Latvian names, like in most European cultures, consist of two main elements: the given name (vārds) followed by family name (uzvārds). During the Soviet occupation (1940–1941;1944–1991) the practice of giving a middle name (otrais vārds) was discouraged, but since the restoration of Independence Latvian legislation again allows giving of up to two given names and it has become more common to give a middle name to children.
Latvian male names end in 1st or 2nd declension masculine endings, either -s/-š or -is (with a handful of mostly foreign exceptions ending in indeclinable -o, such as Ivo, Raivo, Gvido, Bruno, Oto and only a couple belonging to the 3rd declension ending in -us, such as Ingus, Mikus, Edžus, Zemgus.) Latvian female names have the feminine 4th or 5th declension endings -a or -e respectively.
For centuries one of the most popular Latvian names has been Jānis, whose written use dates back to 1290. The vocative case is used when addressing someone directly, for example, Jāni for Jānis. The diminutive form is often used to express endearment or when addressing children, for example, addressing Jānis as Jānīt (vocative diminutive).