Greek-American Heritage Society of Philadelphia
Sunday, November 29th, 2015
Nameday of Fedra, Phaedra, Fedros, Phaedros, Filoumeni, Philoumenee, Filomeni, Filoumenos, Philoumenos, Filomenos

The Fagopoti blog

Agrios, Arapis, Varvatos, Xinos and Kokkaliaris


Automobile manufacturer, Chrysler, has a commercial for a new vehicle with fashionista John Varvatos. Tiger Woods might be driving a Buick (especially after his divorce) but a Greek named Varvatos with money is NOT driving no Chrysler. Do you know what Varvatos means in Greek? Varvatos refers to one who’s “not-castrated” the male stallion that’s used to reproduce.

So since I don’t have a life, I start thinking of Greek last names and their origin. “We have this professor whose last name is AGRIOS (Wildman),” said Giorgos, a Greek American sophomore who studies at Villanova University. I mentioned T. ARAPIS (Arab) another Greek professor at Villanova. “How would you like to grow up in Greece with a name like XINOS (Sour),” I said to him and Giorgo’s reply was “how would you like to grow up in Greek town New York and be this frail 90 pound kid with a last name like KOKKALIARIS?” Thank God engineering professor George FACAS teaches in Jersey.

Like most Greeks, I’ve been known to stretch the truth, create drama, and use my imagination more than I should, but I couldn’t make this stuff up about Greek names even if I wanted to: Agrios, Arapis, Varvatos, Xinos and Kokkaliaris. DOESN’T IT SOUND LIKE A GREEK COMEDY SHOW? Greek yiayias can create a new Greek monster when Yiannaki is not finishing his third serving of lamb and Greek roasted potatoes (ean den kathariseis to piato sou, th’arthei o Agrios arapis xinos kokkaliaris kai tha se faei).

How did these funny last names develop?

In my town we had last names like XYDIS (yes that’s vinegar) and EIKOSIDEKAS (Twntyten) Then there are names like TELEIOS, FETAS, SOUVLAKIS, APRILIS, LOUKANIKAS, VELONAS, SKORDAS, SKORDALIAS, GOUROUNA, MPINES and the list goes on and on.

Last names tell us a lot about one’s family roots especially where they came from, according to scholar Foula Pispirigklou Greek last names can be put in 4 categories and some go back to the Byzantine era.

  1. Baptism name (Kostis, Georgis etc.) which is derived from Kostas and Giorgos. Here we also have a combination of name and origin so a name like Stefanidis for instance tells us that Great Grandpa’s name was Stefanos and that he’s Pontian (idis).
  2. Origin, names ending in:
    -idis Pontian (Stafylidis, Paulidis)
    -adis Pontian (Euthimiadis, Anastasiadis)
    -oudis Macedonian-Thrace (Nikoloydis, Mauroudis)
    -oglou Asia Minor (fellow CosmosPhilly comrade Keisoglou)
    -akis Crete (papadakis, Sifakis
    -akos Mani. Peloponnese (Pantelakos)
    -poulos Peloponnese (Stauropoulos)
    -atos Cefalonia (Kosmatos)
    -elis Islands of Lesvos, Limnos, Imvros (Kanelis)
    -ousis Xios (Manousis)
  3. Profession Sideras, Aleuras, Psarras
  4. Nickname Magkas, Mavros

Every Greek father tells his kids not to “throw dirt on the family name” but what can one do if your last name is “VROMIKOS”? How about having “MOUNOUXOS” (castrated) as your last name? What would you do if your neighbor was John Varvatos? If it was me I would get a one-way ticket to Grenada, crawl under a rock and wait to die.

Then we have our baptism names that we must defend at all costs till the day we die. Names that stay in the family for generations and that were given to an ancestor by a nouno who probably had too much wine and on a whim decided to name your great grandmother “Louloudo” “Smaragdo” or Garoufalia” and now you have to name your daughter “Louloudo,” how nice. First day in school and the teacher calls out “LOU-LOU-DO HATZIPAPANIKOLAOU” and the poor little girl (all eyes staring) wishes she was under that rock in Grenada. I’m all for some great traditions we Greeks have but this thing with the names, I just don’t know about. So what do we do? We play the “lets baptize our daughter Louloudo so that our mother doesn’t have a heart attack but call her LOLA so that she can have somewhat of a normal life” game.


  1. Vango

    Funny article!

    My last name means “sneaky,” but life goes on.

    I would like to note that the last name endings by origin probably covers a majority of the last names out there; however, a Pontian my also have a Peloponnese last name, a Karpathian may have a Pontian last name, etc… I am sure there are many other factors that can play into how people end up with their last names (nick-names, family tree, etc)…just though this was worth mentioning.


    • Costas

      You are correct. In many cases we have builders, teachers, police officers, tradesmen, doctors and soldiers who were for instance from southern Greece but found themselves in Northern Greece, In my hometown in Arcadia we have a family named TSIOLES who’s ancestors came from Epirus as builders and ended up staying in Levidi.

  2. Age like

    My last name is Kataxanas and is not a common Greek name. I would like to find out more about the origins and meaning of this name.

    Any help or guidance is much appreciated.

    Warm regards,

  3. Katerina

    There are many towns in Thrace near the Turkish border with last name ending in -akis. These were given during the population exchange when the borders changed. Many people in the states assume my family is Cretan when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fun article! I enjoyed the read!

    • Costas

      Never heard of that one before. I was under the impression that those who came to Greece from Asia Minor were (for the most part) given names ending in “idis”. I’m going to ask my guru historian friend about this one.

  4. Ioannis

    My dad was a Classical philologist, but could never satisfactorily explain to me where our name (Rexinis) came from. The story goes our Spartan family name was Nikolopoulos until the 1820’s, when for some reason it was changed. Something to do with the revolution, probably – but what? Any thoughts?

    • Costas

      Maybe (just a thought) pappou beheaded a Turk during the uprising and had two choices: Change the last name and run or remain Nikolopoulos and suffer the consequences.
      There is another possible connection that must be explored also. Dalaras sang “νατανε το 21′” a song written by Nikolopoulos. Coincidence? maybe not!!!

  5. Efy

    What I want to know, Kosta, is do you live up to your reputation as a Xinos?

    • Costas

      Sometimes I’m XINOS
      other times I’m GLYKOS
      When I get mad I become KAKOS
      and when I see an attractive woman and my wife is present I pretend I’m TYFLOS

  6. George Kokaliaris

    Giasou Costa!

    I actually spell my name with one K (Kokaliaris) but even my mother’s relatives from Sparti accidentally spell it as “Kokkaliaris.” They tell me that’s the more common spelling. Why did you think to spell it the same way they did? Have you heard of that name before?

    See you come August!

    • Costas

      Giorgo a few things I need to point out:
      1) I made you and all the Kokaliarides (one and two k’s) famous. Don’t you ever forget that.
      2) Since our body has multiple kokkala (bones) the correct way of spelling it is with two k’s. The Kokkaliarides in Greece will never forgive you. You have Amercanized the name and you must correct the spelling.
      3) Tell your Mom that I have made great improvements to my avgolemono soup and I’m ready for a “Throwdown”.

  7. Angeliki Davis

    My grandfather, from Northern Greece , last name was Lalatsis . When he left the states with his new family, He had the name Davis. Then when they moved to Athens, he changed the name to Dirvisis. So in America we go by Davis. But in Greece we use Dirvisis. Do you have any clues? We can’t find the Greek names on those ancestor sites. I would like to know my family history. Any clues?

    • Costas

      Angeliki, sorry for the late rply but I missed your post. The name Λαλατσης is found in northern Greece in the state of Kilkis. All you have to do is google the name and the Lalatsides pop up. good luck.

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