The most common names of American Orthodox clergy

St. John Kochurov is one of the most famous of the many "Fr. Johns" in American Orthodox history

Recently, I did a study of the most common names of American Orthodox parishes. In response, Christopher Orr commented, “I wonder what a similar study of clergy (bishop, priest, deacon) names would show. My guess would be Michael, John and George, and perhaps also Nicholas, with Alexander also very popular among Russians.”

I realized that I could actually do that sort of study. For several years now, I’ve been compiling an Excel file with the names of thousands of American Orthodox clergy (mostly priests) and the parishes in which they served. The focus is on past, rather than contemporary, priests, but given that the data is already in a sortable format, I figured I could use it to answer Christopher’s question — what are the most common names of American Orthodox clergy?

2,069 clergy were included in the study. The actual file has more than that, but for a lot of historical clergy, I only have a last name, or a first initial — not enough to conduct a study like this. So, a little over two thousand made the final cut. Also, keep in mind that there are lots of spelling and linguistic variations on a given name. So Elijah, Ilyas, Ilie, and Ilja were all counted as, “Elias.” Every version of Demetrios / Dimitri was labeled, “Demetrios.” And so forth — you get the idea.

Here’s the top 10 list:

  1. John (9.6%)
  2. George (6.2)
  3. Michael (5.0)
  4. Nicholas (4.7)
  5. Peter (3.7)
  6. Constantine (3.6)
  7. Basil (3.4)
  8. Joseph (2.6)
  9. Stephen (2.5)
  10. Alexander (2.4)

So Mr. Orr was right on the money — he pegged the top four. The next eight, all between 1.6 and 2.2%, are Demetrios, Paul, Theodore, Andrew, Anthony, James/Jacob, Elias, and Gregory.

I then looked specifically at the three largest jurisdictions — Greek, OCA, and Antiochian. For the OCA, I focused only on the clergy of the Russian Archdiocese / Metropolia / territorial OCA; I didn’t include the OCA’s various ethnic dioceses. Here are the most common OCA names:

  1. John (11.8)
  2. Michael (5.7)
  3. Joseph (5.1)
  4. Nicholas (5.1)
  5. Peter (5.0)
  6. Basil (4.7)
  7. Alexander (4.5)
  8. Paul (3.9)
  9. Vladimir (3.3)

Alexander is indeed a popular name for OCA clergy, but John is way ahead of the pack, with twice as many as the next most-common name.

As you would expect, George is wildly popular among the Antiochians:

  1. George (12.1)
  2. John (10.2)
  3. Michael (7.9)
  4. Anthony (4.9)
  5. Elias (4.6)
  6. Nicholas (3.9)

Also predictable was the popularity of the name Constantine among the Greeks:

  1. George (9.o)
  2. Michael (8.5)
  3. Constantine (7.6)
  4. Nicholas (5.8)
  5. Demetrios (3.3)
  6. Peter (3.0)

Eventually, it would be nice to do a more systematic study, looking at the names of all current SCOBA clergy. But I suspect that the overall conclusions would be similar — John, George, Michael, and Nicholas are by far the most common names for American Orthodox clergy.

One thought on “The most common names of American Orthodox clergy

  1. That’s great. If anyone could have done it, it would have been you.

    The anecdotal evidence for the top 4 names comes from praying for various priests I know. It’s tough to be specific when you’re going through long lists of ‘bless and save Frs. Michael, Michael, Michael and Michael’.

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