Since the Muslim conquest of Persia, some names in Iran have been derived from Arabic, although the majority are Persian in origin. Persian Christians have Arabic names indistinguishable from their Muslim neighbors. They can also use Arabic derivations of Christian names (such as saints' names), or Greek, Neo-Aramaic, or Armenian names, as most Christian Iranians are Iranian Armenians.
Many Persian names come from the great Persian literature book, the Shahnameh or "Epic of Kings". It was composed in the 10th century by Ferdowsi and is considered by many the masterpiece of Persian literature. Approximately 10%-15% of all Persian names are from Shahnameh. A few examples are Abtin, Ardeshir, Armeen, Arzhang, Babak (Papak), Bijan, Bizhan, Bozorgmehr, Darab, Dariush (Darius), Esfandiar, Esfandyar, Javid, Faramarz, Farhad, Fariborz, Farshid, Farzad, and Yazdan.
Prior to 1919, the peoples of Persia did not use surnames. An act of the Vosough od-Dowleh government in 1919 introduced the use of surnames, and the practice expanded during the reign of Reza Shah (r. 1925–1941). Prior to that, a person was often distinguished from others by a combination of prefixes and suffixes attached to his or her name. If it was omitted, that person might be taken for someone else. Since the adoption of surnames, Ahmadi has become the most popular surname in Iran.
In many cases individuals were known by the name of the district, city, town, or even the village from which they came by using the locality's name as a suffix, for example: Nuri, Khorasani, Mazandarani, Kordestani, Tehrani, Esfahani, Gilani, Hamedani, and Shirazi. The same rule is followed for the many millions of Iranians who have surnames of regions or cities of the Caucasus region. The latter was forcefully ceded in the course of the 19th century to Imperial Russia through the Treaty of Gulistan (1813) and Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828). Examples of common Iranian surnames in this regard are Daghestani, Gharabaghi, Darbandi, Shirvani, Iravani, Nakhjevani, Lankarani.
Among many other secularization and modernization reforms, surnames were required by Reza Shah, following similar contemporary patterns in Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and later in Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Most common names
Note: Some of the names below are of Middle Persian origin
Common male given names
- Zana زانا meaning smart, wise, genius, scientist. Etymologically cognate with Farzan and Farzaneh , فرزان/زانا/فرزانه from the Old Persian verb root Zanestan/Danestan
Common female given names
- Baharak (Meaning: "Small Spring")
- Donya (Dunya) (Meaning: "World")
- Kiana (Meaning: "Elements of Earth")
- Kejal (alternative spelling: "Xorshid")
- Lajani, a variant of the Gilaki Lahijani. Used in Kurdish regions.
- Aga Khan, hereditary title of the Imam of the Nizari branch of Isma'ilism. As a suffix, it indicates his children, grandchildren, and/or grandchildren.
- Mullah, Muslim cleric. The title has also been used in some Jewish communities to refer to the community's leadership, especially religious leadership.
- Agha (title), Sir, mister. It is a general term of respect.
- Ayatollah, high-ranking title given to Twelver Shiʻi clerics.
- Dervish, a mystic or a spiritual guru in Sufism.
- Khan (title), served at one time as a title for an honored person.
- Ustad, a master craftsperson, lecturer or a person who is the master of a profession.
- Sayyid and sharif, honorific titles that given to men accepted as descendants of Muhammad.
- Shah, "king".
- Hajji, one who had made the Hajj to Mecca.
- Jenaab, sir, excellency.
- Karbala'i, one who has made the pilgrimage to Karbala
- Mashhadi, one who has made the pilgrimage to Mashhad, often shortened to Mashti, or Mash.
- Mir, generally indicates the person is a sayyid(a) or is of royal descent.
- -i, the most common suffix used for Persian surnames. They are, in fact, adjectives created by the adding suffix "-i" to person names, location names or other names. Surnames with "-i" are also popular in other countries of historic Greater Persia and neighboring countries like in the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, and Central Asia.
- -ian, like the above case, but with the addition of the plural suffix "-an", common among Iranians and Armenians. Examples are Shaheenian (Persian) and Sargsyan (Armenian).
- -an, similar to English "-s" in "Roberts".
- -pour, "descendant of an Army official (Title)".
- -zadeh, "descendant of".
- -nezhad, -nejad, " of race/clan (Title)".
- -nia, "His/Her highness (Title)".
- -far, "the light of", see Farr-e Kiyani (Faravahar)
- -bakhsh, "granted by".
- -dad (Old Persian dāta), "given by".
- احمد کسروی، تاریخ 18 سالۀ آذربایجان
- Salmani, Ustad Muhammad-`Aliy-i, the Barber (1982). My Memories of Bahá'u'lláh. Gail, Marizieh (trans.). Los Angeles, USA: Kalimát Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-933770-21-9.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Surnames Found in Iran
- Tehranian, Majid (August 1–5, 2000). "Disenchanted Worlds: Secularization and Democratization in the Middle East". Paper for Presentation at the World Congress of International Political Science Association. Archived from the original on 2006-09-12. Retrieved 2006-09-28.