Albania Personal Names

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Understanding customs used in surnames and given names can help you identify your ancestors in records. Learn to recognize name variations and see clues in names.

Online Tools[edit | edit source]

Surnames[edit | edit source]

  • 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, the given name of the individual's father (which is seldom included except in official documents, and a family name or surname (most commonly patrilineal).[1]
  • Hereditary family surnames developed quite late in Albania. The practice was not well established until the early 1900s.[2]
  • Many surnames in Albania have Islamic and Christian roots.
  • The long mutual influence of the population resulted in a large number of Albanian surnames ending in ić, ović or ovit even under Ottoman rule.
  • Common last name endings include -aj, as well as common definite Albanian nominative singular endings:
    • -i for originally masculine last names
    • except for those previously ending in k, g, h or i, which have -u added
    • -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.)
  • 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.
  • Another major source of Albanian last names are place names; Albanians sometimes took their hometowns as surnames. 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. T
  • 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.<ref name="Alb/">

Given Names[edit | edit source]

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.[1]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Albania name", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albanian_name, accessed 27 February 2021.
  2. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Albania,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1991-1998.