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A name in Romanian consists of a given name (prenume) and a surname (nume or nume de familie). Surnames appear after given names in most Romanian contexts. However official documents invert the order, ostensibly for filing purposes. Correspondingly, some Romanians occasionally introduce themselves with their family names first, e.g. a student signing a test paper in school.
Romanians have one, two or more given names, all being chosen by the child's parents. One of them, almost always 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), 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/Nicolaie (Nicholas), Pavel/Paul (Paul), Petru/Petre (Peter), Ștefan (Stephen), Vasile (Basil).
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 name Ion/Ioan, which is generally associated with the idea of an elderly man. However, such "old-fashioned" names are frequently 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: Ion-Ionela, 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, Constantin, Vasile, Alexandru for all males and Andrei, Alexandru, Gabriel, Ionuț and Ștefan during the last 5 years.
- For females: Maria, Elena, Ana, Ioana for all females and Maria, Andreea, Elena, Ioana, Alexandra during the last 5 years.
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 a child inherits his father's surname and a wife takes her husband's surname. In certain cases of bastardy, the child inherits the mother's surname. There are, however, exceptions with the law 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, but parents may also opt to use the mother's surname, both surnames or a double-barrelled name, separated by a hyphen. Romanian family names remain the same regardless of the sex of the person.
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 seems to come from Latin -iscum, thus being cognate with Italian -esco and French -esque.
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.
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").
- 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.
- "Cele mai populare nume de fete din Romania, 2010". www.qbebe.ro. Retrieved 14 July 2012.