Brazilian baby names are often known as Portuguese names, though there are some differences. In a Brazilian name, the child carries the last name of the father and the last name of the mother – the mother’s surname comes first, and the father’s surname comes last. In the law, however, it says only one surname is necessary, as well as one given name.
The history of Brazilian surnames is interesting. In ancient times, it was common for a girl to receive her mother’s surname and for a boy to receive his father’s surname. During these days it might be a bit unusual, but you can still find families in which the surname of the boys is different than the surname of the girls!
Ultimately, a child can be given two first names, followed by two surnames – or even more, depending on the family’s preference. They can go back to names from ancestors and use those as well. So it is possible that a child could be born with two given names and up to four surnames. That’s quite a mouthful to put on a birth certificate, isn’t it? When you see a list of names, it often has the surname listed first. In Brazil, however, it’s common to list the given name first, and alphabetize a list according to that order. This makes the choice of a first name even more important, because many parents want to see their child turn up at the beginning of lists, rather than the end.
Interestingly enough, most Portuguese names are lost on their Brazilian bearers. Most Brazilians don’t recognize the origins of their names because they are unfamiliar with the country in which the language originated! Therefore, if you ask a Brazilian what his or her name means, it will be rare that they can tell you the history of it. Many surnames in Brazil originated from tribal words, such as Tamoio or Guarany. Other names come from the earth, such as Palmeira, Pitanga, or Araripe.
What Brazilian baby names might be good for your child? Consider what you want the name to mean, but more importantly, consider where it comes from. Naming your child after the beautiful mountains you love so much is a sure bet that your child will have a personal meaning to carry along with that name. Popular given names include derivatives of the more common English names, such as Joana, Isabel or Teresa for women, and Antonio, Manuel or Francisco for men. Also very common are widely used surnames as substitutes for given names, such as Mozart, Jensen, Kennedy or Lenin.
When you look into Brazilian baby names for your child, you are looking into a rich, complicated culture that displays not only the melodic Portuguese language, but also the vast history of a land that has evolved greatly over hundreds and thousands of years. Your choice of a name should reflect the things that attract you to beautiful Brazil. Your child will thank you for it!