Articles > Names
Spanish Names from the Late 15th Century
by Juliana de Luna (Julia Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org)
© 1999-2000 by Julia Smith; all rights reserved.
Surnames were still quite simple in the late 15th century. The vast
majority of people had a single element surname. Two element surnames
occur rarely; three element surnames are not found in this data. No
surname at all is given for 9% of men and 15% of women. A variety of
reasons account for this: some were royal (and the queen's immediate
family), others were servants, and still others were people whose
surnames may simply not have been known.
Over 50% of people had simple locative surnames, taking the form de
(placename), meaning 'of (or from) a place'. 55% of men and 51% of
women with surnames had surnames of this type. Some mentioned a specific
place, while others may describe a kind of location rather than be the
name of a specific place (e.g. de la Vega means 'from the meadow').
Locative surnames rarely refer to the name of a kingdom (such as Leon,
Castile, Aragon, and Portugal), because these names were reserved for
descendants of the lords of the rulers of those kingdoms. However,
because these names were preserved over generations, using them does not
claim to be the son of a king, only a descendant of one.
About 10% of men and 19% of women used simple patronymic surnames. The
majority of these surnames were formed by taking a man's name, dropping
the final 'o' (if there was one), and adding 'ez' to the end. A smaller
number were formed by simply using the father's name without
modification. These names were originally true patronymics, in which
each person would form a new name from his own father's name; by the
late 15th century, they had become frozen as surnames inherited from
generation to generation.
Several other kinds of surnames are found mostly descriptive names of
various sorts. No single type of other surname comprises more than a few
percent of individuals. Some, such as el joven 'the young', el
negro 'dark' and Calvo 'bald' describe a physical trait. Others
describe other kinds of traits, such as Bravo 'brave' and Cortes
'courteous. Others, such as Aragones 'Aragonese', Naharro
'Navarese', and Gallego 'Gallician' describe citizenship or ethnicity.
Still others are occupational, including Peregrin 'pilgrim', el
ballestero 'crossbowman', Capenellas 'chaplain'. Some names are
simply unidentifiable. As with patronymic surnames, most of these surnames
were inherited family names rather than literal descriptions of these
Less than 7% of men and less than 3% of women have two element surnames.
Of these names, 70% combine a first patronymic element with a second
locative element: Ferrandes de Llerrena, Ruyz de Azcona, and Ponçe
de Leon for example. The remaining 30% of two element surnames are
split evently between the pattern of a patronymic element followed by
another kind of element and the pattern of another element followed by a
locative element. Examples of the first include Peres Vitoria and
Alonso Niño; examples of the second include Hurtado de Mendoça and
Carrillo de Guadalupe. There are no examples of combinations of two
patronymic elements or two locative elements.
Return to the top of this page
Return to the main page of this article