Albanian name

Albanian names are names used in, or originating in, Albania, Kosovo, 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 religious, either Christian or Islamic. During the Communist regime, based on the theory of the Illyrian origin of Albanians, supposedly Illyrian names were construed 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, Western European as opposed to those in Kosovo, Macedonia and elsewhere that are either religious, local, geographic or related to traditionalism.

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 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.

Given names

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,[1] a theory which has been revitalized today[2]) continued to play a significant role in Albanian nationalism,[3] resulting in a revival of given names supposedly of Illyrian origin, at the expense of given names associated with Christianity or Islam. This trend had originated with the 19th century Rilindja, but it became more common after 1944, when it became the communist regime's declared doctrine to oust Christian or Islamic 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 Proletare, or Illyrian ones compiled from epigraphy, e.g. from the necropolis at Dyrrhachion excavated in 1958-60.


Many surnames in Albania have Christian and Islamic roots.[4] The long mutual influence of the population resulted in a large number of Albanian surnames ending in , ović or ovit even under Ottoman rule.[5]

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, Leka, Dushku 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, 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 then 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.


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.[6] 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.[7][8]


  1. 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".
  2. Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 2009, Gilles de Rapper.
  3. 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."
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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"

Further reading

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