A Persian name consists of a given name, sometimes more than one, and a surname.
Since the Islamic 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, Assyrian, or Armenian names, as most Christian Iranians are Armenian Iranians.
Many Persian names come from the great Persian literature book, Shahnameh (The 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 people of Persia (Iran) 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
Arian, also a gentleman's name.
- (Old Persian: wish, desire, longing)
- Zartosht (Alternative: Zarathusht)
- Zana زانا from Old Persian, (Etymologically cognate with Dana دانا, meaning smart or scientist)
Common female given names
- Baharak (Meaning: "Small Spring")
- Kiana (Meaning: "Elements of Earth")
- Kejal (alternative spelling: "Xorshid")
- Parastu (Parastoo)
- Pardis (Paradise)
- Parvin Parva
- Lajani, a variant of the Gilaki Lahijani. Used in Kurdish regions.
- Aga Khan, hereditary title of the Imam of the Nizari Muslims of the Ismaili followers of the Shī‘a sect of Islam, the great imam of Shi`a Islam. 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.
- Aqa, Sir, mister. It is a general term of respect.
- Ayatollah, high-ranking title given to Usuli Twelver Shī‘ah clerics.
- Darvish, a Sufi mystic or a spiritual guru.
- Khan, served at one time as a title for an honored person.
- Ostad, a master craftsperson, lecturer or a person who is the master of a profession.
- Seyed, Sharif, honorific titles that are given to males accepted as descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
- Shah, king of Persia.
- Haji, one who had made the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
- Jenaab, sir, excellency.
- Karbala'i, one who has made the pilgrimage to Karbala, as a suffix, one from Karbala.
- Mashhadi, one who has made the pilgrimage to Mashhad, as a suffix, one from Mashad, often shortened to Mashti, or Mash.
- Mir, generally indicates seyed and/or 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 Sarkisian (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 (Faravahar), "the light of".
- -bakhsh, "granted by".
- -dad (Middle Persian: Dāta), "given by".