Did They Have Last Names in Ancient Greece?

In modern times, it is common for people to have first names and last names. However, this was not always the case in ancient civilizations. So, did the people of ancient Greece have last names

Names in Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, people generally had one name. This name was usually a combination of their personal name and their father’s name.

For example, if a man named Ariston had a son named Alexios, Alexios would likely be called “Alexios Aristonos” or “Alexios son of Ariston. “

This naming convention was known as patronymics, meaning that the son’s name included his father’s personal name with the suffix “-os” or “-as.” This naming system allowed for clear identification of individuals within society without the need for surnames.

Exceptions to Patronymics

While most Greeks followed the patronymic tradition, there were some exceptions. For example, members of certain royal families used a single personal name without any reference to their father’s name.

Additionally, some Greeks were known by their place of origin or occupation. For instance, someone from Athens might be called “Athenaios,” while someone who made shoes might be called “Kalanos,” meaning cobbler.

Changes Over Time

The use of last names gradually became more common in Greece over time. During the Byzantine period (330–1453 CE), Greeks began to use surnames based on occupations or geographic locations.

In modern-day Greece, surnames are typically passed down from father to child and are used alongside personal names. Unlike many other countries where women take their husband’s surname upon marriage, Greek women typically keep their own surnames.


While the ancient Greeks did not use last names in the same way that we do today, they had a clear system of naming conventions that allowed for identification within society. The use of patronymics was prevalent, with sons being identified by their father’s personal name. However, there were exceptions to this tradition, and over time, surnames based on occupations or locations became more common.

  • Key Takeaways:
    • The ancient Greeks generally did not use last names.
    • Greek names were typically a combination of personal and father’s name (patronymics).
    • Exceptions to patronymics included royal families and individuals known by their place of origin or occupation.
    • The use of surnames became more common in Greece over time.

Overall, while last names were not a part of ancient Greek naming conventions, the system they used allowed for clear identification within society. And while surnames have since become commonplace in Greece, the tradition of using patronymics still holds cultural significance today.