What Were Names in Ancient Greece?

Names in ancient Greece were an important aspect of a person’s identity. They were not only given at birth but could also be changed throughout a person’s life depending on various circumstances. Let’s take a closer look at how names worked in ancient Greece.

Birth Names

In ancient Greece, children were typically named on the seventh or tenth day after their birth. The name given to a child was often chosen based on the circumstances of their birth or as a way to honor a family member. For example, if the child was born during harvest season, they might be given the name Demeter or Persephone after the goddesses associated with agriculture.

Male Names

Male names in ancient Greece often had meanings associated with strength and bravery. Some common male names included:

  • Achilles – meaning “pain” or “lipless”
  • Alexander – meaning “defender of the people”
  • Hercules – from the Greek name Herakles, meaning “glory of Hera”
  • Odysseus – meaning “trouble” or “wrathful”

Female Names

Female names in ancient Greece often had meanings associated with beauty and grace. Some common female names included:

  • Aphrodite – meaning “foam-born” or “risen from foam”
  • Athena – meaning “wise” or “warlike”
  • Helen – possibly derived from the Greek word for “torch” or “light”
  • Persephone – meaning “she who destroys the light”

Name Changes

In ancient Greece, it was not uncommon for people to change their names throughout their lives. This could be done for a variety of reasons, such as to honor a new god or goddess, to commemorate a victory in battle, or to distance oneself from a shameful event.

One famous example of a name change in ancient Greece is that of the philosopher Socrates. He was actually born with the name Sōkrátēs, but later changed his name to reflect his philosophy. The name Socrates means “master of life” or “wise one”.

Conclusion

Names in ancient Greece were an important aspect of identity and were often chosen based on specific circumstances. Male names were associated with strength and bravery while female names were associated with beauty and grace. It was also common for people to change their names throughout their lives for various reasons.