Why are current Greek names long and complicated compared to those we see in ancient history and mythology?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-30 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

See also Dimitra Triantafyllidou’s answer, which this is complementary to.

First names in Greece are either (mostly revived) Ancient names, Judaeo-Christian names, or Saints’ names (which end up being either of the first two). There are a few later names (though they are less in vogue now), and some of them can be long, like Triantafyllos ‘Rose’; but as Dimitra says, the names that seem long and complicated are the surnames.

The reason why surnames seem longer is that:

  • They almost always include a patronymic suffix: -opoulos, -akis, -ellis, -ides, -atos, -oglou, etc.
  • They often include a prefix: papa-, kara-, hatzi-, deli- etc.
  • They are based on the ancient/archaic form of proper names, where applicable, which adds syllables. John is Yannis in the vernacular, but surnames will always add two syllables by basing it on Ioann-: Ioannidou, Papaioannou, etc.

So Papahatzidimitrakopoulos is a comical exaggeration for surname length, but not by much: both Papadimitrakopoulos and Hatzidimitrakopoulos are real surnames.

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