Perhaps because there are so few Portuguese-Americans–just about a million and a half —the name stock of Portugal has been somewhat neglected by outsiders, especially since it shares so many similarities with the Spanish.
But many Portuguese names have a distinctive flavor of their own, as well as unusual pronunciation conventions, some of which are explained below. And, as noted by Filipa on one of the nameberry forums, there are specific naming rules, limiting parents to traditional Portuguese names. No Apples or Armanis in Amadora! One consequence of these strictures, though, is an extremely rich variety of diminutives and pet names.
For the royals of the past, there could be an interminable string of names, as for example the 19th century Queen known as Maria da Gloria Joana Carlota Leopoldina da Cruz Francisca Xavier de Paula Isidora Micaela Gabriela Rafaela Gonzaga da Austria e Braganca.
Being a 97% Roman Catholic country, many Portuguese names come from popular saints or from the Bible–Maria is the perpetual #1 girls’ name., as it is today. And what are the other popular names in Portugal right now? Here, according to one newspaper, are the top six of last year:
And for boys:JOÃO ((JWO)
Here are some others native to Portugal (and Portuguese-speaking Brazil):
GRACA (GRAH-sah or GRAH-kah))
Here are a few of the appealing hypocoristics (pet names to you):
ITO for Carlos
JUJU for Joana
KIKA for Francisca
NÊNÊ for Inês
TÉ for Teresa
ZÉZÉ for José
And now some of those Portuguese rules of pronunciation: The letter ‘h’ adds a ‘y’ sound, so that nha would sound like nyah; the tilde (~) above a vowel, followed by another vowel, nasalizes the second one; a ‘z’ when beginning a word is pronounced ‘sh’, while ch is pronounced sh. An accent over a vowel doesn’t change its sound, but just alerts you to which syllable to accent.
And if you’re looking for some real esoterica, here’s a site that gives an interesting list of Portuguese names from the 16th century: