Albanian name

Albanian names are names used in, or originating in, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and the Albanian diaspora. In Albania a complete name usually consists of a given name (Albanian: emri); the given name of the individual's father (Albanian: atësia), which is seldom included except in official documents; and a (most commonly patrilineal) family name or surname (Albanian: mbiemri). They are invariably given in the Western name order, or given name followed by family name.

Albanian given names are traditionally original Albanian-meaning names, or religious names (Islamic or Christian). During the Communist regime, based on the theory of the Illyrian origin of Albanians, supposedly Illyrian names were constructed as appropriate names instead of religious ones. The government issued a decree ordering people to change their religious names to "pure Albanian names", while newborns had to receive non-religious names.

Albanian names have changed dramatically with more opting for foreign, English or Romance names in recent times than traditional Balkan names. In addition Albanians from Albania tend to focus on names that are Greek, Italian or Western European as opposed to those in Kosovo, North Macedonia and elsewhere that are either religious, local, geographic or related to traditionalism.

Given names

While in Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia, Albanian ("Illyrian") and religious names are quite common, in Albania proper, Albanian or Muslim names are rarely given. This is partly a result of the high net emigration rate of Albania and the desire of most Albanian emigrants to assimilate internationally. Another factor is the secularisation that took place during Socialist rule, which discouraged explicitly Christian or Muslim given names. In 2014, among the 20 most commonly used given names for newborn children in Albania, there was not a single Albanian name. Instead, "international" (Christian or English) names were most popular.[1]

Traditionally, given names in Albania did not have Albanian origins because they were religious names, either Christian or Islamic. In Communist Albania, an Illyrian origin of the Albanians (without denying "Pelasgian roots",[2] a theory which has been revitalized today[3]) continued to play a significant role in Albanian nationalism, resulting in a revival of given names supposedly of Illyrian origin, at the expense of given names associated with Christianity or Islam. This trend originated with the 19th century Rilindja, but became more common after 1944, when it became the Socialist government's policy to heavily discourage religious given names. Ideologically acceptable names were listed in the Fjalor me emra njerëzish (1982). These could be native Albanian words like Flutur ("butterfly"), ideologically communist ones like Marenglen (Marx-Engels-Lenin), or "Illyrian" ones compiled from epigraphy, e.g. from the necropolis at Dyrrhachion excavated in 1958–60.[4]


Many surnames in Albania have Islamic and Christian roots.[5] The long mutual influence of the population resulted in a large number of Albanian surnames ending in , ović or ovit even under Ottoman rule.[6]

Common last name endings include -aj, as well as common definite Albanian nominative singular endings: hence -i for originally masculine last names except for those previously ending in k, g, h or i, which have -u added; or -a/-ja for feminine names.

Many last names were originally surnames, many of these being either Muslim (Ahmeti, Rexhepi, etc.), Bektashi (Bektashi itself as a surname, Dervishi, Shehu, etc.) or Christian (Kristo(ja), Evangjeli, etc.), but a large number are neither and are simply from old Albanian secular names (Zogolli, Dushku, Shkoza etc.). Albanians frequently have surnames that don't match their actual religious identity, often because of recent secularization, religious intermarriage, relatively recent conversion in late Ottoman times (many Muslims have Christian names for this reason, while after the fall of communism some with Muslim ancestry have become practicing Christians and vice versa) or the practice of Ottoman Christians taking Muslim names due to Muslim dominance of society during those times. Names starting with Papa- usually indicate Christian origin but there are cases where it is followed by a Muslim element (i.e. Papazisi, a name held by Albanians of both Christian and Muslim heritage).

Another major source of Albanian last names are place names- Albanians sometimes took their hometowns as surnames,[7] and especially when a family moved to another place, they often took their former residence as a surname, leading to somewhat well known last names such as Frashëri, Përmeti, Shkodra, Kelmendi, Shkreli, Delvina, Prishtina, etc.). In the North and in Kosovo, clan names are also very prominent, most notably the names of widespread clans such as Krasniqi, Berisha and Gashi. The surnames Gega, Gegprifti, Gegaj etc. probably indicate Northern (Gheg) origins, as Tosku and Toskaj do for Southerners. In addition, many names, even if not explicitly, are strongly identified with certain regions and Albanians can often tell another Albanian's regional origin from their last name. Surnames based on occupation are less common than in other countries but nevertheless the surnames Hoxha (mullah, either Bektashi or Sunni) and Prifti (priest, used by both Catholics and Orthodox) remain very common.

Arvanite and pre- modern Albanian surnames are also common. Many Arvanite surnames are found in Albania, in the modern Albanian form. For example, the word in Arvanitika (Arbërisht) for "brave" or "pallikari" (in Greek) being "çanavar" (Turkish canavar meaning "monster") or its shortened form "çavar" was pronounced "tzanavar" or "tzavar" giving birth to Arvanitic family names like "Tzanavaras" and/or "Tzavaras". This is a link between Albanian and Greek names. The Arvanite surname "Κριεζής" (Kriezis) is a very common Albanian surname. "Kryezi" means "Blackhead" in Albanian (hence same meaning in Arbërisht/Arvanitika).

Orthodox Christian names tend to be heavily Greek, including last names which have counterparts in the Greek language.


Communist-era Albania

According to a decree issued in 1966, Muslims in Albania had to change their names to Albanian names while newborn Albanians had to receive non-religious names.[8] In a decree of November 1975, all the citizens of Albania whose names were considered objectionable by the Albanian Communist Party were ordered to change their names to "pure Albanian names" by the end of the year.[9][10]

Situation in the present

Albanians form the largest migrant group in Greece and second largest migrant group in Italy.[11] Many modern names are thus Greek or Italian.[11] In Greece, and likewise in Italy, many Albanian newcomers change their Albanian names to Greek or Italian ones and their religion, if they are not Christian, from Islam to Christianity:[11] Even before emigration, more and more people in the south of Albania are pretending to be Greeks, and even are changing their Muslim names to Greek ones in order to not being discriminated against in Greece. By this way, they hope to get a visa for Greece.[12]


  1. ^ "Craze For Foreign Names Alarms Albanian Patriots". Retrieved 2017-10-31.
  2. ^ Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, Bernd Jürgen Fischer, Albanian Identities: Myth and History, Indiana University Press, 2002, ISBN 978-0-253-34189-1, page 96, "but when Enver Hoxha declared that their origin was Illyrian (without denying their Pelasgian roots), no one dared participate in further discussion of the question".
  3. ^ Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 2009, Gilles de Rapper.
  4. ^ ISBN 960-210-279-9 Miranda Vickers, The Albanians Chapter 9. "Albania Isolates itself" page 196, "From time to time the state gave out lists with pagan, supposed Illyrian or newly constructed names that would be proper for the new generation of revolutionaries."
  5. ^ Carmichael, Cathie (27 August 2003). Ethnic Cleansing in the Balkans: Nationalism and the Destruction of Tradition. Routledge. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-134-47953-5.
  6. ^ Filipović, Gordana (1989). Kosovo--past and present. Review of International Affairs. p. 47. The large number of Albanian surnames ending in ic, ovic, or ovit did not originate during the shortlived prewar Serbian administration. It is due to a long mutual influence because these clans had the same surnames under the Turkish rule.
  7. ^ Di Lellio, Ana (2009). "The battle of Kosovo 1389." An Albanian epic. London: IB Tauris. pp. 26–27. ISBN 9781848850941. "the custom of taking their native village names as surnames was and is still common among Albanians..."
  8. ^ Waardenburg, Jacques (1 January 2003). Muslims and Others: Relations in Context. Walter de Gruyter. p. 387. ISBN 978-3-11-020095-9. Since the late 1960s, newborn Albanians of any religion had to receive non-religious names, and Muslims here had to change their names to properly Albanian names.
  9. ^ Prifti, Peter R. (1978). Socialist Albania since 1944: domestic and foreign developments. MIT Press. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-262-16070-4. ...a decree dated September 23, 1975, and published in Gazeta zyrtare inTirane on November 11, 1975
  10. ^ Gianaris, Nicholas V. (1996). Geopolitical and Economic Changes in the Balkan Countries. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-275-95541-0. However, the government ordered name changes for the citizens and the villages (Administrative Decree 5339, 1975, and other decrees) to "pure Albanian names"
  11. ^ a b c Armand Feka (2013-07-16). "Griechenlands verborgene Albaner". Wiener Zeitung. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-03-02. Er lächelt und antwortet in einwandfreiem Griechisch: ‚Ich bin eigentlich auch ein Albaner.'
  12. ^ Lars Brügger; Karl Kaser; Robert Pichler; Stephanie Schwander-Sievers (2002). Umstrittene Identitäten. Grenzüberschreitungen zuhause und in der Fremde. Die weite Welt und das Dorf. Albanische Emigration am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts = Zur Kunde Südosteuropas: Albanologische Studien. Vienna: Böhlau-Verlag. p. Bd. 3. ISBN 3-205-99413-2.

Further reading

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