Greek last names are unique and well… difficult to pronounce! If you are in a crowd in Greece and shout “Mr. Papadopoulos!” chances are that at least one man will turn his head. It is the most common last name in Greece. Or one would say, it is the “Smith” of Greece.
Top 20 Common Greek Last Names
The Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP) has conducted a study to find the most common Greek last names. And these are the top 20, with Papadopoulos, of course, taking pride of place at Number 1.
# 1: PAPADOPOULOS (Literally means the son of the priest)
# 2: PAPPAS (Priest)
# 3: KARAGIANNIS (Black-haired Giannis, ‘Kara’ in Turkish means black)
# 4: VLAHOS (Early Greeks from the Roman era, as in Romios)
# 5: IOANNIDIS (Son of Ioannis)
# 6: ECONOMOU (of the Housekeeper, accountant, steward)
# 7: PAPAGEORGIOU (Son of Father George)
# 8: ΜΑΚRIS (Meaning “long,” most likely describing a tall person)
# 9: KONSTANTINIDIS (Son of Konstantinos)
# 10: DIMOPOULOS (Son of Dimos)
# 11: GEORGIADIS (Son of George)
# 12: PAPADIMITRIOU (Of Father Dimitrios)
# 13: PAPADAKIS (Son of priest)
# 14: ΑΝΤOΝΙΟΥ (Of Antonios)
# 15: PAPANIKOLAOU (Of Father Nikolaos
# 16: PANAGIOTOPOULOS (Son of Panagiotis)
# 17: VASILIOU (Of Vassilis)
# 18: GIANNOPOULOS (Son of Giannis)
# 19: NIKOLAOU (Of Nikolaos)
# 20: VASILIADIS (Son of Vassilis)
The significance behind Surnames in Greece
Just as in Anglo-Saxon names, many Greek surnames are derived from the profession of the name-bearer. So one can see from the top two most common Greek names how integral priesthood was in Greece’s history.
The names Mylonas (miller), Raptis (tailor), Psomas (bread maker), Samaras (saddle maker), Tsopanidis (son of the shepherd), Kanatas (jug maker), Sideras (ironsmith) obviously indicate how one’s great-great-grandfather made his living.
Last names are also sometimes derivatives of first names. This is why there are so many Georgiadis, Konstantinidis, Georgiou, Nikolopoulos, Christopoulos, Giannakopoulos, Filippidis and so on in the phonebooks of old — and of today.
Other Greek surnames signify the place one was born, or where their ancestors hail from. The names Athinaios, Samiotis, Chaniotakis, Chiotis, Agriniotis, Korinthios, Kritikos, and Maniatis definitely show the place of origin of the individual first bearing the name.
Name suffixes usually show the region one’s ancestors lived in as well. For example, the suffix -akis in a surname means the person hails from Crete. Papadakis is a very common Cretan name, meaning “the son of the priest.”
If Papadakis was from the Peloponnese, however, he would then be called Papadopoulos. If he hailed from the Mani area, he would be a Papadakos, since the -akos suffix is usually from Messinia and Laconia.
In northern Greece, and mostly in Macedonia, last names end with -idis or -adis, as they also do with Greeks of Pontian extraction. If you meet someone named Savvidis, Georgiadis, Vasiliadis, Makridis, Stoltidis, Stavridis, Lazaridis, Kazantzidis chances are his family is either Macedonian or Pontian.