HomeQ&AConfusing Spanish names

Confusing Spanish names


Hello, anybody knows why Spanish names are so long? I live here in the US surrounded by hispanics. One of my friends' name is "Maria de los angeles Paz Martinez. She says that they all have first names, middle names and two last names, the first last name comes from the father's and the second one comes from the mother's. Is it like this in Mexico, Spain and all the other Hispanic countries?

updated NOV 1, 2009
edited by --Mariana--
posted by dsmith70

3 Answers


This is because they have usually two family names (surnames).

Following an ancient tradition, when a child is born, he/she receives the first surname from the father and the second surname is the first surname of the mother. In Portuguese speaking countries also use two family names, but for them the mother's surname comes first. In my opinion this is better because you know for certain who the mother is, but in some cases one may not be so sure about the father.

e.g. Juan Martínez Escudero + Marta Villanueva Cortés => Juan Martínez Villanueva

This way when a woman marries a man, she never losses her maiden surname, and her family name is carried by her descendents (although just for one generation).

updated NOV 9, 2009
posted by Seb79
Very interesting Seb, thank you - dsmith70, OCT 31, 2009
No problem! - Seb79, NOV 1, 2009

I know that in Mexico people commonly have four names (dos nombres y dos apellidos.) The first two would be similar to the first and middle name given to children in the US. The third name (primer apellido) is from the father. The fourth name (segundo apellido) is from the mother.

However if one has the name 'Juan Manuel García Lopez' he would be referred to as 'Señor García ', not 'Señor Lopez'.

To make it even more complicated, if María Nuñez Martínez Lopez were to marry a 'Señor García' she would become 'María Nuñez Martínez Lopez de García '.

updated NOV 9, 2009
posted by chaparrito

Same here in Spain, two surnames. I think it is fairer if you ask me...after all the mother's name survives at least one generation. And (!!) a woman who gets married keeps her name!!

updated OCT 31, 2009
posted by 00494d19
Perfect! - --Mariana--, OCT 31, 2009
Marianne, for today only, I think you mean Purrrfect. ¿Verdad? - Moe, OCT 31, 2009
SpanishDict is the world's most popular Spanish-English dictionary, translation, and learning website.
© Curiosity Media Inc.