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4 Types of Spanish Surnames: Which One Is Yours?

Culture & Community By Ancestry.com18177 views
4 Types of Spanish Surnames: Which One Is Yours?

Excerpt: Ancestry.com

Historically, Spanish surnames can typically be traced back to one of four types:

1. Patronymic & Matronymic.

These were not, at first, surnames that were passed down. In one generation, an individual might be Martin Perez (Martin, son of Pedro). His son would be Juan Martinez (Juan, son of Martin). Eventually, these patronymic names became fixed surnames that passed down in the family through the generations.

Some other names of this sort include:

  • Dominguez—son of Domingo
  • Hernandez—son of Hernando
  • Lopez—son of Lope
  • Ramirez—son of Ramiro
  • Ruiz—son of Ruy or Roy
  • Suarez—son of Suero
  • Velazquez—son of Velasco
  • Velez—son of Vela


This type of last name tells you something about where the first person to take the name came from, or where their homestead was.

Someone named Aguilar may have originally lived near an eagle’s nest; the name refers to a “haunt for eagles.” Other common geographic surnames of this type include Medina and Oyarzun (both place names), Navarro (“from Navarre”), Serrano (meaning “highlander”), and still other geographic surnames refer to features of the landscape where a family lived, such as Vega (“meadow”), Mendoza (“cold mountain”), Morales (“blackberry groves”), Torres (“towers”), and Iglesias (“churches”). Some include the suffix “de” to indicate “of” or “from” a place, such as Del Olmo (“from the elm tree”) and Davila (from “d’Avila,” meaning “from the town of Avila”).


Sometimes a surname that denoted a person’s job or trade was tacked on to a person’s given name. Felipe Vicario, for instance, was Felipe the vicar. Some other common occupational surnames:

  • Alcaldo—mayor
  • Barbero—barber
  • Cabrero—goatherder
  • Cantor—singer
  • Caballero—horseman, knight
  • Corredor—runner
  • Herrera/Herrero—ironworker, smith
  • Hidalgo—nobelman
  • Marin—from the Latin “Marinus,” meaning sailor
  • Marques—marquis
  • Molinero—miller
  • Romero—pilgrim
  • Torrero—bullkeeper, fighter
  • Zapatero—shoemaker


This type of surname was based on a quality or physical feature of the person.

  • Bravo—brave
  • Cano—grey
  • Cola—tall
  • Cortes—courteous
  • Delgado—thin
  • Garza (heron)—long legged
  • Grand—large
  • Moreno—brown haired, tan
  • Orejon—big ear
  • Rubio—blonde