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Dec 3, 2003, 4:53 PM

Post #1 of 4 (5820 views)


Name Structure in Spanish

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In English, most people have a three part name, such as John Thomas Smith, with John the first name, Thomas the middle name, and Smith the last name. Smith is the family name of the father, in most cases.

In Spanish, I think that most people have a four part name, such as Juan Thomas Garcia Macias. I think that the apellido is the father's family name, Garcias in this case. I think that Juan would be the nombre. But what do you call Macias, which I believe would be the mother's family name. What about Thomas? And do most Mexicans have a four part name? (A friend of mine, a very high-class Mexican, is named Luis Felipe Gomez-Do'Ibarra de Chauyfet, but I don't think that most Mexicans have such fancy names). If a Mexican was filling out a form in Mexico, what would they write, and what would the form call for?

And just to make the topic complete, does the name change after a marriage, and if so how? In the US, the wife usually takes the husband's family name, and her family name becomes her new middle (maiden) name.

This topic keeps coming up in the ESL class that I teach, maybe it is my problem not their's, but it seems important to understand the difference in name structure, especially when filling out job applications.

Thanks in advance. (How do I say that in Spanish, Gracias de antemano?


Dec 4, 2003, 5:40 AM

Post #2 of 4 (5633 views)


Re: [raferguson] Name Structure in Spanish

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People's names in Mexico are more often than not very confusing to people from English-speaking countries such as the United States and Canada. In those countries, a person can be given a first name, a middle name (and sometimes more than one), and the name of either his father or his mother or a hyphenated combination of the two, depending on the parent or parents' choice. Naming in those countries has become more complex as society has become more complex and inclusive; children frequently have one parent whose last name is given to them, sometimes they have two parents who each have a different name but their last names are combined or hyphenated, and sometimes the parents are of the same sex and one or both of their last names are given to the child.

In Mexico, the naming system is straightforward, assuming that a baby's parents are married. The child is given one or more baptismal names, its father's last name and its mother's maiden name, in that order. A baby boy might be your suggested name, Juan Tomás García Macías, García being his father's name and Macías being his mother's maiden name. A baby girl will be Angélica Luisa Gómez Martínez, Gómez being her father's name and Martínez being her mother's maiden name.

When that baby girl grows up and marries, she is not required by law to change her name to reflect her husband's name, but most do. She has two choices in what she calls herself after marriage should she decide to change her name. Suppose she marries your example, Juan Tomás García Macías. She can choose to be Angélica Luisa García Gómez, or she can choose to be Angélica Luisa Gómez de García. She takes the her husband's father's last name and HER father's last name (as in the first example) or she drops her mother's maiden name and adds 'de García', her husband's father's last name.

All of the child's 'given' names are called simply nombres. The two last names are called apellidos. The father's last name is the apellido paterno. The mother's last name is the apellido materno. Those are the designations found on forms. Difficulties arise in English-speaking countries because forms there are designed for just one last name. The same situation exists in reverse in Mexico; English-named people are often at a loss as to how to fill out a form that asks for apellido paterno and apellido materno.

And yes, it's gracias de antemano.

De nada.

(This post was edited by esperanza on Dec 4, 2003, 5:08 PM)


Dec 4, 2003, 3:22 PM

Post #3 of 4 (5594 views)


Re: [esperanza] Name Structure in Spanish

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This thread brings back a funny memory. I was teaching at a local University; one that efficiently sets up bank accounts for teachers and then does automatic pay deposits.

Imagine my surprise when my first bank statement arrived complete with a name that wasn't mine. Someone realized when processing the paperwork that I didn't have enough last names to suit the form so they gave me another one! The postman is still trying to figure out my real identity.


Dec 15, 2003, 7:16 PM

Post #4 of 4 (5676 views)


Re: [raferguson] Name Structure in Spanish

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You already have a thorough response from Esperanza. I only add that when one is asked full name (and that is the case in most official paper work) we give all names and both last names (apellidos) and many times it is required to give it this order: father last name, mother last name and then the our first and middle names (Sanchez Diaz Jose de Jesus). Other than that most of us are happy with just giving one name and one apellido, usually the father last name (Jesus Cabral).
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