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Naming conventions in Portugual are unique and quite different from the standard American three-name system: first, middle, and last name. As a result, it is not unheard of in Portugal to have four, five, or possibly even six names!
Despite all the names a Portuguese person may have, there are only two categories first names (nomes próprios) and last names (Apellidos). So, for example, the name João Luis Ferreira da Silva would be broken down as first name João Luis and last name Ferreira da Silva.
By law, a Portuguese person can only have a maximum of six names, two first names and four last names. This is because last names are taken from both sides of the family, and it is common for women to retain their maiden name after marriage.
Even when someone takes their spouse's name, they don’t drop theirs; instead, they simply tack it on to the end. About 4% of married Portuguese men have taken on their wife’s name since it became legal in the 1970s.
In Portugal, baby names are regulated by law, and there is an approved list of names you can use. However, parents are not allowed to give their baby a name from the opposite gender. In addition, some names are banned to prevent a child from receiving an abusive or offensive given name.
Portuguese surnames come from various languages but have a strong Spanish influence. Portuguese last names are also commonly found in the United States, Brazil, and other parts of Europe and South America.
Like many cultures, surnames were influenced by occupations, a person’s father’s first name, and geographical places or structures.
10 of the Most Common Portuguese Surnames
- Carvalho - Portuguese. It means oak.
- Costa - Italian/Spanish. From the coast.
- Cruz - Latin. Christian name, from the cross.
- D’Sousa - Portuguese. Refers to a person from locales named Sousa.
- Gomes -Galician. This surname means man.
- Martins - Latin. Of Mars.
- Oliveira - Portuguese. Of the Olive Tree.
- Ribeiro - Galician. Small creek.
- Silva - Latin. It means forest or woodland.
- Souza - Portuguese. A person from Sousa.
Patronymic Family Names in Portugal
- Alves - Portuguese. Son of Alvaro.
- Fernandez - Spanish. Son of Fernando. Alternate spelling Fernandes.
- Esteves - Portuguese. Son of Steve.
- Gonçalves - Portuguese. Son of Gonçalo.
- Henriques - Portuguese. Son of Henrique. A variation of the English name Henry.
- Lopes - Portuguese. Son of Lopo.
- Marques - Portuguese. Son of Marcos.
- Mendes - Portuguese. Son of Meno.
- Rodrigues - Spanish. It is the Portuguese version of Rodrigues, son of Rodrigo.
Personality and Occupational Portuguese Names
- Afonso - Portuguese/Old German. Noble and ready.
- Barreto - Hatmaker.
- Carreira - Carter.
- Coelho - The word for rabbit or bunnies. Possibly the name used for a hunter.
- Da Luz - LAdy of the night.
- Dos Santos - A religious name for people who become baptized.
- Madeira - Portuguese. Carpenter.
- Pedro - A religious name that stems from Latin for Peter; the rock.
- Pinto - Portuguese for dark complexion.
- Ramos - Hebrew/Spanish/Portuguese. Its exact origins are unknown; however, it is believed to be a nickname stemming from Ram and means lusty man.
- Santos - Spanish. A religious name that means saint or holy.
- Tomas - A Portuguese version of Thomas that means twin.
- Vara - A name initially used as a nickname that means thin as a stick.
Popular Portuguese Topographic and Regional Last Names
- Abreu - Portuguese. A common last name of the Sephardic Jewish community.
- Almeida - Arabic. The City.
- Araujo - A region of Galacia.
- Barbosa - Portuguese. A place full of green plants. Alternative spelling Barboza.
- Braga - A city in northern Portugal.
- Borges - A name that refers to someone who was from Bourges, France.
- Cabral - Refers to a goat farmer. From the Latin word Capra for goat.
- Cardoso - Spanish. The name of a Spanish noble family given lands in Portugal.
- Castro - Latin. Castle or fortification.
- Espindola - A name for people who came from Genoa, Italy.
- Fonseca - Portuguese. Dried well. Referred to feudal lands whose well dried up every spring/summer.
- Pereira - Portuguese. A common last name of the Sephardic Jewish community. It means pear tree.
- Mata - The Portuguese word for woods.
- Noronha - Refers to someone from Gandra, Spain.
- Pacheco - Portuguese. Noble one or someone from France.
- Rios - Spanish/Portuguese. From the Rio Tinto river.
- Rocha - Portuguese. Rock or boulder.
- Teixeira - A person who lives near yew trees.
Popular Portuguese Last Names on FamilyEducation: da Silva, Silva, Abreu