Last names act as a bridge to our past and family heritage. Brazil is a diverse country with a rich and complex history. Although long inhabited by prehistoric tribes and settlements, Brazil has faced colonization and migration of people from Portugal followed by Spain, Japan, Italy, Paraguay, and Bolivia from the 18th century through the 19th and early 20th century who came in search of economic opportunities. Over 1.5 million Portuguese immigrated to Brazil from 1881 to 1991, and Rio is still considered the most significant “Portuguese city” outside of Portugal itself. Thus, due to the considerable colonial presence in the country, one can connect the most common Brazilian last names to their Portuguese roots and naming conventions. Since last names are not chosen but bestowed upon us, a study of surnames of even the modest scope can introduce us to the origins of our ancestors of Brazil.
Brazil is the largest country in South America with a population of 207,900,000 with a wide array of last names. However, not all of the surnames in Brazil come from that country. Iberian (Spaniards and Portuguese), Italian, German, East European, and Japanese were the main countries of origin of immigrants to Brazil. Due to miscegenation, Brazilians of different ethnicities like Whites, Blacks, Amerindians, natives, and people of mixed race may have Portuguese ancestry today. Over the centuries, Portuguese ended up becoming the primary spoken language of the country. Apart from surnames, Brazil and Portugal share Roman Catholicism and many other traditions that form the matrix of the socio-cultural life of the people of Brazil.
Thus, Brazilian surnames are primarily based on historical sources. Brazil has adopted Portuguese naming and surname patterns reflected in their names with two surnames consisting of the mother’s paternal and father’s paternal surname. So, people can trace their ancestry back through both their maternal and paternal lines. This is reflected in their name, as many people in Brazil have more than one last name. A native Brazilian usually has two surnames, or sometimes three. Maternal family names are always placed before paternal family names. After marriage, a woman usually adds her husband’s surname to replace her mother’s family name. Family names may be written separately or joined by the conjunction ‘e’ (and).
It is common to find Portuguese family names ending in –ES. Brazilian names often provide genealogical clues to where a family belonged since they often use place names as surnames. Ironically, some of these surnames have survived better in Brazil and are far more common than in Portugal. Brazil’s five most common surnames, namely Silva, Santos, Oliviera, Souza, And Pereira, account for 21 million of the 46.8 million names registered. Some Brazilians have Anglicized their names to exhibit their pride in their new citizenship. Nevertheless, last names are a more complicated matter.
People took some new names due to their similarity to the original Portuguese ones phonetically and literally. Other Portuguese surnames that were translated were utterly different from their original versions. Yet other Portuguese people adopted variations of family nicknames as surnames. Apart from their rich vowel sounds and references to cities and castles in Portugal and Spain, the music of these names and surnames can appeal to the imagination of parents looking for a suitable Brazilian surname for their child.
100 Popular Brazilian Surnames or Family Names with Meanings
Ancient Brazilian surnames on paper records stem from the native peoples of America. Here is a chronological list of common Brazilian surnames that can be a pool for your child’s names representing some of the first people to settle in the country:
This Italian, Medieval Italian, Portuguese surname originates from the medieval personal name Canfora, meaning “camphor.”
Derived from the Portuguese name Afonso of Visigothic origins, this Portuguese Iberian surname was first started by the first dynasty and King of Portugal and became a common name for Iberian royalty. Afonso means “noble and ready” or “ready for battle,” from Germanic “hiltja” (battle) and “funs” (ready).
The surname Agosto comes from Agostino, derived from the Latin word “Augustus,” meaning “favored with good omens.”
This Galician and Portuguese surname is widespread in the Rías Baixas (Muros-Noia) area of Spain.
This patronymic surname is derived from the Portuguese/Spanish first name Alvaro, which comes from the Germanic (Visigoth) words “all,” meaning all, and “wer,” meaning true.
The surname Ballio originally comes from one of the numerous place names in France, such as Bailleul-en-Vimeu in Picardy or Bailleul in Northern France. Generally derived from the Old French word “baille,” it means “fortification.”
This Portuguese surname of southwestern Galician origin refers to an individual living by land with overgrown leafy vegetation. It is composed of Barba, a type of plant, -oso ‘place rich in this plant.’
This Portuguese surname means “clay hollow/loam hollow,” referring to place names in Galicia and Portugal.
This occupational surname of Portuguese Origin means “hatmaker.” Other variants include Barretta in Italian, Barreto in Spanish.
Batista is a Spanish or Portuguese surname, commonly spelled as Baptista, which literally means “Baptist.”
This Portuguese surname derived from ancient medieval times derives from Rebecca of Hebrew origin, meaning to tie, constrict, or captivate.
This Portuguese surname of indigenous Brazilian origin refers to the American Indian tribe who lived in Minas Gerais.
This Portuguese surname is named after the capital of the district of Braga in Portugal. The place was named after Bracari, the Celtic tribe who lived in the region. Bracaria in Latin comes from the word “brachae,” meaning trousers, leggings, or breeches.
This surname of Portuguese/Spanish origin means ‘someone who lives near the countryside.’
This Portuguese surname common among the Jews means ‘A Sephardi.’The surname ‘of Cardoso’ refers to a place where thistles grew, in Spain and Portugal.
This Portuguese surname means ‘Carter” and comes from Carreira, which is derived from where the original bearer lived or held land. It comes from the Galician/Portuguese word “Carreiro,” meaning “a driver of cars or carts.”
This Portuguese surname means ‘Oak’.
Borrowed from cavaquinho from the diminutive of Cavaco (fragment of wood), this Portuguese surname means ‘Log.’
This surname of Italian origin comes from the Latin word for ‘to ride,’ referring to horse riders or horse trainers.
This metonymic occupation surname of Portuguese origin comes from the Portuguese word Correia, meaning “a leather strap or belt.” (Latin corrigia, “fastening,” from corrigere, “to straighten or to correct”), applied to a ‘Leather beltmaker’ or seller of leather belts and straps
This topographic surname of Portuguese, Galician, Italian, and Jewish (Sephardic) origin refers to ‘someone who lived on a slope or riverbank, or on the seacoast that comes from Latin costa ‘rib,’ ‘side,’ ‘flank’ or Greek origin as in Costas.
This Portuguese topographic surname means “enclosed pasture.”Derived from Late Latin cautum or cavere, it means ‘to make safe.’ It might be an altered spelling of French Couteau.
23. Da Cruz
This Portuguese surname means “from the Cruz family.” A variant of Cruz, with the addition of the preposition da ‘of (the),’ ‘from (the),’ is originally an epithet with religious connotations.
24. De Zurara
This Portuguese surname refers to the place name Aveiro, a city in north-eastern Portugal.
This surname of Portuguese origin means “of great courage” or ‘greatness.’
This Spanish surname comes from the place-name Espinosa which comes from the word “Espino,” meaning “hawthorn.” It refers to someone who lived near a place where this tree grew in abundance.
Esteves comes from Esteva, a flower in Portuguese. This Portuguese patronymic surname means ‘Son of Stephen”.
This surname is a Portuguese version and has its origin in the districts of Braga and Aveiro. The Southern Italian version is derived from the Greek ‘pharos’ meaning lighthouse,
This Portuguese surname means “son of Fernando.” The Germanic name that it derives from Gothic: Frið-nanð meaning “brave traveler.”
This Galician and Portuguese topographic name refers to ‘someone who lived by a forge or a blacksmith”. It comes from Latin Ferrari, meaning a ‘forge’ or ‘ironworking.’
Gama is a variant of Gamma, Da Gamma, and means ‘fallow deer doe’. It is a feminine form of gamo, a topographic or habitational name.
The Latin form of Garcia is ‘Garsea’ as found in many medieval records. More than 400,000 people in Brazil have this surname.
This German surname comes from the name Gerhard, meaning ‘strong.’ It originated from the Tuscany region and later spread to Italy and Portugal.
With more than 42,000 people bearing this as a personal name, it is a variant of the Iberian-origin Jiménez. It contains the Spanish suffix -ez, meaning “son [of].”
This Portuguese surname means ‘Man.” It is derived from the Visigothic word guma, meaning “man.” Its Spanish equivalent is Gómez or Gomez.
Gordo means “fat” in Spanish and Portuguese.
This surname of Portuguese, Spanish origin means “gracefulness; honor; mercy.”
This patronymic surname of Iberian origin means ‘Son of Henrique.’ Its English and Spanish equivalents include ‘Henry’ and ‘Enrique,’ and more than 29,000 people in Brazil have this surname.
Equivalent to the Spanish Hernandez, Hernandes has Hebrew ancestry. It means ‘Son of Hernan.’
Inacio is a variant of Ignacio and used as a first name meaning ‘fire’ in Spanish. It is also spelled “Ignácio.”
Isabella is Elizabeth’s Spanish and Italian variation, derived from the Hebrew name Elisheba, meaning “God is my oath.”
This Spanish surname comes from Greek Isidoros, meaning ‘gift of Isis.’ Isis was an Egyptian goddess, mother of Horus.
This Portuguese name referring to the Hyacinth flower is a rare surname. One adopted the surname to honor the respected St. Hyacinth, who was a Roman martyr.
This common Biblical name had been adopted as a family name among the devotees, which the Portuguese adopted as a family name.
Jorge comes from the Greek name Georgios, meaning ‘earth tiller’ or a ‘farmer.’ The occupational name was adopted among the Portuguese and has been documented since the early sixth century.
This name of Hebrew origin means “he shall add.” It is also the Spanish and Portuguese version of Joseph which translates to “Jehovah increases.”
This surname of Portuguese Origin means “yew tree field; yew tree meadow; yew tree wilderness.”
Lacerda is the equivalent of the Spanish name ‘La Cerda,’ which means ‘the lock of hair’ and was primarily used as a nickname for anyone with a hairy back or chest.
This surname of Hispanic origin means ‘from Lares,’ wherein Lares refers to the home of Gods.
Derived from Latin origin, Lemos is a Portuguese habitational name that comes from Lugo province, Galicia.
Lima is a variety of metal in Latin and refers to a place of lime trees in Spanish. It is a topographical surname for the people who lived on the banks of the Lima River in Portuguese.
This surname of Portuguese and Spanish origin means “Son of Lope.” It comes from Latin lupus, meaning “wolf.”
This surname of Portuguese and Spanish origin means “light.” The given name is shortened from Nossa Senhora Da Luz, a Roman Catholic epithet of the Virgin Mary as “Our Lady of Light.”
This habitational name comes from Macedo, a village in Lugo province, Galicia. It is a topographic name from Macedo ‘apple grove’, a derivative of maça ‘apple.’
This Portuguese surname comes from madrugar, a nickname for an early riser and means ‘To get up early.”
This Spanish/Basque surname means “High Meseta.” It is a Greek name, used as the feminized form of Thomas the Apostle or as a reference to the mythic mother of Hermes.
This Portuguese patronymic surname means ‘Son of Marcus.”
Commonly used in English, Scottish, Irish, French, Dutch, German, Czech, Slovak, Spanish, this surname comes from Latin Martinus, a derivative of Mars, the Roman god of fertility and war. Martins means ‘Of Mars’ or ‘warlike.’
This toponymic surname means ‘A person who came from Melo, Portugal.” The original name of the town was Merlo, which is an archaic form of “melro,” meaning “blackbird” in Portuguese.
A variant of Moraes, this Portuguese topographic surname means ‘Blackberry.”
This surname of Portuguese and Galician origins means ‘Mulberry tree”.
This Portuguese and Spanish surname means ‘Someone who lives near a fort.”
Neves is the Portuguese plural form of “snow.” The surname is supposedly connected to the veneration of “Our Lady of the Snows” (Portuguese: Nossa Senhora das Neves), given to a village in the northwest of Portugal.
Nogueira comes from the Latin nucarius or nux meaning ‘nut’. It means ‘walnut tree’ in Portuguese and Galician.
This Portuguese and Spanish surname refers to’ someone who came from the place name Noreña, in Spain.’
This Portuguese surname means ‘son of Nune.’
Derived from Latin oliva, this Portuguese surname indicates ‘a person who lived near or worked with olive trees.’
Derived from Latin paries, this surname comes from Portuguese parede, and Spanish pared meaning ‘wall.’ It refers to a person ‘who lived near a wall.’
Derived from Latin Pirum, meaning ‘pear,’ Pareira comes from Portuguese and Galician and means ‘pear tree.’
Pinheiro means ‘pine tree’ in Portuguese.
This Portuguese habitational surname means ‘pine’ or ‘pinewood.’
This common Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese surname means ‘mottled’ and comes from Late Latin Pinctus, meaning ‘painted.’
This prestigious Spanish and Portuguese surname is derived from the word “apretar,” meaning “dense, or thick,” it may have denoted a place where a man once lived or owned densely wooded land.
This surname of Italian, Portuguese, Spanish origin means “the season of spring.”
This name of Spanish, Portuguese, Judeo-Spanish, Romani Calo origin means ‘rice.’
This Portuguese patronymic surname of Germanic origin means ‘son of Ramiro.’ It also means “wise protector,” coming from the Germanic elements ragin, meaning “counsel,” and Mari or meri, meaning “fame.”
Ramos is a surname of Spanish and Portuguese origin which means “bouquets” or “branches,” referring to someone who lived in a thickly wooded area. It is a habitational name for someone from one of many towns called Ramos in Spain and Portugal.
This surname of Portuguese-Galician origin is derived from the word Raposo meaning “male fox,” which comes from the Portuguese “raboso,” meaning “tail,” referring to its beautiful furry tail.
This surname of Iberian-Portuguese origin means “an individual who lives near a water channel.”
This surname of Portuguese origin means “Kings.” It means ‘rice’ in German.
Requiao is a topynymic surname referring to someone who lived in a village in Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal.
Commonly found in Galicia, Portugal, and Brazil, Ribeiro refers to a wine-making region of Southeast central Galicia. In Portuguese, it literally means “small creek” or “by the river.”
This surname of Portuguese/Spanish origin means ‘Son of Rodrigo.”
This surname of Filipino, Spanish, Catalan, Tagalog, Portuguese origin means “savior; to save.”
This Portuguese surname comes from Italian Sardinian, a nickname for someone with prominent front teeth. Its Greek form Sannas is an occupational name for a hay seller, from Sano or Slavic Seno, meaning ‘hay.’
This Christian surname is common in Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French languages. The English translation of Santos is Saints. This Portuguese surname means “holy.” Other Iberian grammatical forms of Santos are De Santo, De Santos, Del Santo, Santi, Santis, Santiz, Senti, and Sentis.
This surname of Portuguese origin means “hail.”
This occupational surname comes from German Smit or Schmied and means ‘Blacksmith.’
Silva is a Portuguese surname that means “forest,” “jungle,” or ‘woodland’ in Latin.
Derived from Latin Salsus for ‘salty’ or saxa ‘rocks,’ Sousa indicates someone who lived near the River Sousa in Portugal.
This Portuguese surname means “weaver.”
This Portuguese surname means ‘Yew tree.’
A variant of Portuguese Theodore is a respected family name from Greek Theodore, meaning ‘god’s gift.’
This Portuguese surname refers to the place name in the province of Macerata, Italy
This surname of Indigenous Brazilian origin refers to ‘the American Indian tribe who lived along the Brazilian coast from the Guanabara Bay to the mouth of the Amazon River.”
This surname of Estonian-Brazilian origin refers to a village and a lake in Võru County in southern Estonia.
Derived from Latin Vallis, Vale refers to ‘valley’ in Portuguese.
This Portuguese surname means “brave, valiant.”
This surname of Portuguese, Dutch origin means “holly.” It comes from the Dutch surname Van der Leij/Ley.
Derived from Late Latin Villare or Villa, this surname means ‘hamlet’ in Galician, Catalan, and Portuguese.
Giving your children uncommon names and surnames is a way to make them stand out. The custom of using surnames or makeshift surnames started in the last few years. This reflects a personalized trait in the culture that cares more about an individual than the family name. Moreover, since most genealogies were obscure, Brazilians often give their children names derived from saints, martyrs, or historical figures. They also chose a combination of given names and surnames that would amount to some meaning. Brazilian civil code allows its citizens to change their name as per their discretion, as they don’t have a law forbidding strange names. Only a recommendation from a higher court tells registrars to avoid accepting blasphemous or ludicrous names. Usually, if a registrar refuses to grant permission to a name, the family may register it elsewhere or obtain a judicial order to enforce its passage.