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Portuguese Baby Names: The aristo trend

November 4, 2014 Linda Rosenkrantz

By Filipa Lopes of nomes e mais nomes

You would think that living in a country with restrictions concerning names could make your baby name choices a lot more difficult. Sure, we don’t have to stick to Portuguese names and we can use a large number of beautiful, international, eclectic names like Noah, Giovanni, Ingrid, Siena or even Suri, but dealing with a law that defines which names and spellings are and are not approved can be very frustrating.

You may like Kevin, for example, but you have to use Kevim; yet weirdly, Katie and Kelly are approved. And in addition there is the rule that specifies that your first name must indicate your gender. Ariel, Ruby and Zoé are adorable, but they are considered masculine names in Portugal, so they can only be used as girls’ middle names. A little bit confusing, right?

We could have a long discussion about this issue but, truth be told, this law seems to bother very few people in my country, as the Portuguese continue to exhibit a taste for traditional names. For instance, in the last decade, aristocratic names have become the biggest trend.

Right now, Rodrigo, Afonso, Martim and Tomás are almost as popular for baby boys as João, our eternal Number 1. Afonso was the name of our first king and has been very popular since 2003, while Rodrigo and Martim are medieval darlings that won’t leave the top anytime soon.

Santiago, Salvador, Lourenço, Vicente, Dinis and Mateus have risen in the past couple of years and sound very sophisticated, alongside Gonçalo, Vasco, Henrique and Duarte.

Baby girls are often called Leonor, Beatriz, Matilde, Mariana and Carolina, but those names are nowhere near as popular as Maria, which is considered the perfect first name for girls – as well as a middle name for boys! Maria Inês, Maria Leonor and Maria Francisca are huge combination names these days, but Maria is a perfect match for almost every single name (the same thing happened with Ana in the 80’s and 90’s). Madalena, Benedita, Constança and Caetana are considered chic and modern, while the also regal Mafalda, Catarina and Carlota are definitely not hard to find for baby girls.

The list of names with an aristocratic flavor on the top 100 is even longer:

Portuguese Boy Names

Diogo

Gaspar

Gil

Jaime

Matias

Nuno

Sebastião

Xavier

Portuguese Girl Names

Amélia

Ana

Filipa

Francisca

Isabel

Luísa

Teresa

Victória

Sância and Violante don’t get a lot of love. On the other hand, this trend also reinforced the interest in vintage names, because they are complementary. Laura, Alice, Júlia, Eva and Clara sound lovely these days, as well as Valentim, Simão, Tomé, Álvaro and Benjamim.

On another note, the list of popular names in Portugal also reflects a considerable influence from Brazil, not only because we speak the same language, but also because there’s a large Brazilian community here. Names like Diego, Enzo, Fábio and Lucas for boys, Alícia, Bianca, Letícia Luana, Camila, Valentina and Isabela for girls, sound modern to us, because they were not used here before the 80’s.

Filipa Lopes is the driving force behind Nomes e mais Nomes, where she shares her passion for Portuguese and Lusophone onomastics and reflects on baby name trends and statistics.