Portuguese Names: Avelina & Amaro

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:

Girls

MARIA

BEATRIZ

ANA

LEONOR

MARIANA

MATILDE

Also popular:

AVELINA

CATALINA

ELENA

ELIANA

And for boys:JOÃO ((JWO)

RODRIGO

MARTIM

DIOGO

TIAGO

TOMÁS

Plus:

AMARO

DUARTE

LEONARDO

Here are some others 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

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17 Responses to “Portuguese Names: Avelina & Amaro”

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Whitney Says:

November 24th, 2009 at 1:20 am

What a neat list! By any chance, does anyone know the correct pronunciation of Amaro? My hubby and I are both car obsessed, and a guilty pleasure of mine is car-themed baby names. I was just wondering if it was at all similar to Chevy’s Camaro.

rachelmarie Says:

November 24th, 2009 at 1:23 am

These names are so interesting… I actually love the name Beatriz.

One of my favorite basketball player’s changed his name to Nenê, because he is Brazilian and I guess it means “baby” in Portuguese-Brazilian. So the mention of that just reminded me 🙂

Jillian Says:

November 24th, 2009 at 7:54 am

We have a Brazilian named Joao in seventh grade, but he goes by John

Corinne Says:

November 24th, 2009 at 11:33 am

Avelina might just be the most gorgeous exotic name I’ve ever heard. It’s got that exotic femininissima sound and its similarity to Ava/Eva so it might just take off here… 🙂

Christina Fonseca Says:

November 24th, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Whitney: hate to disappoint you but Amaro does not rhyme with Camaro. Both “A”s sound like the ‘a’ in father.

I live in an area with a large Portuguese population, specifically from the Azore Islands. Joao, Manuel, Maria and Deolinda abound in Central California. And you can’t forget Fatima, after Our Lady of Fatima.

I know a Mary Jo whose nickname is Zezinha, which is loosely translated “little Jo”.

Charlotte Vera Says:

November 24th, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Fascinating! A friend’s roommate was a championship [male] Brazilian kickboxer named Bibiano.

Victoria Says:

November 24th, 2009 at 10:54 pm

In love with the name Elzira! It’s beautiful and different yet familiar.

Jill Says:

November 25th, 2009 at 2:00 am

Great post! I love so many of these names, especially:

Leonor
Mariana
Catelina
Eliana
Leonardo
Oliverio (great source of Rio, too)

I love reading about names from other countries! 🙂

PORTUGUESE NAMES: Avelina & Amaro – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry | Arabic names Says:

November 25th, 2009 at 2:19 am

[…] post:  PORTUGUESE NAMES: Avelina & Amaro – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Share and […]

Emz Says:

November 25th, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Love these. Graca is incredibly pretty – what a lovely alternative to Grace (which I also like).

Filipa Says:

November 26th, 2009 at 6:31 am

I’m so happy right now 😀

First of all, yes, it’s hard naming a kid when you have to follow so many rules, especially when unusual names – even when approved – raise many many eyebrows. Like naming your kid Amaro… that would be really weird!!

Second of all, almost every girl’s name start with Ana or Maria so, we are called by our second name and not by the first one. Cool, ah?

Well, for those of you who don’t have rules, i suggest:
– Lua (pronounced Lou-ah and means Moon). It’s a girl name!

teabee Says:

November 30th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

The few and the proud! 🙂

Ana Rita Says:

January 3rd, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I´m portuguese, and I have to say that it is really hard to choose a good diferent name in Portugal.
When I said that I wanted to name my baby girl Violeta (Violet) everyone said that I shouldn’t because it’s not an usual name.
Here we don’t really want to have a diferent name…
I struggled with my name, because there’s Ana’s everywere. Actualy, just in my family there’s 5. Me, my sister, my mother, my grandmother and my cousin. And in one of my classes I had 3 Ana Rita’s and 3 other Anas.

As a note: many of the names published aren’t widly used anymore like:
LIDIO
MAXIMINO
NILO
OLIVERIO
NEVES
TRINDADE
VIDONIA
FRYDA
GENOVEVA
And it isn’t Felipa, is Filipa.

Carmela Says:

February 1st, 2010 at 2:14 am

Unfortunately Brazil doesn’t have an official list of the most popular given names, but according to the Brazilian Baby Center, these were the most commonly used names in 2009:

GIRLS:
1. Maria*
2. Ana*
3. Júlia
4. Sofia/Sophia (both spellings are widely used)
5. Giovana/Giovanna
6. Isabela/Isabella
7. Beatriz
8. Manuela
9. Yasmin
10. Mariana

*When the first name is either Ana or Maria, people usually call her by her first and middle name together as one name; for example, Ana Clara, Ana Beatriz, Maria Eduarda, Maria Luísa, etc.

BOYS:
1. Gabriel
2. Arthur
3. Matheus
4. Davi
5. Lucas
6. Guilherme
7. Pedro
8. Miguel
9. Enzo
10. Gustavo

Debra Says:

August 6th, 2010 at 7:12 am

This list is great! My husband is Portuguese and we try to name our kids Portuguese names. Our sons are Diogo and Cruz Augusto (I know Cruz is a more common surname- but gaining popularity:-) Now we are working at coming up with our first GIRLS name!!

Avalina S 30 Says:

January 20th, 2011 at 5:11 am

[…] PORTUGUESE NAMES: Avelina & Amaro – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry November 30th 2009 at 04:37 pm. The few and the proud! ). Ana Rita Says: January 3rd, 2010 at 04:37 pm. I´m portuguese, and I have to say that it is really hard to choose a good diferent name in Portugal. […]

heatherleila Says:

June 11th, 2012 at 2:16 am

Just as a note, it should be Graça, not Graca. The Ç makes an S sound, a C next to A would make a K sound. It is pronounced Gra(s)a not Gra(k)a.

Nelson Mandela´s current wife has this name: Graça Machel.

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