A primer on Spanish names

Note: For the sake of relative brevity and singular focus, only purely Spanish names will be covered here. Though there are also many names of Catalan, Basque, and Galician origin in Spain, each is a distinct language with an accompanying unique culture. Just because different ethnic groups live together doesn’t mean they’re basically identical.

My Atlantic City characters Rich and Thelma Norris are half-Spanish through their disinterested, absentee lawyer mother Maria. Mrs. Norris’s birth surname was Gómez, and her ancestors came from Spain. She has very strong blood, and both of her children came out with black hair and eyes. Originally, they were written as having hair so black it naturally had blue highlights, but as an adult, I’m not so sure that’s biologically possible or realistic. It’s the kind of thing I’d expect from a cheesy Seventies romance novel!

One of Cinnimin’s neighbors, Antonia Cortez, is also of Spanish descent. She’s married to Patrick Valli, who Cinni loves to hate. Mrs. Cortez is the only woman in town of that generation who kept her name.

In the modern era, Cinnimin and Levon’s grandson Calvin marries a nice Dominican woman, Romina Sánchez. Typical Cinni isn’t thrilled Calvin converts to Catholicism for his girlfriend, nor that Romina has darker skin. Calvin and Romina will name their kids Bruno and Rosalba.

Spanish surnames:

Pretty much everyone is familiar with the Spanish custom of constantly adding on new names instead of only having one or two. This custom really isn’t as confusing as many people think it is. In normal, everyday life, you typically only use your first two names, not all 64! You use your mother’s first surname and your father’s first surname. Happily, women keep their surnames if they marry, and since 2005, Spanish law no longer mandates the father’s surname come first. The names just have to be in the same order for all children of that union.

Like with most other cultures, Spanish surnames too have origins in patronymics, professions, nicknames, and geography. Foundling orphans frequently got surnames designating the town or place where they’d been found, and since many were raised in Church-run orphanages, they also got surnames like Iglesias (Church) and Cruz (Cross).

Pronunciation:

Spanish uses the Roman alphabet, with pronunciation pretty much everyone is familiar with due to the popularity of Spanish as a second language in schools, and how many Spanish-speakers live in the U.S. The only really different letters are Ñ (like the ny in “canyon” or the Italian GN), RR (a trilled, rolled R), J (H), X (like the Spanish J), and LL. Depending upon the region, LL may be pronounced like a Y, SH, English J, or even a French G. I was taught to pronounce it like a Y, so I pronounce the word llama as “yama.” It drives me nuts to hear people pronouncing it “lama”!

Nicknames:

Pretty much any Spanish name can be turned into a diminutive by adding -ito, -ita, -cito, -cita, -quito, -quito, -illa, or -illo to the end. If the name ends in a vowel, just remove the vowel first. Other nicknames aren’t so obvious.

Some common Spanish names and their nickname forms:

Female:

Abigaíl
Adela (Adelita)
Adelaida (Adela, Ade)
Adelina (Lina, Deli)
Adoración (Adora)
Adriana (Adri)
Agata, Águeda
Alba, Albina
Alejandra (Aleja, Jandra, Jana, Sandra, Aleja, Ale)
Alicia (Licha, Ali)
Alma
Alondra (Lark)
Amalia, Amelia
Amparo (Shelter, protection)
Ana (Anita)
Anastasia
Andrea
Antonia (Toña, Tona, Toñi, Tonia, Antoñita)
Anunciación
Araceli (Altar of the sky)
Ariadna (Ari)
Ascensión (Choni, Ascen)
Asunción (Susi, Suni, Asun) (Assumption)
Aurelia
Aurora
Beatriz (Betina, Beti, Bea)
Begoña (Bego)
Belén (Bethlehem)
Benita
Blanca
Brunilda (Nilda)
Calista
Calixta
Camila
Candelaria (Candelita, Candi, Cande, Can, Candelas, Candela)
Cándida (Candi)
Caridad (Carita, Cari) (Charity)
Carina (Dear, belovèd)
Carla (Carlita)
Carlota
Carmel
Carmen (Carmita, Carmencha, Carmenchu, Menchu, Mamen)
Carolina (Carito, Caroli, Cárol, Caro)
Catalina (Lina, Cati, Cata, Caty)
Cecilia (Cilia, Ceci, Cece, Chila, Chili)
Celestina
Celia
Cintia
Clara
Clarisa
Claudia (Claudi, Clau)
Clementina
Concepción (Conchi, Conchita, Concha, Conce, Ciona, Choni, Chon, Cione)
Consolación (Conso)
Constanza
Consuelo, Consuela (Consu, Chelo, Coni)
Crescencia
Cristina (Tina, Cristi, Cris)
Custodia (Guardian)
Dalia (Dali)
Dalila (Lila)
Daniela
Delfina
Desideria
Dolores (Loli, Loles, Lola)
Dorotea
Dulce
Elena
Eliana
Elodia
Eloísa (Elo)
Elvira
Emilia, Emiliana, Emelina
Emperatriz (Empress)
Ercarnación (Encarnita, Encarni, Encarna)
Esmeralda (Emerald)
Esperanza (Pera, Espe, Lancha, Pancha) (Hope)
Estefanía (Estefi, Estefa)
Estela, Estrella
Eugenia (Genita)
Eulalia
Eva (Evita)
Fabiana, Fabiola
Fátima
Felicia, Feliciana, Felicidad (Feli, Felacha)
Felipa
Fernanda (Nanda, Feña, Fer)
Filomena
Flavia
Florentina, Florina, Florinda (Flora, Flor, Florci, Florcita, Florchi, Florchu, Lencha)
Fortunata
Francisca (Paqui, Paquita, Fran, Sisca, Cisca, Pancha, Paca, Curra, Quica, Panchita, Panchi)
Gabriela (Gabi, Gaba)
Gisela
Gloria
Graciela, Gracia, Graciana (Chela)
Griselda (Celda, Gris)
Guadalupe (Lupe, Guada, Pupe, Lupita, Lupilla, Pita)
Hortensia (Tencha, Horten)
Ignacia (Ina, Nacia, Nacha)
Imelda
Inés
Inmaculada
Inocencia (Chencha)
Irene
Isabel, Ysabel (Belica, Beli, Bela, Isa, Sabel, Sabela, Chabela, Chavela, Chavelita, Chabelita)
Isaura
Isidora
Jacinta
Jesusa (Susi, Sus, Chusa, Susa, Chucha, Chuy, Chuyita)
Josefa (Pepa, Pepi, Pepita, Fina, Fini, Finita)
Josefina (Jose, Fina, Pepa, Pepita, Chepina, Chepita)
Jovita
Juana
Júlia, Juliana
Laura (Lala, Lalita, Lauri, Lauris)
Leocadia
Leonor
Leticia (Leti)
Lidia
Liliana
Lorena (Lore)
Lourdes (Lulú, Lourditas)
Lucía, Luciana, Lucila (Luci, Lucita)
Luisa (Luisina)
Luz (Light)
Magdalena (Mada, Magda, Malena, Mane, Manena, Lena, Leni, Lenita)
Manuela
Marcelina (Celina, Chela, Marce)
Margarita (Marga, Magui, Margari, Mague, Rita)
María (Mari, Maruja, Marujita, Marica, Marita, Mariquita, Mariquilla)
Marta (Martita)
Máxima
Melania
Mercedes (Merce, Merche, Merchi, Meche, Meches, Merceditas) (Mercies)
Micaela, Miguela (Mica)
Milagros (Miracles)
Minerva (Miner, Mine)
Miriam (Miri)
Mónica (Moni, Mo)
Narcisa
Natalia
Natividad (Nati, Tivi)
Nereida (Nymphs)
Nicolasa (Colasa, Nico)
Nieves, Nieve (Snow[s])
Noemí, Nohemi
Nuria
Octavia
Olimpia
Olivia
Oriana (Nana, Nanita, Ori, Ana, Anita)
Pacífica (Peacemaker)
Pacificación (Paz)
Palmira (Pilgrim)
Paloma (Palo) (Dove, pigeon)
Pascuala
Paula, Paulina (Pauli, Pau)
Patricia (Patri, Pati, Pato, Tricia)
Paz (Peace)
Perla (Perlita) (Pearl)
Perpetua
Pía
Piedad (Piety)
Pilar (Pili, Pilarín, Piluca, Petita)
Primitiva
Prudencia
Rafaela
Ramona
Raquel
Rebeca
Regina
Reina, Reyna (Queen)
Remedios (Reme) (Remedies)
Ricarda
Roberta (Robertina)
Rocío (Roci, Roco, Ro, Chio) (Dew)
Rosa, Rosalía, Rosalina, Rosalba, Rosalva, Rosalinda (Rosita, Rosi, Chalia)
Rosario (Charo)
Salomé (Salo)
Sara (Sarita)
Selena
Silvia
Socorro (Succor, relief, help)
Sofía (Sofi)
Sol (Sun)
Soledad (Sol, Sole, Chol, Chole) (Solitude)
Susana (Susi, Sus, Su)
Teodora
Teresa (Teresita, Teresina, Teresica, Tere)
Trinidad (Trini)
Úrsula
Valencia (Power)
Valentina (Valen, Vale, Val, Tina, Tinita)
Vera
Verónica (Nica, Vero, Veru, Verita)
Victoria (Viqui, Tori, Toria, Toya)
Violeta
Viviana
Ximena, Jimena
Xiomara
Yesenia (a type of South American tree)
Yolanda (Yola, Yoyi, Yoli)
Zoraida

Male:

Aarón
Abel
Abilio
Adán (Adam)
Adrián (Adri)
Agustín, Augusto
Alberto (Berto, Beto, Tico, Tito, Tuco)
Alejandro (Ale, Alejo, Jandro, Jano, Sandro)
Alfonso, Alonso (Alfon, Fonso, Fonsi, Poncho, Fon)
Alfredo
Álvaro
Ambrosio
Andrés (Andi)
Ángel
Anselmo
Antonio (Antón, Tonio, Toni, Tono, Tonino, Toño, Toñin, Antoñito, Antuco, Antuquito)
Apolinar
Armando
Arturo (Lito, Turito)
Aurelio
Baltasar
Bartolomé
Benito
Benjamín (Benja, Benjas, Benji, Ben, Jamin)
Bernabé (Berna)
Bonifacio (Boni)
Bruno
Candelario
Cándido (Candi)
Carlos (Carlito, Carlitos, Carlo, Calo, Calin, Carlines, Litos, Charli, Chepe)
Celestino (Celes, Cele, Tino)
César (Checha, Cesito, Cesitar)
Cipriano
Ciro (Cirino)
Claudio
Constantino (Tino)
Cristián (Cris)
Cristóbal (Cris, Toba, Cristo) (Christopher)
Cruz (Crucita, Chuz)
Daniel (Dani)
David (Davito, Davo)
Demetrio
Desiderio (Desi)
Diego
Domingo
Eduardo (Lalo, Edu, Guayo, Duardo)
Elías
Eligio
Eliseo
Emilio, Emiliano
Enrique (Kiko, Quico, Quique)
Erasmo
Ernesto (Tito, Neto, Netico)
Esteban (Estebi)
Eugenio (Genito, Genin, Genio)
Ezequiel
Fabián, Fabio
Fabricio
Faustino, Fausto
Federico (Fico, Fede)
Felipe (Pipe, Lipe, Fele)
Félix
Fermín (Fermo, Mincho)
Fernando (Nando, Nano, Fer, Femi, Feña, Fercho)
Flavio
Florencio, Flortentino (Floro, Lencho)
Fortunato
Francisco (Paco, Sisco, Cisco, Chisco, Curro, Quico, Kiko, Frasco, Fran, Francis, Pacho, Pacho, Panchito, Frascuelo)
Gabriel (Gabo, Gabi, Gabri)
Gerardo (Gera, Lalo, Yayo)
Germán (Mancho)
Gilberto
Gonzalo (Gonza, Gonzo, Gonchi, Chalo, Lalo, Gon, Talo, Tali)
Gregorio (Gorio, Goyo)
Guillermo (Guille, Guíller, Merne, Momo, Memo) (William)
Héctor (Torin, Tito)
Heliodoro (Gift of the Sun)
Hernando (Hernán)
Horacio
Hugo
Ignacio (Nacho, Nacio, Nachito, Naco)
Ismael (Mael, Isma)
Iván (Ivo, Ivi)
Jacobo (Yago, Yaco, Cobo)
Jaime (Jaimón)
Javier (Javo, Javi, Javito)
Jeremías
Jesús (Chus, Xus, Jesu, Chuso, Chusi, Chucho, Chuchi, Chuy, Suso, Susi, Chuyito)
Joaquín (Joaco, Juaco, Quino, Quincho, Quin)
Jorge (Jecito, Jorgis, Gorge, Jorgito, Jorgecito)
José (Pepe, Pepito, Chepe, Chepito, Jose, Pito, Pepin, Pepu)
Juan (Juanito, Juanin, Juancho, Juanelo, Juampi)
Julián (Juli, Julianillo)
Julio (Julito, Julin, Juli)
Lázaro
Leandro
León, Leonardo
Leopoldo
Lisandro
Lorenzo (Lencho)
Luciano (Lucho, Ciano, Chano)
Luis (Lucho, Luisito, Luisin, Güicho)
Macario
Manuel (Meño, Mani, Manué, Manolin, Mel, Manu, Manolo, Manolito, Manuelito, Manolillo, Lito, Lilo, Nel, Nelo, Lolo)
Marcelo (Marce, Chelo)
Marcos
Mario (Mayito)
Mateo, Matías
Mauricio (Mauro, Mauri, Mau)
Máximo (Maxi, Mino, Max, Maximino)
Miguel (Miki, Michel, Migue)
Nazario
Nicolás (Nico, Colás)
Norberto (Berto, Bertin, Nórber)
Octavio
Óscar
Osvaldo
Pablo
Pánfilo
Pascual
Patricio (Patri, Pato)
Pedro (Perico, Peret, Perucho)
Plácido
Plinio
Quirino
Rafael (Rafi, Rafa, Rafo, Rafita, Fali, Falo, Fael)
Ramón (Moncho, Monchi, Mon)
Raúl
Ricardo (Rica, Richi, Ricki, Rocho, Ricar)
Roberto (Róber, Berto, Beto, Tito, Robe)
Rodolfo (Rodo, Rudi, Bofo, Fofo, Fito)
Rodrigo (Roy, Ruy, Ro, Rodri)
Rogelio
Rolando, Roldán
Salomón (Salo)
Salvador (Salva, Chava, Chavito, Salvita, Salvi, Chavi)
Sancho (Saintly)
Santiago (Yago, Santi, Diejo, Chago, Tiago)
Sebastián (Seba, Sebas)
Sergio (Checo, Chucho, Chejo, Checho, Keko, Yeyo)
Simón (Monsi)
Teodoro (Teo)
Timoteo (Teo, Tein)
Tomás (Tomi, Tomasín)
Ulises
Urbano
Valentín (Val, Valen, Val, Tino, Tinito, Valente)
Vicente (Vicen, Vicho, Sento, Chente)
Victor (Vitor, Vico, Vis)
Ximeno, Jimeno
Zacariás

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