Foreign names used in Greece

There are numerous foreign names used in Greece today; most of these names are used in a somewhat “Greek version”, that makes us forget they are foreign names or with foreign origins and roots.

After all, Greece has always been a crossroad of cultures and civilizations:

  1. there are the ancient Greek names – which are considered “pure Greek”, if that is an expression we can use
  2. the Orthodox Greek names which originate either from the ancient years or from the Hebrew language
  3. the Catholic Greek names, which are used by the Catholics in Greece, the second more predominant religion in the country

Greek names of Hebrew origin

Since the Christian religion is originating from the Hebrew culture and language, there is a huge array of names, whose roots are Hebrew.

They have been in use in the Greek language for many centuries, so they are considered part of the Greek tradition, and most people do not even know about the etymology of the names. This is not a phenomenon observed just in the Greek language; it is observed anywhere there is the Christian religion.

For instance, names Anna, Eva, Elias, Ioannis, Maria, Zacharias, Michail, Manolis (Emmanouil), Iordanis and more, all come from the Hebrew tradition. However, they are considered an indispensable part of the Greek names tradition today, and are Greek. These are the names that compound the largest part of the Orthodox Calendar and have namedays associated with the saints and martyrs that beared these names.

This is where the dispute of the Church and the ancient Greek names is rooted as well; for most centuries, the Church refused to recognize the ancient Greek names, considering them inappropriate for an Orthodox citizen, despite the fact that these names are much older and origin from the Greek language.

Since people were not willing to abandon the ancient tradition, the Church had to accept these Hebrew names, and include most of them in the Calendar, giving them a nameday as well.

Greek names of Latin origin

Except for the Hebrew names, there are several Greek names of Latin origin used by Greek people today.

Most of them, such as Fragkiskos, Annita, Vanessa, Rodolfos, Rolandos, Valentinos and more, are used by the Catholic Greeks, who normally choose a name from the list of Catholic names.

Due to the importance of the saints, some of these names have their own place in the Orthodox calendar – such as Valentinos – and celebrate their nameday normally.

There are also some names which are again considered “Greek”, such as Konstantinos and Konstantina that are also latin (from the words “konstantia” that means stability).

Foreign names used in Greece

There is also an array of names, such as Kelly, Liza, Tia, Kate, Angela, Jimmy, Sandy and more, that are imported to the Greek language from other languages and mostly from the Western tradition of name giving.

It can be quite common to meet a man or a woman with a Western foreign nickname or diminutive, although the original given name is Greek.

An example is the Greek name Georgios or Giorgos: it is not unlikely to meet Greek people with the name Tzortzis, which comes from the English name George, although their given name is Greek: Georgios.

Other examples of foreign names used by Greek people instead of their given Greek name are:

  • Tony instead of Antonis
  • George instead of Giorgos
  • Gregory instead of Grigoris
  • John instead of Giannis or Ioannis
  • Joanna instead of Gianna or Ioanna
  • Catherine instead of Katerina
  • Irene instead of Eirini or Rena
  • Tina instead of Hristina
  • Mary instead of Maria

Here in this blog we try to give information on the Greek names, regardless of how common they are or not, and include the most popular and common foreign names as well. After all, the etymology of words and names can raise controversy and can be rather complicated, so our goal is to present the main Greek names along with their most common variations and foreign verions.

In any case, as Isocrates said, being Greek is not about the origins but about the culture – and we think that this applies to Greek names as well!


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