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A name in Romanian consists of a given name (prenume) and a surname (nume or nume de familie). Surnames appear before given names in most Romanian contexts (except the media/politicians and celebrities).
Romanians have one, two or more given names, like Ana Cristina Maria (three given names). All being chosen by the child's parents. One of them, usually the first, is used in daily life while the others are solely for official documents, such as birth, death and marriage certificates.
Traditionally, most people were given names from the Romanian Orthodox calendar of saints. Common names of this type are Ion or Andrei for males and Maria or Elena for females. Given names with a Christian lineage have an identifiable English equivalent: Andrei (Andrew), Constantin (Constantine), Cristian (Christian), Daniel/Dan (Daniel/Dan), Gheorghe/George (George), Grigore (Gregory), Ilie (Elijah), Ion/Ioan (John), Iacob (Jacob/James), Laurențiu (Lawrence), Luca (Luke), Marcu (Mark), Matei (Matthew), Mihail/Mihai (Michael), Nicolae/Niculaie (Nicholas), Pavel/Paul (Paul), Petru/Petre (Peter), Ștefan (Stephen), Vasile (Basil). The most common name, Maria is the equivalent of Mary.
Some names are inspired from nature such as flower names: Crin/Crina, Narcis/Narcisa, Viorel/Viorica, Anemona, Brândușa, Camelia, Iolanda, Lăcrămioara etc, or derived from the word "codru" (woods): Codruț/Codruța, Codrin/Codrina.
The prevalence of given names follows trends, with some names being popular in some years, and some considered definitely out-of-fashion. As an example, few children born since 1980 would bear the names of Gheorghe, Vasile, or Ion/Ioan, which are generally associated with the idea of an elderly man (while the name of Gheorghe is rare among the younger generation, the variant George is more common). However, such "old-fashioned" names are sometimes used as middle names.
Compound given names are uncommon, with only one notable exception, i.e. Ana-Maria (sometimes spelled Anamaria). In that case this is not considered to be two separate given names.
Romanian male given names end in a consonant (Adrian, Ion, Paul, Ștefan, Victor) or in any vowel other than -a (Alexandru, Andrei, Mihai), with some exceptions (Mircea, Mihnea),while almost all female names end in -a (Ana, Elena, Ioana, Maria), with only very few exceptions such as Carmen. This is most easily seen in the male-female name pairs: Gabriel-Gabriela, Ioan-Ioana, George-Georgiana, Mihai-Mihaela, Nicolae-Nicoleta, etc.
The most common Romanian name is Maria, with approximately 1.38 million females having it as one of their given names. Also, almost 1.37 million Romanians have Ion, Ioan and Ioana as one of their given names. The most common names are:
- For males: Gheorghe, Ioan, Vasile, Constantin, Ion, Alexandru, Nicolae, Mihai, Dumitru, Andrei for all males. For boys born in 2014 they are: Andrei, David, Alexandru, Gabriel, Mihai, Cristian, Ştefan, Luca, Ionuţ, Darius.
- For females: Maria, Elena, Ana, Ioana, Mihaela, Andreea, Cristina, Mariana, Alexandra, Daniela for all females. For girls born in 2014, they are: Maria, Elena, Ioana, Andreea, Sofia, Alexandra, Antonia, Daria, Ana, Gabriela.
The given name can be changed on request, but it is necessary to prove a legitimate interest for the change (usually that the current name is a cause of mockery etc.).
Like in most of Europe, in Romania it is customary for a child to take its father's surname, and a wife her husband's surname. In cases where paternity is not established, the child takes the mother's surname. The law however is flexible, allowing for the couple to choose their family name, and thus the surname they would use for all their children. Typically it is the father's surname (in keeping with the tradition), but parents may also opt to use the mother's surname; or for both of the spouses to have both surnames; or for one spouse to use a double-barrelled name. Romanian law does not require any of the spouses to change their surname, but in practice in most families both spouses will have the husband's original surname. If parents have different surnames, a child will have either the surname of one of them, or both surnames. Romanian surnames remain the same regardless of the sex of the person. After a divorce, the spouse who changed the surname (usually the wife) will generally revert to the original surname. However, the married surname can be retained, either with the consent of both spouses, or by court order. If the other spouse does not consent to the retaining of the surname, the spouse who wants to retain it can petition the court and ask it for permission. The relevant laws are Art. 282, Art. 383 Art. 449 Art. 450. of the Civil Code of Romania.
Until the 19th century, the names were primarily of the form "[given name] [father's name] [grandfather's name]". The few exceptions are usually famous people or the nobility (boyars). The name reform introduced around 1850 had the names changed to a western style consisting of a given name followed by a family name (surname). As such, the name is called prenume, while the family name is called nume or, when otherwise ambiguous, nume de familie ("family name"). Middle names (second given names) are also fairly common.
Many Romanian names are derivative forms obtained by the addition of some traditional Romanian suffixes, such as -escu, -ăscu, -eanu, -anu, -an, -aru, -atu, or -oiu. These uniquely Romanian suffixes strongly identify ancestral nationality.
Historically, when the family name reform was introduced in the mid-19th century, the default was to use a patronym, or a matronym when the father was dead or unknown. A typical derivation was to append the suffix -escu to the father's name, e.g. Ionescu ("Ion's child") and Petrescu ("Petre's child"). The -escu is derived from Latin -iscum, and cognate with Italian -esco and French -esque, but its pervasiveness in Romanian may have come from Slavic influence, by way of Old Slavonic -ьskъ (which is in fact cognate to Latin -iscum via Proto-Indo-European).
Another common derivation was to append the suffix -eanu or the simpler forms -anu and -an to the name of a place, river, village, or region, e.g. Ardeleanu (from Ardeal), Mocanu, Moldoveanu (from Moldova), Mureșanu (from Mureș), Sadoveanu etc. (cognate to Italian -(i)ano).
There are also descriptive family names derived from occupations or nicknames, e.g. Ciobanu/Păcuraru ("shepherd"), Croitoru ("tailor"), Fieraru ("smith"), Moraru ("miller"), Bălan ("blond"), Țăranu ("villager") etc. Also some Romanian surnames come from various animals and plants, most probably being former nicknames, with the addition of various suffixes, e.g. Bourean(u) ("ox"), Căpreanu ("goat"), Jderoiu ("marten"), Lupu ("wolf"), Ursu ("bear"), Zimbrean ("bison"), Vidraru ("otter"). Some surnames come from colors: eg: Roșu (Red), Negru (Black), Albu (White).
- Gândul.info: România, generația 2010: Cele mai frecvente cinci nume de băieți și fete Retrieved 8 May 2012
- "Nume la români". www.e-transport.ro. Retrieved 8 May 2012.