‘Meanings’ of names
Within the broad rules of formation outlined above, the Greeks showed almost limitless inventiveness in creating names.
The following are just a few examples of the range of terms used:
Similarly, among compound names we find some where the two elements, intelligible enough individually, do not make sense to us in combination: for example, Andrippos, ‘Man-horse’, Xen-ippos ‘Stranger/horse’.
In general, while it is fair to say that the concepts embraced in a society’s names are a clue to the history and values of that society, it is only rarely that we have the opportunity to assess how conscious of meaning individual Greek parents were when making a choice of name.
A distinct and important category of names was those based on the names
of gods, ‘theophoric’ names. This group provides the most
common of all Greek names, the simple adjectival forms based on the gods
Apollo (Apollonius), Dionysos (Dionysios) and Demeter (Demetrios). But
the full range embraces compound names, in which the name of the god was
followed (never preceded) by such terms as
So, from the god Zeus, root Dio-:
Theophoric names could also be formed from cult titles of gods, and from lesser deities such as nymphs and river gods. The latter provide many distinctly localised names: the river Asopos in Boeotia, for example, gave rise to names such as Asop-ios and Asopo-doros, which are found almost exclusively in Boeotia and Athens. There was also the ‘neutral’ theophoric type based on the word for god, ‘theos’ rather than any particular deity: Theo-genes, Theo-dotos, Theo-doros, Theo-kles etc. The arrival of new divinities was duly marked in nomenclature; thus, from the late fourth century BC, worship in Greece of the Egyptian goddess Isis gave rise to names such as Isi-doros, Isi-dotos, Isi-genes etc.
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