Video:How to Uncover Spanish Heritage With Surnameswith Zoya Popova
The origins of many Spanish surnames can be traced to a few common sources like geography and occupation. Here's a guide to figuring out the meaning of Spanish surnames.See Transcript
Transcript:How to Uncover Spanish Heritage With Surnames
Hi, I'm Zoya Popova for About.com, and today, we're going to talk about uncovering your Spanish heritage through surnames. Spanish surnames can be divided into several categories depending on their origin.
Patronymic Spanish Surnames
One of the most popular groups is patronymic surnames, which appeared as a way to distinguish between people bearing the same given name by specifying the name of their father. Grammatically, Spanish patronymic surnames may sometimes be an unchanged form of the father's given name. For example, the surnames Alonso, from Alonso; Vicente, from Vicente; and García, from García. However, most often, Spanish patronymic surnames were formed by adding suffixes meaning "son of", as seen in Martinez, meaning "son of Martín"; Lopez, "son of Lope"; Ruiz, "son of Ruy"; and so on.
Geographical Spanish Surnames
The second and very significant group of Spanish surnames is geographical surnames, which appeared as a way to specify people by naming the location they came from or resided in. Some of the most popular Spanish geographical surnames are Medina and Ortega, because there are quite a few towns and villages in the Spanish-speaking world bearing these names. Other Spanish geographical surnames refer to landscape features, such as Vega, from "vega" - "meadow"; Castillo, from "castillo" - "castle"; and Mendosa, meaning "cold mountain" in Basque. Some Spanish geographical surnames feature the suffix "de", meaning "from" or "of". This results in surnames such as Desoto, from "de soto" - "of the grove"; and Dávila, from "d'Ávila" - "from the town of Ávila".
Occupational Spanish Surnames
The third group of Spanish surnames is occupational surnames, when a person's occupation becomes their surname, such as Hidalgo, from "hidalgo" - "nobleman"; or "Alcaldo", from "alcalde" - "mayor". Oftentimes, Spanish occupational surnames can be recognized by the suffixes -era, -ero, -or, and -ora. For example, Herrera/Herrero means "ironworker"; and Cantor means "singer".
Descriptive Spanish Surnames
Finally, an interesting group of Spanish surnames is descriptive surnames, stemming from the nicknames given to people by those who knew them. Surnames referring to physical attributes include Delgado, from "delgado" - "thin"; Moreno, from "moreno" - "dark"; and Rubio, from "rubio" - "blond". Other descriptive surnames refer to character traits, such as Bravo, from "bravo" - "brave"; and Cortés, from "cortés" - "courteous". So as you can see, researching Spanish surnames can provide a wealth of information about your ancestors.
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