Greek Surnames

Greek surnames are complicated for most foreigners; not to mention how weird they sound!

The origins of Greek surnames, roots and etymology vary a lot; in fact you can find some very typical Greek last names, or very common ones, while others are funny, bizarre or even insulting.

In Greece every period has its own characteristics in name giving or surname creation.

It is historically known that ancient Greeks did not have official  last names, but they did have some patronymic characteristic; i.e. Achilles was Achilles Pileidis (from his father Pileas).

The surnames as we know them today appeared towards the end of the 15th century.

Roots and Origins of the Greek Surnames

The vast majority of Greek surnames are known to be patronymics; this means that Greek surnames usually come from the genitive of the first name of the father of the family. Of course you have to go back a few centuries to find who started the tradition, but that is how it goes. So if someone’s last name is Demetriou, that means that the surname came from a man named Demetrios. This was actually an innovation in Grammar, because in their initial form the surnames for women were just a feminine respective of the original masculine name.

This means that the wife or daughter of a man named Bouboulis would be named Bouboulina. It is interesting that the position of women throughout history has been associated with the use of surnames as well; until a few years ago women were obliged to substitute their surname with the one of their husband- later, they were able to keep both surnames, and today, they are free to choose whether they want to keep their surname or add the one of their husband as well (complete substitution is prohibited).

The origins of Greek surnames vary significantly; you can find the patronymics we mentioned earlier, the matronymic ones referring to those that come from mothers’ name, the national or toponymic ones referring to surnames created by names of towns, prefectures and so on. There are also Greek surnames referring to a profession, or the paronymic ones, referring to different abilities, or even animals.

Suffixes and Prefixes in Greek Surnames

In most cases you can recognize the origin of the name and its bearer from the suffix of the surname. For instance, if you see a Greek surname ending in –akis, the person comes from Crete. Not all Cretans have a surname ending in –akis, and not all people with an –akis in their surname are from Crete, but this is very common characteristic and suffix.

Similarly, surnames ending in –ellis come from the island of Lesbos, -opoulos from the Peloponnese peninsula, -idis from Pontus or Asia minor, -iadis from Messinia or Lakonia, -oudas from Macedonia (North Greece).

Prefixes can also give you some information on the origin of the surname:

A last name starting with Kara- means that it comes from the East, or the Asia minor, as “kara” means black in Turkish. Kondo- means short and was very common in islands, Papa- means that once upon a time there was a priest (papas) in the family.

Of course these are generalizations and today due to the vast mixture of names, origins and generations, you cannot rely on these rules. However, it is good to know them since they are part of the Greek tradition and have a lot to do with the old and original roots of most names today.

Common Surnames in Greece

Some of the most common Greek surnames you can find are: Papadopoulos (don’t even try to count how many men named Giorgos Papadopoulos exist in Greece), Papadakis, Ioannou, Georgiou, Demetriou and more.

233 Responses to Greek Surnames

  1. Nathan December 23, 2015 at 19:49 #

    Does anyone know the Mitsopoulos family? I have Greek ancestors but I live in Africa.

  2. Drossos Alafogiannis October 1, 2015 at 04:41 #

    Hello, my name is Drossos Alafogiannis. I live in America and am first generation american. I am trying to get information on both my first and last name. My family here is adopted and the ones who knew have passed on. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Sterios November 18, 2015 at 11:41 #

      Drossos means “to steal” and it comes from Gypsy language. It must have arrived in Greece from migrating nomads. Alafogiannis is however pure Greek.

  3. Sarantopoulos May 16, 2015 at 00:45 #

    I am looking for anything about the name Sarantopoulos. My name has been shortened making it harder for me to find any information.
    If anyone knows anything or where I can find information I would be grateful.

  4. George Casilieris October 5, 2014 at 05:06 #

    Is Kazilieris a Greek name? Was spelt that way in Greek before we moved to Australia from Egypt. My father changed it to Casilieris to make easier to pronounce in English and French and caused much confusion as it sounds Italian ! My grand father who had this name was born in Syros. So is the name of Greek origin? Can anyone here tell me?

    • Giannis October 23, 2014 at 19:34 #

      Yes, I think it is. There are many Greek people with the same last name.

  5. crysanthe May 12, 2013 at 04:36 #

    Just because a name sounds different does not mean it sounds “weird”. Try broadening your perspective.

  6. sam April 7, 2013 at 07:34 #

    I have some one in my family with the name Macrocodato

    • Giannis May 12, 2013 at 13:56 #

      Macrocordatos, that’s the correct spelling. It is an important family for the history of Greece and its most famous member was Alexandros (Alexander) Mavrokordatos. For more info, read this from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Mavrocordatos

  7. Aphrodite March 19, 2013 at 04:29 #

    Hello Ray,
    about your last name Pantelides: it comes from the first name Pantelis (Παντελής) with the ending -ides (-ίδης). Ides is a classic ending for Greek surnames especially for Greeks that had immigrated to Pontos (here’s the official site about Pontos http://www.pontos.gr/default.aspx?lang=2).
    There are some sources which say that -ides is an ending that was added to the fathers name. For example Pantelides would mean the son of Pantelis.. I’m not so sure if that’s true, but i’m 100% sure for what i wrote you about Pontos..

    I hope I helped you,
    Aphrodite Petropoulos

  8. Joanna October 16, 2012 at 15:44 #

    My surname is Carampigias. What does that even mean? My dad said it means ‘the dark one’ but we are all pale, so I don’t understand?
    He said that his great grandfather came from France and he was dark and the Greeks called him that as a nickname and it kinda stuck.
    I have done searches and can never find anything that can verify that story.

  9. Vishnujana Dasa July 26, 2012 at 23:37 #

    Ray,

    Your ancestors probably come from the Pontus off the Black Sea coast in Asia Minor, as indicated by the ‘ides’ at the end of your name.

    My surname ‘Korosidis’ means that is where my ancestors came from.

    In the 1920’s after the First World War, many Greek families who had lived in Asia Minor for millennia had migrated to Athens and Northern Greece as part of a population exchange with the Turkish Republic (many Turks had lived in The European and Greek parts of the Ottoman Empire since the Turkish conquests). This is prob why you found someone with the same last name as you in Thessalonica in Northern Greece.

    Hare Krishna,

    Vishnujana Dasa

  10. Stamatis May 22, 2012 at 06:05 #

    My last name is Stamatis. My great grandfather came over from Greece but sadly did not teach my grandfather about his heritage or how to speak greek so sadly I do no know much about my heritage.
    There is a family story about how my great grandfather and his two brothers immigrated to America and they shortened our original last name into three parts and gave one to each of them. Ive been told the original was Stamatiosmatacopolis, or something along those lines.

  11. Ray Pantelides April 13, 2012 at 17:36 #

    Good Morning,

    My last name is Pantelides. I have no idea where my family is from. My grandparents divorced before I was born.
    On Facebook I have found many with the same name but one lives in Thessalonika. Another lives in Cypress. Northern seems to know the origins.
    Thanks for help.
    Ray Pantelides

  12. Mallidias April 13, 2012 at 11:00 #

    my surname is Mallidias my grandfather was greek.. I have search for anyone with a surname similar to mine and come up empty..

  13. Andrea March 23, 2012 at 23:30 #

    Hey, my surname is Christofi and i am from Greece. Well, i know that greek surnames sound very weird and i am pretty sure that they are very hard to spell. But that’s exactly what happens when greek people hear other surnames from another countrey. They sound very weird to our ears to! Also Katrina you are right. Not all the greeks have olve skin. I have olive skin to be honest, but my sister and brother are both pale with rosy cheeks. Actually it’s most common to find blonde greeks (many greeks have blonde hair) than people with olive skin. We don’t have many redheads though….and not many greeks have freckless.
    Anyway, our surnames have history and some families have ancient surnames. But ancient names are most common like:

    Αφροδίτη: Aprodite
    Αχιλλέας:Achilleas
    Αλέξανδρος: Alexandros-Alexander
    Αθηνά: Athena

  14. ZIRIMIS March 15, 2012 at 14:00 #

    Hello,
    My surname is ZIRIMIS. My father was born in Rumania and I believe that my back big father left Greece to trade there.
    I am the only one in France (with my 3 sons) and I do not have more than an aunt in Greece and some small nephews in Rumania.
    There are about twenty ZIRIMIS on the U.S east coast.
    I believe to know that this name comes from Tinos island in Cyclades but I am not on there. I do not know if my back big father left Greece or if he was “Ponthique” or “Micrasiate”.
    If you have an idea, I would be most grateful to you for this.

    Thank you,
    Dimitri

  15. Katrina Papazoglakis March 14, 2012 at 12:58 #

    My surname is Papazoglakis and I am seriously thinking of shortening it as I’ve put up with the comments for long enough! Now my brother has had a little boy, he also has been landed with the surname (and I feel sorry for him). Neither me or my brothers can speak Greek and I doubt whether my little nephew will learn either.

    People are so naive sometimes as they say I don’t look Greek (prob because they think all Greeks have olive skin – how wrong they are!). Well the fact is I’m not Greek. I’m half Greek, half Scottish and I was born in the UK.

    In some ways it’s good to have a Greek name because people remember you. But I’ve had to put up with all sorts over the years. From people giggling and smirking (both in front of me and behind my back) and making comments, to people announcing my name as something barely recognisable by over-exaggerating! Or people afraid to say it so make a joke about it.

    You get some people who say it’s a wonderful name and others whom you have to listen to whilst they tell you about their wonderful Greek holidays, whilst all you were wanting to do was pay for something at the checkout and continue shopping!

    Thank goodness for chip and pin that’s all I can say! No longer do I have to sign my signature to pay for something in a shop, so I don’t have to listen to their long stories about their Greek holidays (however wonderful they were!).

    • MG March 24, 2012 at 01:11 #

      You are lucky to not have your name chopped up into something not what it originally was. My last name was Greek but now is another word for bacon as they had to shorten it during the 20’s when my grandfather came to the US.

      I guess it is harder to have a non british last name in the UK. In the US it doesnt matter what your last name is.

    • peter November 11, 2012 at 05:35 #

      stop complaining! you are who you are, your name is what it is! It could have been much worse. You are a product of all the people that came before you, show some respect and stop complaining about your name.

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