The most common and popular surnames in Brazil, their origins and meanings.
Brazilian surnames, their origins, and meanings. What you like the most is what you should bring
Most common surnames in Brazil
The Albuquerque family in Portugal arose from the descent of Dom João Afonso Telo de Meneses, lord of the town and castle of Albuquerque. It is a surname derived from the junction of two Latin terms which mean “white oak”. In Brazil, the first people who arrived with this surname in the country settled in the northeast region during the colonization period. The official coat of arms of the Albuquerque family is composed of a shield in the colors red and silver and the symbols of the cross, stars, and lilies.
In Portugal, there are records of the surname Almeida that refer to a glorious conquest, resulting from the episode in which the noble knight Dom Payo Guterres Amado would have taken possession of the Castle of Almeida in a region of Portugal. The origin of the surname, however, is Arabic, through a word with elements that refer to the plain and glory, so the meaning of “glorious conquest” is related to this surname. Among the Coat of Arms of the main families of the Portuguese nobility is the Coat of Arms of the Almeida Family, granted in 1494.
Great and noble meanings such as “noble warrior”, “army of elves”, “protecting warrior” or “protecting genius” are associated with the surname “Alvares”. It has two possible origins, Portuguese and Nordic, the latter being associated with the name Alvaro. The Alvares family coat of arms shows the colors blue and red on a shield where a silver eagle is crowned with two heads
Alves is a surname of Portuguese origin that appeared as a diminutive of the first name Alvaro. It means “son of Álvaro”. In turn, the name Álvaro is of Nordic origin, meaning “army of elves” or “elf warrior”. The coat of arms of the Alves is composed of a shield broken into 3 parts: the first part has a two-headed eagle with two gold crowns on a red background; the second part has a gold cross on a blue background and the last part presents a blue background accompanied by three silver waves.
The surname Amorim has Portuguese and Spanish origins and carries the meanings of “place of lovers”, “place to love” or “lovers”. The coat of arms of the Amorim family branched out from Portugal is in red with the design of five decapitated Moorish heads. This symbol is a representation of the struggle between the Christians and the Moors for dominance of the Iberian lands.
Andrade carries the meanings of “toponym of the kingdom of Galicia” or “a reference to the New Jews”. The surname may have arisen through an important family that lived in the parish of Andrade, in the kingdom of Galicia, where the city of Pontedeume in Spain is currently located. Among the Portuguese, it has been present since the 14th century, but it is estimated that the first family to possess this name was from the 12th century.
According to historical records, a soldier named Simão Antunes would have fought in the Flanders War in defense of King Charles V. In return, the king granted him a noble coat of arms for his line of descendants: a silver castle carved in black with a red background. This surname is associated with families that had a patriarch called Antony. Antunes means “Antonio’s family”, “Antonio’s descendants” or “son of the valuable one”. Therefore, many families arose based on this same name, not meaning that they have any kind of consanguineous relationship.
The beautiful surname Aragon comes from Spain, more specifically from the north of this country, where there is an autonomous community called Aragón. This is why the meaning of this surname is “proceeding from Aragón”.
In Portugal, Rodrigo de Araújo’s great-grandson, Pedro Anes de Araújo, was the first person to receive this surname, which proliferated in the Minho region. Araújo carries the meanings of “tree” and “from Minho”. This surname has Spanish and Portuguese origins, being widely found in the north of Portugal. Scholars believe that the first records of this name refer to the lord of Araújo Castle, who became known as Rodrigo Anes de Araújo, from Galicia.
The official coat of arms of the Azevedo family is the figure of a black eagle stamped on a gold shield. This surname of Portuguese origin came from a Latin word that refers to “thorny bushes”. In Portugal, the first people to receive this name would be inhabitants of the famous Quinta de Azevedo who, in turn, would have received this name due to the predominant vegetation of the place, i.e., places that had vegetation with thorny trees.
D. Sancho Nunes Barbosa is listed as the first person to use the surname Barbosa in reference to the property he inherited, called Quinta de Barbosa. Barbosa pseudo cocos are the scientific name of a plant of the palm family very similar to a palm tree. So, probably in the region where the farm was located were found specimens of this plant. The beautiful coat of arms of the Barbosa family has the colors blue, silver, and purple with three dragons arranged around a shield.
The surname is of Portuguese and Spanish origin, which may have originated from the Catalan word baster, meaning “to build”. Another hypothesis for its meaning lies in the meaning of the word bastão in Portuguese, which means “small cylindrical and thick stick”. The first records of people using the name Basto or Bastos as a surname date back to between the 11th and 12th centuries, in Portugal.
This surname originated from John the Baptist, a biblical character known for having baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. Thus, the surname Baptist means “one who baptizes”. Baptist has a Greek origin from a word that has the meaning of “to submerge, to immerse”.
Of Portuguese origin, the surname Bernardes is considered a patronymic name, in other words, it makes reference to a family patriarch. It means “son of Bernardo”. Therefore, many families that have this surname do not necessarily have a consanguineous relationship.
The best-known Botelhos coat of arms is composed of a gold shield pierced by four red stripes. It is a surname that has Portuguese and Spanish origins and derives from a word that simply means “bottle”. The meaning attached to this surname is, therefore, “those who make bottles”.
A surname of Spanish origin, Camargo originated from a region called Cantabrica, where there was a settlement living in a village called Camargo. Scholars point out that the first person to arrive with this surname on the American Continent was Alonso de Camargo in the 16th century.
The coat of arms of the Cardoso family is formed by a thistle flanked by two animals, one on each side of the plant. The origin of the surname Cardoso dates back to around the year 1100 and is of Portuguese origin. The name came from the existence of a thistle plant in a region inhabited by the first Cardoso families. That is why the surname Cardoso means “inhabitant of a place where thistles are abundant”.
A surname of Hebrew origin, Carmo originated from a mountain town of the same name, located in Judah, which is now called Jabel Kurmul. The meaning attached to this popular surname in Brazil is “well-cultivated orchard”, “fertile garden”, and “vineyard of God”.
The Carvalho family was considered one of the 72 families that belonged to the high nobility of Portugal in the 16th century. The popularisation of the surname started in the 17th century when Iberian Jews started adopting Portuguese and Spanish surnames to escape religious and political persecution, becoming known as “new Christians”. The meanings attached to the surname Carvalho are “longevity”, “endurance” or “tree of multiple characteristics”.
The Castro family crest is part of the 72 main Portuguese families that have their crest painted in a room at the National Palace of Sintra. This surname of Portuguese origin came from a Latin word meaning “fortress”. The surname was used to identify people who were born or lived near fortresses or castles. Thus, the surname Castro means “one who was born near castles”, or “one who lives in a place characterized by the existence of fortresses”.
Common surnames in Brazil
The first known Coelho is the Portuguese D. Soeiro Viegas Coelho, who lived during the reign of king D. Sancho II, in the 13th century. One theory points out that the origin of the name Coelho would refer to the farm of Coelha, which belonged to the family. A second theory, suggested by historians, points out that D. Soeiro Viegas received the nickname coelho (rabbit) because, during wartime, he would sneak around. The surname Coelho, however, carries the qualities associated with this animal, such as “prosperity”, “abundance”, “intelligence”, “and cleverness”.
The coat of arms of the Costa family is one of 72 major Portuguese families that have their coat of arms painted in a room of the National Palace of Sintra. Coat of arms No. 43 is that of the Costa family, whose shield is red and contains six silver ribs (three on each side); on top, there are two crossed ribs. There are many possible origins for the popular surname Costa around the world. Some of them are Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. In Brazil, the name arrived with Portuguese families during the colonization period. In Portugal, Costa may have been used to name a noble medieval Portuguese family that inhabited a coastal area. That is why the surname carries the meanings of “who lives on the coast”, “who lives near the hillside”, and “who is native to the coast”.
The Coutinhos became a high social class and noble family in the 15th century. This happened because they supported João I of Portugal, better known as Mestre de Avis, with military troops. This surname has Portuguese origins and was initially used as a nickname by individuals from the Ribadouro family. It is also considered a geographical name, as it was taken from the “couto” of Leomil, a Portuguese village located in the district of Viseu, in northern Portugal.
Couto is a surname of Portuguese origin, derived from a Latin word meaning “protection” or “defense”. Until the 9th century, this term was commonly used to represent a place considered safe and immune, as well as it could also mean a fine or seizure of goods. The Couto family is quite common in Brazil. The first members of this lineage would have landed in Brazilian lands during the Portuguese colonization process. The Couto family coat of arms is red, with a silver castle, carved in black, on a wavy silver and blue counter-chest.
This surname dates back to the Middle Ages when people added the element “cross” to their first name as a way of showing their religiosity. It is a surname of Spanish and Portuguese origin and is very popular among families from these two countries. In the coat of arms of the Cruz family, the armor and a cross stand out, under which, in most versions, a snake is presented. Yellow and red are the predominant colors.
Cunha is a Portuguese of geographical origin. This means that its origin derives from the name of a place where there was probably a rock shaped like a wedge. This surname, therefore, means “born in a place characterized by a wedge-shaped rock” and “one who inhabits a place characterized by a wedge-shaped rock”. It has numerous variations around the world as Cohen in English, Kohn in German, Conklin in Dutch, Caen in French, Coen in Italian, and Canno in Spanish.
Dias is a surname that has Spanish origins, arising from Diez. It means ‘son of Diego’ or ‘son of Diogo’, which, in turn, are names of Hebrew origin, since they are equivalent to the biblical name Jacob. Referring to the biblical character, the surname Dias can also mean “relative of the one who comes from the heel”.
Due to its noble origin, the surname Duarte carries the meanings of ‘rich guardian’ or ‘guardian of riches’. It is believed that this surname may have originated from the transformation of the English name Edward into the Portuguese Eduarte, which over the years lost the initial “e”, probably through D. Duarte, eleventh king of Portugal, son of D. João I.
Diogo Fernandes is one of the first ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula, that is known, to receive this surname around the eighties. His father’s name was Fernando and he played an important role in Lusitanian lands. The surname Fernandes comes from the Spanish Fernandez, which was a name given to the children of a patriarch called Fernando. Thus, it carries the meanings of “son of the man daring to achieve peace” or “son of the man daring to travel”.
The surname Ferreira came to our country through the Portuguese, having appeared around the XI century in the region of the Iberian Peninsula. It carries the meanings of “that which comes from the land rich in iron”, “blacksmith”, and “the one who works with iron”. The profession of a blacksmith is one of the oldest in the world and it is no coincidence that many of the most popular surnames around the world refer to this trade. This is the case of Smith in the United States and Ferreira in Brazil.
Scholars believe that the surname Figueiredo originated from a knight of Goda (Germanic tribe) origin named Guesto Ansur, born in the time of the king of Asturias between 783 and 788. This family lineage reached Portugal, being Soeiro Martins de Figueiredo the first with this surname in the territory. Figueiredo carries the meaning of “place where there are fig trees”.
Among the best-known historical personalities with this surname is Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca (1827-1892), the first President of Brazil and who proclaimed the republic in our country in 1889. Scholars believe that the surname Fonseca may have arisen from a Catalan word to designate a “fountain that is dry”. It is a very popular surname in Portugal and Spain, being brought to Brazilian lands through Portuguese colonization in the mid-16th century.
The noble coat of arms of the Freitas family has the appearance of a red shield where there are five golden six-pointed stars. This surname of Portuguese origin possibly came to Brazil through a family of Portugal that before coming to our country inhabited a place characterized by the great existence of stones and rocks. Freitas means “inhabitant of a rocky place”, or “one who comes from a place abundant in stones”.
This surname has unknown origins and roots. Some specialists employ the theory that it arose from a knight who went into battle against the Moors when they wanted to take the city of Alcácer do Sal, in the district of Setúbal. Frota means ”surname that comes from a surname”.
This surname came from a surname that was given to a member of a noble family from Castile, a kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula. The story goes that Queen Urraca I, who was married to Count D. Raimundo, had a child out of wedlock, named Fernando Pérez de Lara or nicknamed Fernando Furtado, after an extramarital affair with nobleman Pedro Gonçalves de Lara. That is why the meaning of this surname is “one who was had out of wedlock”.
The surname of medieval Spanish origin is possibly related to the Basque word hartz, which means “bear”. In this sense, the surname Garcia reflects the attributes of the bear. In the symbolism of family coats of arms, the bear is the personification of the magnanimous man, that is, one who is generous.
The noble traditional coat of arms of the Gomes family shows a pelican in the nest feeding its young with its own flesh. Some say that the origin of the coat of arms is not very old, dating back to the 17th century, probably. One theory for the origin of the surname Gomes is that it would come from a Visigothic word that means “man”. The suffix “s” at the end turned the word into a patronymic, meaning the name of an individual who probably gave rise to the family lineage. In Spain, it is a popular surname in the form of Gomez as an abbreviation of a word meaning “man of war”.
This handsome surname has medieval origins from a Latin word derived from Germanic with elements meaning “warrior”. Gonçalves has the same root as the name Gonçalo. It is a common surname in Portuguese families and its variant is González in Spanish. It carries the meanings of “son, or descendant, of Gonçalo” or “son, or descendant, of a man willing to take part in every fight”.
The first person to adopt Lima as a surname was the noble Dom João Fernandes de Lima, known as “the Good”, son of Dom Fernando Arias. The history of this surname is associated with the river Lima, which begins in Spain, crosses Portugal and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The surname Lima has a Latin origin and is closely associated with a legend about the passage of this river which, according to mythology, could cause people to lose their memory. In Celtic, the word limit also means “forgetfulness”. This is the story of the emergence of the surname Lima, which carries the meanings of “he who belongs to the Lima River” or “he who has crossed the river of forgetfulness”.
This prestigious surname of Spanish origin, in the form López, gained a very popular Portuguese version in the form of Lopes. This surname comes from Latin, from a word that means “wolf”. Thus, it carries the attributes related to the animal, such as “brave”, “victorious” and “son of the wolf”. It is also present in the French language, in the form of Loup or Leu.
Surnames in Brazil
The predominant color of the noble coat of arms of the Machado family is red. The shield bears five axes engraved inside. Machado is a surname of Portuguese origin that probably would have been used by the people who made or worked with the tool of the same name. Other sources suggest the possibility that the name Machado arose on an occasion when people would have forced the doors of the Portuguese city Santarém using axes. The meanings attached to the surname are “the one who makes axes”, “axe-maker” or “the one who works with axes”.
The surname Marques is quite associated with Marquis, a title of nobility that appeared in the Iberian region (Portugal and Spain) as a denomination for the nobles that “marked” the territorial divisions, in other words, they were “marquises”. According to some studies, all the Marques families arose from a Spanish trunk called Marquez. In Brazil, this surname has spread to every corner of the country since the first years of colonization. It has the meanings of “son of Marcos” or “son of Marcus”.
For a long time, the surname Matins was related to royalty and power, for having an intrinsic history with very important historical personalities. The surname Martins is a diminutive of Mars, as well as Martinho, which was found in Portugal in the early 12th century first as Martino and Martinos. Of Latin origin, for years the name Matins was related to royalty or power, for having an intrinsic history with quite important historical personalities. Martins has the meanings of “warrior” or “dedicated to the God Mars”.
Mendes means “son of Mendo” or “son of total sacrifice”. It is a surname that originated in the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain) and was initially attributed to the sons of some patriarch named Menendo or Mendo. According to some scholars, there is a possibility that the surname Mendes has an Egyptian root since Mendo would be a variation of the name of a mythological deity for the Egyptians.
The noble coat of arms of the Mesquita family is composed of a blue shield with a gold center, in the blue part are arranged seven silver fleurs-de-lis and in the gold part, there are five belts in red, accompanied by silver buckles. Some scholars believe that the surname Mesquita may have arisen from a region of Spain, in Galicia, called Mezquita. It is said that in Portugal the first member of this family was called Estevão Pires da Mesquita, who lived in the country in the 14th century and married Aldonça Nunes de Meireles, thus passing the surname to future generations. They lived in Trás-os-Montes, in the north of Portugal.
The noble coat of arms of the Monteiro family features three black horns in gold and red strings. Monteiro is a surname of Portuguese origin that arose from a profession or a region that had hills. This popular surname found in Brazil means “mountain guard”, “mountain hunter”; “mountain inhabitant”, and “he who was born in a mountain”.
This surname of Portuguese origin came from a family that lived in Portugal and originated in the village of Morais, in the region of Trás-os-Montes. The Spanish part of this family would be from the town of Morales, Spain. The surname refers to a land that had many mulberry trees.
The noble official coat of arms of the Moreira family is known to be red, with nine silver shields, each carried by a green florid cross. According to historical records, this surname originated in the parish of Santa Maria de Moreira (currently known as Moreira do Castelo) in Portugal. Language scholars believe that the region was named this way because of the number of mulberry trees that existed in the place. Thus, the surname carries the meaning of “those who live near the mulberry tree”.
Vasco Martins Serrão would have been the first to adopt Moura as a surname. He was known as Senhor de Moura, because he had participated in the conquest of those lands, receiving this title from the king, as a form of gratitude. The surname originated in the city of Moura, which belongs to the District of Beja, in the region of Alentejo, in Portugal. The first people to adopt Moura as a family name belonged to this town. That is why the meanings attached to this surname are “who is born in Moura”, “wall” or “land of the Moors”.
Nascimento is a surname of Portuguese origin, which appeared as a tribute to the episode of Jesus Christ’s birth, from a religious point of view. It was very common to use it to baptize people who were born on December 25 in Portugal. Thus, the meaning attached to the surname is “homage to the birth of Christ”.
In the noble coat of arms of the Neves, the family stands out two ounces in shades of gold, as well as blue and gold armor. The surname Neves is Portuguese, but it has an Italian origin, as it was taken from the title of the Virgin Mary which is also known as Our Lady of the Neves. According to Christian scholars, the name of Our Lady of the Snows came from a miracle. According to them, the Virgin made it snow in Italy at the hottest time of the year.
Nunes is a surname that arose as a variant of Nunez. It is likely to have Latin as its origin and to be linked to the Portuguese first name Nuno. Other sources indicate as root nonius, meaning “monk”, or nonius, meaning “ninth”. The surname was found in the Portuguese language in the 13th century in the form Nunho.
Pedro de Oliveira, a Portuguese nobleman, would have been the first person to adopt this surname. The origin of this surname of Portuguese origin is strictly related to places that had many olive trees. The owners of large portions of land where the plants were cultivated, as well as those who worked on it, were called “olive trees” (an important occupation in view of the importance of olive oil).
This surname of Spanish and Portuguese origin came to Brazil in the 1600s through the descendants of Antonio Pedrosa. In Spain, the Pedroza version is more common. It is considered a surname of noble origin that has a coat of arms in the colors black and gold and an eagle in the center of the shield.
The noble Dom Rui Gonçalves Pereira lived in the 12th century and was the first person to use this surname. The origin of the surname Pereira is Portuguese and is linked to a locality, in this case, the places where there were trees that produced pears. More specifically, Pereira was the name of a farm or property in the area of Esmeriz, in Vila Nova de Famalicão, in northern Portugal. The surname pera has therefore the meaning of “tree that produces pears”.
Scholars believe that this surname arose as a surname of a medieval Portuguese soldier called Vasco Martins, “o Pimentel”, son of Martim Fernandes Novais. That is why this surname of Portuguese origin means “the one nicknamed Pimentel”. The coat of arms of this family is composed of a shield divided into four parts, where the first and the fourth have three gold and three red bands, and the second and the third are composed of five silver vines in a green center. Surrounding the shield are eight red crosses.
Pires means “descendants of Peter” or “sons of the rock”, for the proper name Peter has the meaning of “rock”. The surname Pires is associated with the sons of a patriarch named Pedro. In turn, this popular first name has a Greek origin. Thus, there are several families that have adopted this surname without consanguineous ties among them around the world.
Ramos means “homage to the religious festival of Palm Sunday”.
Ramos is a family name that originated in the Iberian region (Portugal and Spain), in homage to the religious cult of “Palm Sunday”, a Christian festival that precedes Easter and commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into the city of Jerusalem.
According to historical documents, the name Ribeiro appeared in the middle of 750 AD, with King D. Fruella II, being passed down through generations until it reached the Portuguese bourgeoisie around the year 1005. This surname originated in the Iberian Peninsula region, where it comes from a Latin word for “small river”, “small water passage” or “river passage”. In Portugal, the Ribeiro family may have originated from families that had as reference a small stream in their properties, being known in the region because of this geographical detail.
Of French origin, the surname Rocha is quite popular in Brazil, Mexico, and Portugal. It derives from a French word that means just rock, but by extension, it gained other meanings, such as “strong man”, “stable man” or “serene man”.
The first families with the surname Rodrigues began to appear in historical records around the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They revealed families that had as patriarch someone with the name Rodrigo. In Portugal, there are three main branches of the Rodrigues family, which belonged to the nobility in the medieval period. The surname Rodrigues means “son of Rodrigo”.
Santana has the meanings of “Saint Ana”, “the grandmother of Christ” or “blessed saint”. Of Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian origin, Santana is an ancient surname that refers to Christ’s grandmother, Saint Anne. Formerly, it was also a popular first name for people who were born on July 26, the day of Saint Ana.
The first name Santiago is also a popular surname in Brazil and Portugal. It was probably brought to Brazil by noble families during the colonization period. Santiago has Hebrew, Spanish and Galician origins, with the meanings of “Santo Iago”, or agglutination of “Santo Tiago”.
This popular Brazilian surname began to be used for people born on All Saints’ Day, November 1. It is a surname coming from a Latin word that literally means “all the saints”. Some historians believe that the name began to spread in Portuguese lands thanks to the Spanish immigrants who popularised the region.
The noble coat of arms of the family Silva is a purple or red lion engraved on a silver background, in reference to the arms of the Kingdom of Lion. It is the most popular surname in Brazil, where 1 in every 93 Brazilian citizens is registered with it. Studies show that this surname has been present in the world since the 10th century, even before the creation of Portugal. It also appears in families in Spain and Italy. Silva carries the meanings of “forest”, “jungle” or “woods”.
One of the oldest references to the surname Soares comes from the 13th century, through the Portuguese ecclesiastic Fernão Soares. The origin of the surname goes back to the Middle Ages when the raising of pigs was very important for society. In Portugal, it was no different. This surname is derived from the name Soeiro, which means “swineherd”. Thus, the surname Soares carries the meanings of “son of the protector of pigs”, “son of the southern army” or “one who has reddish hair”.
The first person to take the surname Souza was the illustrious figure of Dom Egas Gomes de Souza, owner of the lands where the Sousa River passed, located in the Minho region of Portugal. This popular surname of Portuguese origin is related, therefore, to a locality. It is a variation of the surname Sousa, which originated in Latin from a word meaning “pebble” or “stone”. It may also be related to sex, a kind of wild and aggressive pigeon typical of the Iberian region which in the 11th century was called Sausa in Portugal.
The Portuguese surname Simões refers to the sons of a family patriarch with the name Simão, which in turn is a biblical name of Hebrew origin. Simon means “he who listens” or “listener”. Thus, the surname Simões carries the meanings of “son or descendant of Simão”, and “son of the one who hears”.
The noble coat of arms of the Teixeira family features a yellow cross and gold tone. In addition, the silver unicorn on the shield is its insignia. This coat of arms is one of 72 that can be seen on the ceiling of the coat of arms room at the National Palace of Sintra in Portugal. Yew is an ornamental tree and the surname Teixeira is related to the Portuguese localities that had vast fields with these trees. Everything indicates that people who were born or who lived in a place where there was a great number of yews started to be identified by the surname Teixeira. That is why this popular Brazilian surname carries the meanings of “born in the area of the yews”, and “inhabitant of the place where there are many yews”.
The noble coat of arms of the Vieira family is red, with six small golden scallops (mollusks), distributed in three pairs. The Vieira family initially spread in Portugal, starting from two main provinces: Vieira does Minho and Vieira de Leiria. This surname is associated with the place where these families lived, that is, coastal places, where there was the presence of mollusks or pearl-producing shells, as Vieira means “mollusk” or “shell that produces pearls”.