Several aspects of Spanish surname conventions are unique when compared to other cultures. From double surnames and surname order, to hyphenated and compound surnames, understanding how they are formed can help you in your family history research.
Find out why Spanish people have two surnames, which last names might be linked to Spain’s royal family, and which Spanish surnames are extremely rare. Learning about surnames and their meanings can help you trace your Spanish heritage.
How Are Last Names Passed Down in Spain?
For people in Spain, last names represent both their paternal and maternal lineage. People are given two last names at birth, the first from their father and the second from their mother.
When married, Spanish women typically do not change their surnames to take on those of their husbands, as is common in the United States. Instead, when the married couple has children, the kids take on the paternal (first) surname of the father and the paternal (first) surname of the mother.
This is the reason why Spanish parents have different last names from their children. It also means that, ultimately, both parents’ paternal surnames are the only ones that pass down through generations.
Most Common Surnames of Spain
There is a wide range of surnames in Spain, but these are the 10 most common first surnames of Spain as of 2022:
How to Address Two Last Names in a Formal Setting
Since Spaniards have two last names, it may be intimidating to know which one to use when addressing them formally.
Typically, you should use their paternal (first) surname when addressing them in a formal setting. For example, Hector Rodríguez García would be referred to as Sr. Rodríguez, not Sr. García.
Spanish Surnames Ending in “ez”
Many Spanish surnames are patronymic last names, meaning they were originally derived from the father’s first name. In Spain and many other Spanish-speaking countries, it’s common for names to end in “ez,” which also means “son of.” Examples of patronymic Spanish surnames include:
- Hernández, meaning son of Hernando
- Márquez, meaning son of Marcos
- Rodríguez, meaning son of Rodrigo
- Fernández, meaning son of Fernándo
What Are the Royal Surnames of Spain?
The last name of the Spanish royal family is Borbón, which comes from the House of Bourbon (or Borbón), a European dynasty with French origins.
Nowadays, the Borbóns are the only surviving house of royals in Spain, and its current representative on the throne is King Juan Carlos I. His full name is Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón y Borbón. Monarchs in Spain can also take on the last name “de España,” meaning “of Spain.” This title is only given to those who have reigned.
Spanish female names and surnames in the royal family are commonly replaced by the title of Her Royal Highness “the Infanta”, which is given to the youngest royal in the family at birth.
This title dates back to the 1200s and gives the child the status of a Royal Highness. The current Infanta is Infanta Sofía of Spain. She is the daughter of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia. She is in the line of succession for the Spanish throne behind her older sister, Eleanor. For men, the youngest male royal receives the title His Royal Highness the Infante.
These Are Some of the Rarest Spanish Surnames
After learning about the most common surnames from Spain, you may wonder which Spanish last name is the rarest. Based on the list of rankings from Instituto Nacional de Estadística for 2022, Fulga and Zaharie are two of the least common last names in Spain, ranking at 26,222 and 26,223, respectively, out of 26,223 names listed.
Discover Your Lineage
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