The History Behind The Most Popular Spanish Names

The History Behind The Most Popular Spanish Names

Have you ever wondered about the origins of your Spanish surname? Surnames (apellidos) were first introduced in the 12th century, and their principles are still used to this day. We invite you to keep reading this guide so your child can have the best name possible!

History Of Spanish Names

Before names were recorded, most people had one name, such as Hugo. When the population increased, people needed to distinguish between similar names. This problem was solved when the Council of Trent made a social rule to keep the names of the grandparents, parents, and children.

Surnames were used by wealthy landowners and the nobility. This custom was then followed by the townspeople, merchants, and then the general population. By 1100, Spain had created an established naming system.

Spanish names.


Spanish names are characterized by their surnames. Usually, children have two surnames, one from each of their parents. The middle name comes from their father's name while the last name comes from their mother's maiden name.

Sometimes the twos surnames are separated by “y” (meaning “and). However, this isn’t as common as it previously was. In Spain, laws have made it legal for children to have their surnames reversed - the middle name is the mother’s surname and the last name the father’s surname. This pattern is common for Portuguese surnames and families.

In the US, where two surnames aren't as common, families will give their children the parental surname, or hyphenate both surnames. Historically, Hispanic naming patterns are less consistent. The sons would take their father surnames, while their daughters take their mother surnames.

Double surnames have been uncommon in Spain until the mid-1800s. After that, most modern Spanish names would use both surnames to display their family heritage and their own unique identity.

Spanish Names Through History

Throughout history, Spanish surnames are divided up into four different parts:

  • Matronymic & Patronymic Surnames
  • Occupational Surnames
  • Descriptive Surnames
  • Geographical Surnames

Matronymic & Patronymic Surnames

Matronymic and Patronymic surnames originated to help distinguish between two men that have the same name. They can either use the surname of their mother (matronymic) or their father (patronymic).

Grammatically, the patronymic names were not changed from the father's original name. The only difference was how the name was pronounced (e.g., Vicente, Garcia). However, patronymic surnames were created by adding suffixes that meant the "son of" the father.

The most common suffixes were -as, -is, es, or -os (used for Portuguese surnames). Other names would use -az, -oz, -is, or -ez (common to Spanish or Castilian surnames) at the end of the father's surname.


  • Juan Velazquez - son of Velasco
  • Leon Fernández - son of Fernándo
  • Eduardo Alverez - son of Alvaro

Occupational Surnames

Occupational surnames were derived from the family’s job or trade.


  • Lucas Guerrero - Lucas, the soldier or warrior
  • Carlos Vicario - Carlos, the vicar
  • Juan Zapertero - Juan, the shoemaker

Descriptive Surnames

These surnames were used to characterize a distinctive physical trait or unique quality of an individual. Descriptive surnames came from Spanish speaking countries from pet names or nicknames, often based on their personality or physical characteristics.


  • Aarón Delgado - Aarón the thin
  • Marco Cortes - Marco, the courteous
  • Roderick Rubio - Roderick, the blonde

Geographical Surnames

Geographical surnames are derived from the area the first bearer and the rest of his family resided in or came from. For instance, Ortega and Medina are common geographical surnames because a multitude of Spanish speaking towns bear these names.

Ortega on a map.


Some geographic surnames are used to refer to the features of the location, such as Mendoza (“cold mountain”), and Vega (“meadow”). Some geographical surnames have the suffix de, which means “of” or from” to show that the person was born in that exact location.


  • Sebastián de Toledo - Sebastian, from the town of Toledo
  • Lucas Desoto - Lucas, of the grove.
  • Ricardo Iglesias - Ricardo, who was from a church (Iglesias)

Modern Spanish Names

Most of the modern names follow the double surname format. It's still used as a basis of social identity; the only difference is the popularity amongst each name. Here are the most popular Spanish names that are available.


Spanish boy names are more conservative and traditional than female names. Most parents give their sons names to give them good luck, strength, and courage throughout their lives. This table displays the most common names that you can give your child:






Javier is Spanish for “new house” and is the Spanish variation of the name Xavier.



Marco is derived from the Italian name Marcus. The name comes from the Roman god "Mars."



Pedro means "rock, stone." Use this interesting name to give your child strength.



Ricardo means "powerful ruler" and "strong."



Carlos is the Spanish variation of Carlos. This name means "free man" or "someone who is free."



Want to give your child a unique name? Felipe means "lover of horses."


Unlike male names, spanish girl names are used to show their beauty, innocence, and strong personalities. These are the most popular spanish names for girls that you could use for your newborn daughter!






Means “daisy flower” in Spanish.



Maria means "bitter" or "rebellion," but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad name. Maria is a name that parents give their daughters so that they grow up confident.



Micaela is the feminine version of Michael which means "gift from God."



Give your child a strong name that will carry them throughout their lives. Valeria stems from the Latin word "brave."



Adelita is a powerful name that means kind and noble.



Juanita is the feminine version of John or Juan. This name means "God is giving; God is gracious."


When giving your child a Spanish name, you are giving them a name that’s backed by years of heritage, prestige, and spiritual value. To conclude, give your child a name that demonstrates your love for them and watch them grow up to become successful in the future!

Como te llamas?


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