Surnames are a relatively recent concept in Iran but have roots tracing back to the birth of the Persian empire. In ancient times, the Persian Empire spanned from Egypt to Turkey and from Mesopotamia to the Indus River. So, modern Iranian last names are influenced by a wide range of languages and cultures.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the most common Iranian surnames, as well as their history and origins.
For centuries, the traditional naming convention in Iran was to add any number of prefixes or suffixes to a given name.
For example, let’s look at a full Persian name that uses a prefix: Hajji Mir Zabid Ali. The given name, in this case, is Zabid Ali. Mir means “a master”, a contraction of Amir which means “prince”. The prefix Hajji is an indication that this person had completed the pilgrimage to Mecca. So, while this person’s original given name would have been Zabid Ali, he would have gained the two additional names later.
Let’s look at another example using a suffix instead: Arash Tehrani. The given name here is Arash while Tehrani means that this person came from Tehran. This could indicate that the person had moved from Tehran to another area. Much like the example above, this name was added at a later time. So, it was common for Iranians to acquire multiple names throughout their lives.
In 1919, Prime Minister Vossug ed Dowleh introduced the concept of legal surnames through the National Organization of Civil Registration. The purpose of its founding was to prove each Iranian national’s identity and citizenship through official documents.
The traditional convention that added new names over time was not conducive to this mission, and so this practice was discouraged. Though not yet mandatory, many Iranians stopped adding affixes to their names.
In 1925, Reza Shah passed a law that made surnames mandatory. While the traditional naming convention itself hadn’t technically changed, the existing affixes were then considered legal surnames. For example, if you were named Amir Hussein Bahramzadah, then Bahramzadah would be your legal surname while Amir Hussein would be your first name.
In ancient times, the Persian Empire spanned many regions where a multitude of different languages was spoken. Each of these areas had its unique naming conventions, which spread throughout Persia.
As time passed, borders would shift due to wars and invasions. Many major ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Turks, Arabs, and Mongols had a strong influence on Persian culture through these skirmishes. Thus, each of these cultures influenced the Iranian language and naming practices.
Before surnames were mandatory, the most common origin of a name is family ties, such as a son carrying on the name of the father. However, Persian names have many different sources. Let’s take a look at the different origins of last names in Iran:
These are Persian surnames that connoted a particular occupation combined with the title of the profession, using the suffix -i. Below are some examples of this type of surname:
Persian surnames that denoted a geographic origin typically used the name of the village, town, or city that the individual hailed from, combined with the suffix -i. Below are examples of geographical surnames:
This could also be formed using the name of the place of origin plus the suffix –abadi which means “village”, such as:
Some also used the suffix -nejad, meaning “race”. This includes:
Persian surnames using this naming convention had adjectives or nouns as the root and typically described qualities of the person bearing the name. The root could be of Persian origin or Arabic origin.
Adjectives used in surnames typically describe desirable qualities. For example, someone who was particularly pious could have been named Zahedi, a common Persian name that means “devout”. Someone known to share their wealth with the community could have been given the name Karimi, which means “generous”.
When Persians chose names, they commonly preferred words that sounded beautiful or had positive connotations. This word was then combined with the suffix -i, meaning the person would have that quality.
For example, Golesorkhi means “rose”, so the person given this name could have been beautiful. Another example is the name Ganji, which means “treasure” – this could have been given to a person of great significance.
Certain names signaled that the person was from a certain family tree or born to a particular couple. Like most of the world, these names are typically patronymic or derived from the father’s name.
There are several ways a surname can refer to someone’s lineage. Below are some of the more common ones:
Surnames using the suffixes -yan or -ian are usually Armenian. However, certain names with these suffixes are of Persian origin. This depends on the root word.
For example, the last name Beheshtian is a Persian name, as behesht is the Persian word for “paradise”. Similarly, the surname Nojumyan is also of Persian origin as the root nojum means “astronomy” in Persian.
Armenian names can be identified as they use an Armenian root word. Surnames such as Stepanyan and Kaputikian are examples of this. Steppan is the Armenian version of the name Stephen, while Kaputikian could have been derived from the Armenian word kapuyt, meaning “blue”.
Another source of Persian surnames is literature – specifically, the Shahnameh or “Epic of Kings”. It was completed in the 9th century by Iranian poet Hakim Abul-Qasim Mansur, later called Ferdowsi Tusi.
Many Persians adopted names from this text as a way to show pride in their history and culture, as It was written in Persian at a time when Iran’s borders and influence were shrinking. The “Epic of Kings” is credited by many to have brought the Iranian language and culture back to life.
Suffixes like -y, -i, or -ee are common in Persia. Persian naming conventions also commonly used a prefix as additional signifiers to given names. For example, in the surname Kiarostami, kia- is a prefix that means “defender” or “king”. Another example is Miramadi – the prefix is Mir-, meaning “master of”.
Interestingly enough, an affix could change meaning depending on if it was used as a prefix or a suffix. For example, the word mirza could either have been an indication of a person of royal descent or used as a sign of respect. Here are two examples:
There are many Persian last names with beautiful meanings and ancient origins. While we can’t mention all of them, here are some of the most common last names in Iran.
them, here are some of the most common last names in Iran.
Most popular surname in Iran meaning “descended from the Prophet Mohammad”
Persian form of an originally Arabic surname meaning “righteousness“ or “beauty”. Second-most popular surname in Iran
Arabic surname meaning “descended from Ahmad”. Third most popular surname in Iran
Elevated, high, or exalted. An Arabic name and one of the most popular Persian baby names
Family name meaning “descended from Morad”
Persian form of an originally Arabic surname meaning “lion”
Surname meaning “descended from Karim”. Alternatively, an old Persian surname of a famous merchant clan from Karima. Could also have been derived from “Kareem”, an Arabic name for people of Arab descent
Arabic form which means “descended from Musa” or a surname meaning “from Mosavi”, a village in Iran.
A surname meaning “descended from Jafar”. Ja’far al-Sadiq was a famous Muslim scholar.
Meaning “descended from the Prophet Mohammad”. Also one of the most popular Persian baby names
Iranian surname derived from the word pūr meaning “son”
Persian surname derived from the first name Ghassem or Ghasem
Persian form of an originally Muslim surname meaning “descended from Rahim”
Iranian surname meaning “descended from Ebrahim”. Could also be a Persian form of the biblical name Abraham
Iranian surname meaning “honest”
Persian surname meaning “descended from Abbas” or family name claiming descent from the Abbasid Caliphs
Persian form of the Arabic word ghulam, meaning “servant”, “assistant”, or “boy”
Persian surname meaning “highborn”. Also one of the most popular Persian baby names
Persian form of the Arabic word meaning “prince”
Persian form of an Arabic surname. Derived from the Arabic word zāri, meaning “cultivator peasant”
Some surnames came from titles for descendants of royalty or respected individuals.
Persian surname of Turkic and Mongolic origin. The title “Khan” refers to a chief or a ruler.
Surname most common in Afghanistan. A title given to religious leaders. From mulla, which is Persian for “scholar”
Derived from āghā meaning “master”, “lord”, or “chief” in Persian
Persian word meaning “king”
From the Persian word ostâd, meaning “master”. Title used for a master craftsman or musician
Persian word meaning “lord” or “master”. Surname used by descendants of the Prophet Mohammad
Persian naming conventions are as diverse as its long cultural history. Surnames began as given names with affixes indicating things such as family ties or a person’s geographical origin. As time went on, things like trade and war also had a strong influence on the language and culture, giving birth to new names.
If you’re interested in the meanings of Iranian surnames or searching for Persian baby names, you can be sure that they have deep meanings and incredible history.