Iranian Culture

Naming

  • It is not customary for Iranians to have a middle name. Instead, they may have two first names: [first personal name] [optional second personal name] [surname].
  • Naming is patrilineal with children taking their father’s last name. However, women do not have to change their last name to their husband’s at marriage. They may add it onto their own with a hyphen if they choose.
  • One’s name can reflect their family’s background. People who have a name that has strong religious association (i.e. Mohammed, Ataollah) may to come from a conservative household. Alternatively, those with classic Persian names might have more progressive parents. However, many religiously-based names are popular throughout society. For example, Ali (for boys) and Fatemeh (for girls) are very common.
  • Some common Persian personal names are Dariush, Koorush, Abtin, Kamran and Arash for men. Elnaz, Shirin, Sara, Nooshin, Mehri and Laleh are common for women.
  • Many names have a meaning. For example, Behrooz (boy’s name) means ‘better day’, while Bahar (girl’s name) means ‘season of Spring’.
  • Persian names are often based on inspiring characters of old Persian literature. The person may be thought to carry the reputation of that character. For example, they might have a connotation of bravery if they are named after a hero, or thoughtfulness if named after an intellectual.
  • Many modern surnames reflect a family’s local city or region. For example, someone with the last name TEHRANI is likely to have heritage in Tehran.
  • Other surnames may have a suffix that means ‘son of’. HASSANZADEH indicates ‘son of Hassan’. This kind of name structure may be hyphenated or separated as either HASSAN-ZADEN or HASSAN ZADEN. However, both words should still be considered part of the last name.
  • A title of ‘Sheikh’ indicates a person is a head of a religious Islamic group, however this is not very common in modern day Iran.
  • The title ‘Haj’ indicates a person has completed their pilgrimage to Mecca.

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