Another George! The Greek tradition of naming newborns explained

photo of psther carrying newborn baby

Family is everything for the real Greeks. One of the ways to show your Greek family love and mostly respect is with the name you choose for your children. While the rest of the world is inventing new names for their newborns, the Greeks wouldn’t be Greek if they would stop following their traditions.

The tradition explained

From the moment you meet your Greek parents-in-law, it is clear what names your future children will have. The rules of naming are simple:

  • Your first son gets the name of the father’s father
  • The second one is named after the mother’s father
  • Your first daughter gets the name of the father’s mother
  • The second one is named after the mother’s mother
  • After this, the rest of the family follows. Or a saint, but usually it is one that is already used somewhere in the family.
  • If you have two girls with a third daughter coming, her name will be the female version of the name of the father’s father.

I will have first a Giorgos and then a Frank. Followed by Irini and Ellen. What kind of family will that be? For sure it is mixed, it honors the Dutch as well as the Greeks. But it would mean having two children that will be bullied in Greek schools, and two others that won’t fit in in the Netherlands. Where would we live?

Everyone is called George

But not only for mixed families the tradition creates problems. Let’s take a look at my boyfriends family. He is called Konstantinos, his father’s father was called Konstantinos, his mother’s grandpa was called Konstantinos, his mother’s brother is called Konstantinos, and then he has two cousins that are called Konstantinos as well. Same goes for the name of his father, George, his grandpa was called George, his wife’s uncle is called George, and there are again two cousins that also share his name. How do you know who you’re talking about?

But Greeks wouldn’t be Greek if they didn’t know how to deal with the side-effects of their own traditions. For them, there is just one Konstantinos, the rest are called Konstantine, Kostantin, Kostas, Kosta and Kostis. Luckily for me, they all respond to Konstantinos, making the Greek family’s names quite easy to remember.

Fun facts:

Cousins traditionally have the same names bearing in mind the fact that it is passed down from grandparents. Sometimes teams form in the clan as cousins rival each other depending on the name they got.

This guy in America took his fight over tradition with his wife to the next level. Read his petition to understand the Greek reasoning behind naming your child after you parents. He got over 5.000 (Greek) people to agree with him. Poor wife.

Many of the Greek names today derive from the patron saint of that region. This is why many regions have an abundance of people with the same name. Real Greeks even often know where a person is from just by his or her name.

In Greece it is actually not the parents that give their children a name. It is the godfather, the nonos. If he makes a mistake during the baptism, this is when babies are named in Greece, your child will have a different name all his or her life.

Would you be ok with naming your child after your parents in law? What names would your children have according to this tradition? Leave a comment below!

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