If you’re interested in Spanish names for your baby-to-be, you’re probably familiar with the many Spanish choices popular in the US, like Sebastian and Jose, Camila and Sofia. But there are dozens of intriguing baby names that are popular in Spain and Latin America but virtually unknown in the English-speaking world.
Sure, classic Spanish names such as Maria and Pablo are among the most popular baby names in Spain right now. But many of the names Spanish parents love are overlooked elsewhere, including ones influenced by places, nature, history, and the Basque and Arabic languages.
Here’s our pick of the best Spanish names hot in Spain but uncommon elsewhere. Some may be familiar, others are rare gems, and all are great options for a child born today.
Rank in 2017: 9 in Spain, 1503 in USA
The Spanish word for dawn is full of light and hope. With its distinctive sound, it’s starting to get a lot of interest in the English-speaking world (it’s 321 on the Nameberry chart) but is still relatively underused. The equally lovely Alma is also in Spain’s Top 20.
Rank in 2017: 14 in Spain, 405 in USA
It can be easy to overlook familiar classics, but Carmen is worth a second glance. Some of the reasons you might love it? It’s timeless (it’s never been out of the Top 500 or in the Top 100), musical, biblical, and has a sound that’s a bit different if you want a name that doesn’t end in -a. Alec and Hilaria Baldwin used it for their daughter in 2013.
Rank in 2017: below the Top 100 in Spain, 427 in USA
Jada Pinkett Smith propelled her name to fame in the 1990s, but the Spanish word for jade has taken on a life of its own. Many Americans rhyme it with Ada, or here’s how it’s said in Spain. Esmeralda is another elegant gemstone name.
Rank in 2017: 24 in Spain, 2875 in USA (58 girls)
No, that’s not a typo for Leia. Laia, pronounced “la-ya”, is a lovely addition to the family of liquid L-names with solid roots of its own. It’s short for Eulalia, the patron saint of Barcelona, and is in the Top 10 in its native Catalonia. One caveat: depending on your accent, it may sound a little too close to the word “liar” for comfort. That’s the case for me, so I might use the full Eulalia or Alaia instead.
Rank in 2017: 1 in Spain, 185 in USA
Spanish parents love Lucia – it’s been the top girls’ name there since 2003. In America, Lucy is still the most popular form, but Lucia feels like a fresh, sophisticated alternative. There are several possible pronunciations, so pick your favorite. If you feel like it needs a little extra, Luciana is another option.
Rank in 2017: 2 in Spain, 15 in USA
I hardly need to sell Sofia to you – it’s one of the most beloved names worldwide right now. Combine it with the Sophia spelling (as we do each year), and it’s the number one girls’ name in America. The slightly-less-common f spelling is simple, elegant and has a strong international feel: your Sofia would have namesake sisters around the globe.
Rank in 2017: 35 in Spain, 10,569 in USA (10 girls)
Is this Spain’s best-kept secret? Triana strikes a great balance of standing out and fitting in. It’s close to names like Briana and Eliana, but extremely rare, yet it isn’t an invented spin-off. Triana is a place name with possible connections to ancient Rome, and is similar enough to Triona that you could see it as part of the Katherine/Catriona family.
Rank in 2017: 16 in Spain, 94 in USA
With its cool V initial, long romantic sound and strong meaning, Valentina is a current favourite around the world– a Top 3 name in Mexico and Puerto Rico. American parents are just starting to catch up, making it ideal if you’re looking for a name that’s well-liked and on the rise. Several celebs have used it in recent years, including Kevin Jonas and Salma Hayek.
Rank in 2017: 25 in Spain, 3896 in USA (39 girls)
Vega is a fab two-for-one. As the Spanish word for meadow, it’s a lovely subtle nature name. From a different (Arabic) root, it’s one of the brightest stars in the night sky, in the constellation of Lyra. Either way, it’s a rarity waiting to be discovered. Similar Vera is right below on the Spanish charts at number 26.
Rank in 2017: below the Top 100 in Spain, 987 in USA
New to the Top 1000 in 2017, Yara is an exotic twist on names like Clara and Tara. It has roots in several languages but got its first break in America thanks to the 1970s Mexican telenovela of the same name. Nowadays you’re more likely to know it from Game of Thrones, but like its anagram Arya, it seems set to break free of the show.
Rank in 2017: 9 in Spain, 852 in USA
First things first: boy names ending in -o are cool. And here’s one that’s lesser-known outside the Spanish-speaking world but has lots of potential. Its bearers include a modern saint, several soccer players, and the French actress Anne Alvaro. It could be an original way to honor another Al– name.
Rank in 2017: 43 in Spain, 877 in USA
More modern than Darius (not to mention Daryl), Dario is enjoying a moment in Spain and elsewhere in Europe. In America, it’s gently rising but still underused – the Game of Thrones character Daario doesn’t seem to have made an impact. If you love quirky nicknames, Dario could lead to Dare, or Rio.
Rank in 2017: 42 in Spain, 178 in USA
Gael was one of the fastest-rising names in the US in 2012, thanks to a winning combination of actor Gael García Bernal, and a character in the telenovela Abismo de Pasión. This gentle, straightforward name has remained a well-liked option ever since.
Rank in 2017: 27 in Spain, 1426 in USA
A dramatic name with a long history, Gonzalo feels familiar but has never been overly popular in the States. It doesn’t need a nickname, but Galo and Zalo are modern-sounding and have less baggage than Gonzo.
Rank in 2017: 17 in Spain, 1913 in USA
Rank in 2017: 15 in Spain, 231 in USA
Xavier is a Top 100 name in the US, but its gentle cousin Javier is sitting steadily lower in the charts, always used but never among the most popular names. If you love that Spanish J-sound, which sounds a lot like the English H, other names to consider include Jago, Joaquin and Julen.
Rank in 2017: below the Top 100 in Spain, 197 in USA.
The snazzy Spanish (and Italian) version of Lawrence was already on the rise when reality star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi used it for her son in 2012. It shot up the following year and has been growing in use ever since: there’s no stopping those stylish -o names. Short form Enzo is also becoming popular in its own right.
Rank in 2017: 7 in Spain, 42 in USA
Matthew is well-trodden ground, but Mateo feels fresh for a new generation. It’s one of the most popular Spanish boys’ names in the US, and one of a number of international names that parents have fallen in love with in the last ten years. The spelling Matteo isn’t far behind, ranking 187.
Rank in 2017: 77 in Spain, 93 in USA
Both saintly and full of laid-back cool, Santiago could be a reference to numerous people and places, including the capital of Chile and the pilgrim destination Santiago de Compostela. The diminutives Santi and Sandy help to make it approachable.
Rank in 2017: 34 in Spain, 216 in USA
If Santiago is too long for you, Thiago gets straight to the point. Originally a Portuguese name, it’s also well-used by Spanish speakers and is one of the fastest-rising names of the last decade. Like Santiago, it could honor a James or Jacob, or anything connected with St James – he’s the patron of veterinarians, pharmacists and several countries including Spain.
Which Spanish names do you like best…and what would you add to the list?