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Culture —– Spanish Names

by Brandi

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November 16th, 2009

I have heard it said that of all the words in a language, our own first name is one of our most favorite and pleasant words to hear. We all enjoy being called by our first name. Using first names is an unwritten necessity of becoming good friends with someone. One of the most uncomfortable situations for me was when I when to my ten-year high school reunion and I couldn’t remember the first names of people I had been acquaintances with. It was also uncomfortable for them when they couldn’t recall my name.

According to the National Public Registry of a Latin American country, the names “María” and “José” are the most common first names in Spanish. They’re followed by “Luz” (female name) and “Juan”. It is thought that these names are the most common due to the religious nature of Latin Americans; both names are very prominent in the Bible.

In English, there are some names that are still used but may be considered somewhat outdated or maybe a little less popular. A specific first name I am thinking of is “Olga”. We don’t hear that name as much any more and it’s not on the “top ten” list of most popular names. The interesting thing is that in Spanish, the name “Olga” is a commonly heard name. It is not considered outdated and is fairly popular and well-liked. You may need to learn Spanish to increase your chances to meet some people with these names.

Here is an example of some of fun outdated names that most Latin American kids wouldn’t want to be named. A few close Latin American acquaintances told me about these names. These names are “Tiburcia” and “Anacleta”. There is also a male counterpart: “Tiburcio” and “Anacleto”. Now that you have this powerful and possibly dangerous information, you need to be cautious. I wouldn’t suggest going around calling people these names. There are still individuals that have and use them that could get offended.

Next let’s examine a few crossover names from English to Spanish. This is not necessarily an all-inclusive list and some of the crossover names have been debated, but here they are:
Female Names Male Names
Spanish English Spanish English
María Mary José Joseph
Catalina Katherine Juan John
Débora Deborah David David
Elena Helen Adán Adam
Blanca (literally means “white”) Blanch Alejandro Alexander
Esperanza Hope Alfredo Alfred
Estela Estelle Andrés Andrew
Eva Eve Benjamín Benjamin
Inés Agnes Bernardo Bernard
Leonor Eleanor Carlos Charles
Margarita Margaret Ceaser César (common Spanish name)
Marta Martha Cristián Christian
Matilde Matilda Cristóbal Christopher
Milagros Miracles Santiago James
Mónica Monica Eduardo Edward
Natalia Natalie Enrique Henry
Noemi Naomi Estéban Steven
Olimpia Olympia Federico Frederick
Perla Pearl Felipe Phillip
Priscila Priscilla Geraldo Gerald
Raquel Rachel Guillermo William
Rebeca Rebecca Marcos Mark
Rita Rita Mateo Matthew
Rosalina Rosalyn Miguel Michael
Rut Ruth Pablo Paul
Sara Sarah Pedro Peter
Silvia Sylvia Ramón or Raimundo Raymond
Sofía Sophie Ricardo Richard
Susana Susanna Roberto Robert
Teresa Theresa Tomás Thomas
Verónica Veronica Wilfredo Wilfred
Viviana Vivian Víctor Victor

Spanish Nicknames
Finally, we’ll take a look at some Spanish nicknames that people are often called because of their name. For example, I have an Uncle Richard and we all call him “Dick”. Another English example is when “Robert” is addressed as “Bob”.
Spanish Nicknames
Spanish Name Spanish Nickname
Adela (f) Adelina
Ana (f) Anita
Carlos (m) Carlitos
Carla (f) Carlota
David (m) Davico
Rosario (f) Charo
Consuelo (f) Chelo
Jesús (m) -common Spanish name Chucho
Concepeión (f) Concha
Concha (f) Conchita
Eva (f) Evita
Gracia (f) Graciela
Juana (f) Juanita
Juan (m) Juanito
Eduardo (m) Lalo
Dolores (f) Lola
Guadalupe (f) Lupita
Manuel (m) Manolo
Ignacio (m) Nacho
Francicso (m) Paco or Pancho
José (m) Pepe or Pepito
Pilar (f) Pili
Enrique (m) Quique
Rosa (f) Rosita
Sara (f) Sarita
Margarita (f) Margaret

Moral of the Story: Names are very important in any language. If you have not already, see if your name crosses over to Spanish.

Sneak peek at next week: “Spanish Names – Part II”

¡Hasta luego! (“Until later!”)
David S. Clark — President / Director

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2 Responses

  1. I have been reading your cultural blog about spouses calling one another “gorda” or, less offensive, “gordita”. Another common nickname is “viejo”, “viejita” or “mi vieho”. (old man, old woman, my old man)
    Shortly after my marriage, my Mexican husband, in English, said, “Where is my coffee, woman?” I hit the roof, but he explained that that would be a compliment to a Mexican wife. (Needless to say, he hasn’t “complimented” me like that again.)

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