 
  27. Zafeiriou - Greek name for the gemstone “sapphire.”

What Is a Typical Greek Surname?

Papadopoulos is considered a typical Greek surname. Stemming from the Greek words "papas", which means priest, and "dopoulos", meaning son of, Papadopoulos translates to "son of a priest". This common surname reflects a significant segment of Greek history, where the church played a pivotal role in society.

Other typical and popular Greek surnames include:

  • Laskaris - This surname has historical significance, being the name of a Byzantine noble family from the 13th century. The name means "a kind of soldier".
  • Markos - Markos is a Greek variation of the Latin name Marcus, meaning "dedicated to Mars". Mars was the Roman god of war, making this a strong, powerful name.
  • Sideris - Sideris signifies "he who is made of iron". It typically conveys strength and resilience.


Paige Breaux

About Paige

Paige Breaux is the Editor and Content Strategist for Paige is a lifelong… Read more

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