Origin of Spanish (Hispanic) Surnames

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Spanish surnames can be categorized into the following:

·        Patronyms.
A patronymic name is derived from the name of the individual’s father, his grandfather or a paternal ancestor. This was common during the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain.

Spanish patronyms have common endings such as “az”, “ez”, or “iz” which means “son of”. This syllable is attached to an ancestor’s first name to form the person’s surname. Some examples are: Nuñez meaning “son of Nuño”, Rodriguez meaning “son of Rodrigo”, Fernandez meaning “son of Fernando”.

·        Place of Origin or Residence.
The place of origin of an individual was also used as a surname. The name of a place is also added as a second surname preceded by the word “de” meaning “from” or “del” meaning “from the”.

The name “Villavicencio” falls under this second category. It was derived from the name of the place where the individual lived. Thus, the surname “Nunez de Villavicencio” means “Nunez from the town of Vicencio or Villavicencio”. Over the years, the “de” or “del” was dropped from the surname. In other instances, the “de” or “del” is retained as in “de Leon”  which means “from Leon”,  “del Valle” which means “from the valley”, “del Monte” which means “from the mountain”.
·        Title, Profession or Occupation of the Individual.
individual was also named based on his profession. Some examples include: “Marinero” meaning “sailor”, “Panadero” meaning “bread-maker”, “Guerrero” meaning “warrior”, “Herrero” meaning “ironsmith”.

·       Nickname or other personal characteristic of the individual or an anecdote or special event describing or relating to the individual or the family.
“Calvo” meaning “bald” and “Flaco” meaning “thin” is an example of a surname describing the personal characteristic of the individual.

An example of a surname depicting an event in the life of the individual is “Armenteros” from the word “Arma Entera” which means “full armament”. It was a name given to Don Rodrigo de Guzman by Royal Decree because he continued to battle the moors with just a wooden log even after losing his sword.

·        Religious connotations or derived from church place-names.
“San Jose” is an example of a surname derived from church place-names. “Angeles” connotes “angels”, “Luz” for “light”, “Pilar” for “pillar”, “de los Santos” for “from the saints” ,  “del Rosario” for “from the rosary”.

·        Local benefactor.
The newborn adapts the surname of a Godparent.
Slaves adapt the name of their masters.
In these cases, there is no blood affinity to the family of the source of the surname.
Compound Surnames.
Traditionally, the Spanish form of surname contains both the first surname which is the father’s surname and followed by the second surname, the maternal surname. Both surnames are carried on to the succeeding generations especially when the paternal surname is a common surname and the maternal surname is quite famous. The compound surname is separated by the word “y” meaning “and” in order to separate the groups of surnames of the two parents. Sometimes a dash “-“ is used to group the surnames. This helps in preventing confusion in identifying the surnames of the parents of the individual.  The civil and/or church records of an individual normally indicate both the surnames of the grandparents and great-grandparents.
Below is an illustration showing the compounding of the surnames. The paternal surnames are shown in bold.
Eulalio Villavicencio --- Gliceria Marella Legaspi
                  Sixto Villavicencio Marella --- Delfina Ilagan Huerto
                                          Edgardo Villavicencio Ilagan
                                          Edgardo Villavicencio y Ilagan
                                          Edgardo Villavicencio-Ilagan
                                          Edgardo Villavicencio Marella y Ilagan
                                          Edgardo Villavicencio-Marella y Ilagan
                                          Edgardo Villavicencio Marella y Ilagan Huerto
                                          Edgardo Villavicencio-Marella y Ilagan-Huerto
                                          Edgardo Villavicencio Marella Ilagan Huerto
In the example, Eulalio Villavicencio marries Gliceria Marella Legaspi. 
Their son Sixto Villavicencio Marella marries Delfina Ilagan Huerto. 
The name of the son of Sixto and Delfina is Edgardo Villavicencio Ilagan, 
Edgardo Villavicencio y Ilagan, Edgardo Villavicencio-Ilagan. 
When the maternal surname is included, the name can be Edgardo Villavicencio 
Marella y Ilagan, or Edgardo Villavicencio-Marella y Ilagan.
When the full compound maternal surname is used together with the full paternal 
surname, the son can be called Edgardo Villavicencio Marella y Ilagan Huerto 
or Edgardo Villavicencio-Marella y Ilagan-Huerto. This name identifies the 
surnames of both the paternal and maternal grandparents of Edgardo. 
As mentioned earlier, surnames are carried on to the succeeding generations 
when a maternal surname is quite famous. Gliceria Marella (the paternal 
grandmother of Edgardo) was a famous person, having been a heroine of the 
Philippine Revolution against Spain. In order to preserve the name “Marella” for 
future generations, it would be advantageous not to omit the Marella name from 
the paternal surname of Edgardo as depicted in the last two forms in the 
preceding paragraph.
What would be the effect If the “y” or dash “-“ is omitted and the full paternal 
name and full maternal name is used? The name above will become Edgardo 
illavicencio Marella Ilagan Huerto. This name sounds very confusing because 
there is no grouping of surnames. There would be a need to refer back to the 
genealogical records of the person and his parents in order to clarify the 
paternal and maternal surnames.
Name of Spouse.
 Hispanic customs allow wives to retain their maiden names upon marriage. 
A husband’s surname is added to their surname, preceded by the word “de” 
which means “of” or implying “the spouse of”. In our example, Gliceria 
Marella Legaspi can be named Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio after 
marriage. Delfina Ilagan Huerto can sign her name as Delfina Ilagan de 
Villavicencio, or as Delfina Ilagan Huerto de Villavicencio Marella.  Upon the 
death of the husband, his widow can use the words “viuda de” or “vda. de” 
meaning “widow of” instead of the word “de”.  e.g. Gliceria Marella vda. 
de Villavicencio.
Present Usage.
In today’s practice, a person is addressed using the paternal surname. Thus, in the example above Edgardo should be addressed as “Mr. Villavicencio” or as “Mr. Villavicencio Ilagan”. It would be incorrect to name him “Mr. Edgardo Ilagan” because Ilagan is his maternal surname.
It becomes confusing when the maternal name is used especially when a Hispanic-named person migrates to a different culture like the USA. Thus, there are instances when the maternal name is dropped. Another option is to retain both surnames with a dash “-“ being added between the paternal and the maternal surname. Edgardo will be addressed as “Mr. Villavicencio-Ilagan”.
In Central and South America as well as other Hispanic countries, it is a practice for the maiden name to be listed as an initial of the maternal surname. The person in our example can be addressed as “Mr. Edgardo Villavicencio I.”.
In the Philippines, it is common to put the paternal surname in the end and the maternal surname as the middle name. Thus, we have the name “Edgardo Ilagan Villavicencio”. The middle name which is the maiden name is sometimes abbreviated using the initial letter. Thus, the person in our example can be addressed as “Mr. Edgardo I. Villavicencio”. Some women some prefer to retain their maiden name after getting married by adding a dash between their surname and their husband’s surname. e.g. Delfina Ilagan-Villavicencio.
The Philippines was a colony of Spain for at least 350 years and the Hispanic culture had a great influence on the country. In the early 19th century, there were persons who had Hispanic name-forms wherein the maternal surname was in the end and the paternal surname was the middle name. Some included a dash “-“ to separate the surnames.  e.g. Mateo Gutierrez-Ubaldo where Gutierrez is the paternal surname.

Middle Names.
Individuals are given middle names, sometimes with a string of middle names when they are baptized.  This is still being practiced in several countries with Spanish influence like the Philippines. These middle names honor ancestors, godfathers, benefactors or the name of the Saint in the Catholic Church whose feast day is the same as the person being baptized.  If one would refer to the Church calendar, it would give a clue on the birthday of that person by identifying his middle name that corresponds to the name of the Saint in the calendar. 

Nicknames are also very common in countries with Spanish influence. In many instances, they are frequently used and the real names are forgotten by the person’s friends and relatives.
Some common nicknames include: Lala for Adelaida, Toño for Antonio, Concha for Concepcion, Chelo for Consuelo, Fico for Federico, Pado for Francisco, Pepe for Jose, Pepa for Josefa, Pili for Pilar and many others.
In the Philippines, there are nicknames that repeats a syllable such as: Bongbong, Dondon, Ningning, Noynoy, etc. 

Spanish custom convey respect in addressing a person by adding honorifics preceding the person’s name. Some of the honorifics include:
Don – with a capital “D”  indicates nobility similar to “Sir”. If the “d” is lower case, it is a title of respect for an older person or a distinguished individual.
Doña – is the equivalent of Don for female. With a capital “D”, it is similar to “Lady”.
De – “from” or “belonging to”
Vda. de – means “Viuda de” or “Widow of”
Rdo – “Reverendo” or Priest
S.M. – “Su Majestad” or “His/Her Majesty”
S.A.R. – “Su Alteza Real” or “His/Her Royal Highness”
Excmo. – “Excelentisimo” or “His/Her Excelency”
Lcdo., Ldo. – “Licenciado” or “Licensed – Lawyer”
Ing. – “Ingeniero”  or “Engineer”, which is a honorable profession in Latin cultures.

Name Changes.
In most Hispanic countries, changing a surname was not allowed unless done through legislature. A person’s name cannot be change to a different surname if that person is not entitled by blood relation to the desired surname. Even a simple translation of one’s surname is not allowed. Changing a surname is different from the selection of a surname as presented earlier.
In the Philippines, majority of the surnames of Filipinos are Spanish or Spanish-sounding due to the fact that they were mandated to adopt a surname in 1849  that was to be taken from a list in the “Catálogo alfabético de apellidos" (Alphabetic Catalogue of Surnames).

Naming Custom During the Middle Ages.
The custom of naming sons after the name of their ancestors were strictly followed during the Middle Ages. The first son was named after his paternal grandfather, the second son is named after his maternal grandfather, third son is named after his father if the father’s name was not the same as his grandfather’s. The remaining sons are named after their paternal or maternal uncles. This custom is also applied in the naming of the daughters. The first daughter was named after the maternal grandfather. The only time that the naming custom is not followed is when there is a promise or a special devotion to a saint.
In the 16th century, the Council of Trent required surnames to be passed from father to son. The Council of Trent was the ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church. The council convened in Trent in Northern Italy between December 13, 1945 and 1563 in response to the Protestant Reformation Movement. It mandated that local parishes were to keep written records of baptisms, marriages, deaths and confirmations in a specific format. It also required the periodic inspection and certification by the representatives of the regional bishop. 
The Civil Register.
The Civil Registers (“Registro Civil”) which recorded births, marriages and deaths was instituted in Spain only in 1870. Although in some regions of Spain like in Castille, the registry books of the parish existed already as early as the late 13th century before the convening of the Council of Trent because of an earlier mandate by a certain Cardinal Cisneros.
The registry was applied to Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1884 but the civil registration of all marriages, whether religious or civil was imposed only in 1900. After 1918, civil marriage became mandatory whether accompanied by a religious ceremony or not. In the Philippines, the registration was implemented in 1889 by the Spanish authorities under the Central Office of Statistics (Central Estadistica) although prior to that year, records were maintained in the Catholic parish and diocesan archives by the Catholic clergy.
Philippine Naming System.
Majority of the surnames of Filipinos are Spanish or Spanish-sounding. This was as a result of a mandate by the Spanish authorities in the Philippines under the authority of Governor General Narcia Clavería for Filipino natives to adopt a surname to be taken from a list for the purpose of taxing them.
The Claveria Decree dated November 21, 1849 provided for a systematic distribution of family names. It produced a list called the "Catálogo alfabético de apellidos" (Alphabetic Catalogue of Surnames) which was a collection of surnames mostly from Spain and with many Filipino words of flora and fauna and some Hispanized Chinese numerals.
Explicitly excluded from the list were surnames of Spanish nobility, as well as surnames that belonged to the Spanish colonial administrators in the Philippines because it had acquired connotation of prestige in the colony.
A Philippine Spanish–sounding surname does not indicate Spanish ancestry. Only a small percentage of the Filipino population has Spanish lineage or considered Spanish mestizos.
Currently, the British naming form is followed in the Philippines. This is represented by a given name followed by the middle name and then the surname, e.g. Edgardo Ilagan Villavicencio. Although many elders still follow the Spanish naming system because the country was under Spanish rule for not less than 350 years, i.e. Edgardo Villavicencio y Ilagan. Some Filipinos were given dual first names or one may call refer to having a middle name, i.e. Edgardo Jose Villavicencio y Ilagan.
The Philippines had started to use the Anglo-American name form when it became a US colony in 1898. In the name above the “y” was removed and the name became Edgardo Jose Ilagan Villavicencio and later shortened to Edgardo Jose I. Villavicencio with the middle name or initial representing the surname of the mother.
There are numerous indigenous Filipino surnames while the younger population have adopted American first names.

Diccionario de Apellidos Españoles by: Roberto Faure, Maria Asuncion Ribes, Antonio Garcia – Editorial Espasa Calpe S.A., Madrid 2001.[ISBN 84-239-2289-8].
Notes on Cuban Surnames by Ed Elizondo, June 2007
Wikipedia.org/wiki/Council of Trent