Portuguese Baby Names: The aristo trend

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 flavour on the top 100 is even longer:



















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.  


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3 Responses to “Portuguese Baby Names: The aristo trend”

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jtucker Says:

November 5th, 2014 at 5:44 am

Such great names on this berry juice blog! 🙂

I kind of like the idea of the first name having to indicate the child’s gender.

hermione_vader Says:

November 6th, 2014 at 9:08 am

There are some really awesome names.

However, I’d like to point out that using Maria or Mary for a boy’s middle name, while not very common in the U.S., is not a new trend or even that uncommon worldwide. Off the top of my head, I can think of Erich Maria Remarque (author of “All Quiet on the Western Front”), a golfer who was Jose Maria [Lastname], and a local newspaper article I read about an Irish-American soldier who died in Vietnam—his name was Peter Mary [Lastname]. This is most likely a stronger trend among Catholic families in nations with a predominantly Catholic population. (For reference, I’m a Catholic in the U.S.)

bootsie Says:

November 23rd, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Having to have a gender indicative name really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I understand the occasional confusion and annoyance of having a name atypical of your gender, but it’s nothing to pass a law about. We don’t need a government enforcing a binary from birth.

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