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Portuguese Names: Avelina & Amaro

Portuguese Names: Avelina & Amaro

Perhaps because there are so few Portuguese-Americans–just about a million and a half — Portuguese names have been somewhat neglected by outsiders, especially since it shares so many similarities with 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 in Portugal.

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:

Top Portuguese boy names

JOÃO ((JWO)

RODRIGO

MARTIM

DIOGO

TIAGO

TOMÁS

Other popular boy names in Portugal:

AMARO

DUARTE

LEONARDO

Here are some other names native to Portugal (and Portuguese-speaking Brazil):

GIRLS

BIBIANA

CATIA

CONSTANCIA

CONSTANTINA

DEBORA

DEOLINDA (deh-o-LEEN-da)

DIANAI

EDUARDA

ELZIRA (ehl-SEE-ra)

FELIPA (feh-LEE-pah)

FRYDA

GENOVEVA (ZHEN-no-VEH-vah)

GRACA (GRAH-sah or GRAH-kah))

JACINTA (zhah-SEEN-tah)

JOAQUINA (zho-KWEE-nah)

LIANOR

MARGARIDA

NEVES (nay-vesh)

TRINDADE (treen-DAD-deh)

VIDONIA

ZENAIDE (zeh-nah-EE-dee)

ZETTA

BOYS

ADÃO (ah-dow)

ADRIÃO (ahd-ree-ow)

ALBANO (ahl-BAH-no)

ALEXIO (ah-LESH-ee-o)

AQUILINO

BASTIÃO (BAHS-tee-ow)

BELMIRO

BRAZ (brahsh)

DAMIÃO (DAH-me-ow)

DAVI

FABIÃO (fah-BEE-OW)

HENRIQUE (ehn-REE-keh)

FLORIANO

ISIDORO

JACINTO (zhah-SEEN-to

JOAQUIM (zhwah-KEEM)

JORDÃO (zhor-dow)

LEÃO (lay-oh)

LIBERATO, LIBERIO

LIDIO

LUIZ

MAXIMINO

NILO

OLIVERIO

PLACISO

RAMIRO

ROMAO (ro-MAH-o)

SERAFIM

SILVINO

SIMAO

TADEU (tah-dayoo)

TOMAZ

TONIO

ZACHEO (zash-EH-o)

Here are a few of the appealing hypocoristics (pet names to you):

CAJÓ for Carlos Jorge

FIFI for Sofia

ISA for Isabel

ITO for Carlos

NICO for João Carlos

JUJU for Joana

KIKA for Francisca

KIKO for Francisco

LÓ for Carlota and Carolina

MALU for Maria Luísa

MANU for Manuela

NANDA for Fernanda

NELO for Manuel

NÊNÊ for Inês

QUIQUE for Henrique

SU for Susana

TÉ for Teresa

VIVI for Vitória

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:

16th century Portuguese names

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.