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:
Other popular girls’ names in Portugal:
Other popular boy names in Portugal:
Here are some other names 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:
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on 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.
on 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 🙂
on November 24th, 2009 at 7:54 am
We have a Brazilian named Joao in seventh grade, but he goes by John
on 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 Said
on 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 Said
on November 24th, 2009 at 10:21 pm
Fascinating! A friend’s roommate was a championship [male] Brazilian kickboxer named Bibiano.
on November 24th, 2009 at 10:54 pm
In love with the name Elzira! It’s beautiful and different yet familiar.
on November 25th, 2009 at 2:00 am
Great post! I love so many of these names, especially:
Oliverio (great source of Rio, too)
I love reading about names from other countries! 🙂
PORTUGUESE NAMES: Avelina & Amaro – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry | Arabic names Said
on November 25th, 2009 at 2:19 am
[…] post: PORTUGUESE NAMES: Avelina & Amaro – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Share and […]
on November 25th, 2009 at 5:49 pm
Love these. Graca is incredibly pretty – what a lovely alternative to Grace (which I also like).
on 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!
on November 30th, 2009 at 5:45 pm
The few and the proud! 🙂
Ana Rita Said
on 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:
And it isn’t Felipa, is Filipa.
on 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:
4. Sofia/Sophia (both spellings are widely used)
*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.
on 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 Said
on 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. […]
on 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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