What’s your name? The answer can tell you a lot about your origin. In Brazil, both first names and last names transmit information about you and your family. Find out what the most common Brazilian names and their historical or contemporary origins.
If you just leaf through the pages of the Brazilian phone book last names like Cavalcanti, Carvalho, Ferreira, Pereira, Pinto, Rossi, Silva and Santos will appear. The last names that populate this country are countless.
For a long time some of them meant power and tradition, other last names meant orphan of father and mother, or who was your owner (in the slavery period), but what remains today are only stories that help Brazilians to understand the origins of their people through their names.
Last Names in Brazil
The last names were created to facilitate the identification of people with repeated first names. This was a problem brought by Portuguese caravelas because the first inhabitants of Brazil, the Indians, did not need to create a way to differentiate individuals from their first names; after all, the Indians were never given the same names.
In order to avoid confusion, people started to reference where each one lived or worked, who their parents or spouses were, or their professions. And so the last names started to been passed from father to son. João de Oliveira, for example, means that the slave João was owned by Oliveira, and José Rodrigues meant that José was son of Rodrigo.
See more common Brazilian last names and understand their origins:
- Antunes: means son of Antônio.
- Andrade: means that the person came from the Village of Andrada in Portugal.
- Machado: in Portuguese the word machado means axe, so this last name was given to a person that manufactured this object.
- Moreno: in Portuguese the word moreno means dark-skinned, so this last name was given to people with this skin colour.
The "Official" Brazilian Last Name
Despite the common Brazilian last names mentioned above, there’s no doubt that if you ask any Brazilian what the "official" name of their Brazilian family, their answer would be Silva. Even having Roman origins, the last name is so common and used in Brazil that it even won a place in the Portuguese dictionary.
The last name Silva was brought by the Portuguese with the colonization, but spread so rapidly into the Brazilian territory due to the additions given to the colonizers that came to the country. The ones that settled in the coast region received the addition Costa to their last names, and the ones that settled in interior lands received the addition Silva, which in Latin means jungle.
But it wasn't only the colonizers who were responsible for the name Silva expanding in the country, the Africans slaves also had an important role. Since most of them were named with the name of their owners, and their owners were farmers that lived in the Brazilian interior, many slaves received the last name Silva, increasing its occurrence even more in Brazil.
The Most Common Female Names
According to a survey by the consulting firm proScore requested by the portal EXAME.com, today, more than 13.5 million Brazilian women are named Maria. The name remains the most popular between the women of the country.
The second position of the rank, is occupied by the women named Ana. A little more than 2 million in total have this name. While Francisca, Antônia and Márcia occupy, respectively, the third, fourth and fifth places. Check out below the 16 most common female names in Brazil, with the totals recorded by each one:
- Maria: 13.535.742 women
- Ana: 2.091.177 women
- Francisca: 877.442 women
- Antônia: 689.588 women
- Márcia: 566.819 women
- Adriana: 546.629 women
- Sandra: 503.964 women
- Patrícia: 469.920 women
- Josefa: 458.488 women
- Vera: 431.212 women
- Sônia: 405.230 women
- Terezinha: 403.097 women
- Luciana: 401.517 women
- Rita: 400.972 women
- Juliana: 387.904 women
- Rosa: 387.321 women.
The Most Common Male Names
With nearly eight million representatives, José is nowadays the most popular male name in Brazil, according to the survey. With 3.6 million cases, the name Antônio is placed on the second position of the rank.
As the survey also takes into account the spelling of the names, the name Luiz with “z” has appeared in the third place, while Luís with “s” appeared in 16º. The curious thing is that the name with the letter “z”" is almost three times more used than with the name with the letter “s”.
The entire rank can be seeing below with the total amount of Brazilians that have each name:
- José: 7.911.550 men
- Antônio: 3.610.327 men
- João: 3.058.198 men
- Francisco: 2.309.005 men
- Luiz: 1.577.939 men
- Paulo: 1.456.465 men
- Carlos: 1.422.527 men
- Manoel: 1.350.128 men
- Pedro: 1.025.757 men
- Marcos: 858.877 men
- Raimundo: 836.362 men
- Sebastião: 806.332 men
- Marcelo: 647.060 men
- Jorge: 597.327 men
- Geraldo: 533.740 men
- Luís: 511.252 men.