Portuguese Names 1350-1450

Portuguese Names 1350-1450

by Juliana de Luna (Julia Smith)

© 1998 by Julia Smith; all rights reserved.

Information about Iberian naming practices, and particularly Portuguese naming practice, is relatively difficult to find in English. This article makes available information about Portuguese names in the early fifteenth century.

Fernam Lopez (modern Fernão) is one of the better known of the Portuguese chroniclers. During the first quarter of the fifteenth century, he wrote three great chronicles, covering the reigns of three kings:

These three chronicles have been published in translation (the first into French and the second two partially translated into English) with a transcription of the original Portuguese side by side. This allows the analysis of names in their original forms [1].

These chronicles provide a glimpse into Portuguese naming practice vastly different from modern Portuguese, in some ways far more similar to Spanish. The names of 191 Portuguese men were identified in these chronicles. The names of over 200 men from Castille, Aragon, England, and other places were excluded from the sample. The large number of foreign names reflects the emphasis of the chronicle on public events, specifically the wars between Pedro of Castille and John of Gaunt, the English prince who pressed a claim to the Castillian throne on behalf of his wife, a Spanish princess. Likewise, names that do not refer to real people alive at the time (saints, fictional characters) have been excluded from the data.

The actual names from the text can be found at on a separate page.

Given Names

Men's Names

The 191 individuals share only 24 names, though these names are found in a variety of forms (with a single individual's name often spelled multiple ways). Joham, the most common name, accounts for 21% of individuals, and the top 5 names account for 56% of individuals. The masculine given names are listed below in order of frequency. Variant forms are listed in declining order of frequency; counting the number of individuals with each form is not feasible since the names of some individuals take more than one form.

1. Joham, Johan, Johane, Johanne 40 (21%)
2. Gonçallo, Gomçallo 22 (12%)
3. Martim, Martym, Martinho, Martimho 16 (8%)
4. Alvaro, Alvoro 15 (8%)
5. Fernam, Fernanado, Feram 13 (7%)
6. Affonso, Afonsso, Affonso, Afonso 11 (6%)
Lourenço, Louremço, Loureço 11 (6%)
Vaasco 11 (6%)
9. Rrui, Rui, Ruy 9 (5%)
10. Pedro, Pero 7 (4%)
11. Gomez 5 (3%)
Nuno 5 (3%)
Rodrigo 5 (3%)
14. Diego, Diogo 4 (2%)
Gill, Gil 4 (2%)
16. Lopo 3 (2%)
17. Airas, Ayras 2 (1%)
Hanrrique 2 (1%)

One mention each: Antam, Bernaldom, Denis, Estançinho, Estevam, Lançarote.

Women's Names

Women are less frequently mentioned in chronicles, due to their bias toward men and people in the public view. Nonetheless, in these chronicles, 35 Portuguese women and 33 foreign (mostly Castillian) women were mentioned.

The 35 Portuguese women had the following names (in alphabetical order):

Briatiz, Beatriz, Betriz 5
Enes 5
Lianor, Lionor 3
Maria 3
Tareija, Tareyja 3
Aldonça 1
Biringeira 1
Branca 1
Catalina 1
Costança 1
Isabell 1
Mayor 1
Sancha 1
Violante 1

All of these names are well attested in the Spanish kingdoms. A few alternate spellings for these names can be documented by looking at the names of foreign women.


Men's bynames are comparatively complex. Of 191 men, 28 have no byname given in the text. Some are identified only by a given name because they are members of the royal family; others are unimportant people mentioned only in passing, and it is possible that the author simply did not know their byname. Of those who have bynames, about half have single element bynames and about half have two element bynames. From the text, there are few clues to distinguish hereditary surnames from individual bynames. The few indications from the text suggest that some people were using hereditary surnames, while others were using individual bynames. This is similar to the situation in Spain at the same time: some individuals were using true patronymic bynames, while others were using inherited patronymic surnames.

The frequency of different types of bynames is as follows:
No Byname: 28 (15%)
Single Element Byname: 83 (43%)
Patronymic ending in ez 40
Patronymic uninflected 11
Locative with de 10
Other 22
Two Element Byname: 80 (42%)
Patronymic ending in ez + locative 42
Uninflected patronymic + locative 16
Other 22

Patronymic Bynames

There are two forms that patronymic bynames take in Portuguese, similar to the situation in Spanish. The form is determined by the father's name. In the more common form, the final vowel of the name is replaced with -ez. Most scholars consider that this is derived from the Latin genitive form. A smaller group of names are used as patronymic bynames without being modified in any way. In this data, 94 individuals (49%) had as one of their bynames a patronymic bynames ending in -ez, while 33 (17%) individuals had a patronymic byname that was not altered.

The following table includes names and their patronymic forms. Names in brackets [] are not found in the texts, though all are documented in Portugal. Among the bracketed named, ones marked with a star * are from the late twelfth century; the unstarred names are from the sixteenth century.

Name Patronymic form
Affonso Affonso
Airas [Airas]
Alvaro Alvarez
[Andre] André
Diego Diaz
[Domingos] Dominguez
Estavam Estevez, Stevez
Fernam Fernandez
Gill Gill
Gonçallo Gonçallvez
Gomez Gomez
[Goterre] Goterrez
Hanrrique [Anrriquez]
Joham Eannes
Lopo Lopez
Lourenço Lourenço
Martim Martinez
[Mateus] Mateus
*[Meen] Meendez
Nuno Nunez
[Paullo] Paulo
Pero,Pedro Perez
Rodrigo Rodriguez
Rui [Ruyz]
*[Sancho] Sanchez
Vaasco Vaasquez
[Vincente] Vincente

Locative bynames

The second common type of byname is a locative byname, which normally takes the form "de (of) ". These names are somewhat less common in Portuguese at the time than in Spanish; however, 70 individuals (37%) have a locative byname, either alone or following a patronymic byname. Patronymic bynames seem to have played several roles. Some seem to be hereditary surnames referring to the residence or history of the family. Others seem to be individual bynames, describing where the person was born or lives.

In Portuguese, de comes in a variety of forms. It is often elided with the word following it. When it elides with an article (like the, it agrees with the name that follows it in gender and number. Feminine placenames are more likely to be marked than masculine placenames. Therefore, we find the following forms:

de (can be used with anything) 34
d' (before vowel) 17
do (before a masculine word) 6
da (before a feminine word) 11
dos (before a masculine plural) 0
das (before a feminine plural) 3

Other Bynames

A variety of bynames that do not fit into the previous categories are found. Some are individual bynames, such as Ovelho "the old". Others are old surnames that are found both in Spanish and in Portuguese.

Complex Bynames

Almost half the people with bynames have a two element byname. The majority (73%) have names that combine a patronymic as the first element with a locative as the second element. The remainder combine either a patronymic or a locative element with an element that is neither.

Women's Bynames

Many of the women, especially royal women, are mentioned with only a single name. However, 13 of the women have bynames listed.
No Byname: 18
Single Element Byname: 12
Patronymic ending in ez 3
Patronymic uninflected 1
Locative with de 4
Other 4
Two Element Byname: 5
Patronymic ending in ez + locative 3
Uninflected patronymic + locative 0
Other 2

Women's bynames are somewhat more simple than men's names (only 14% of women but 42% of men have two element bynames). However, all of the same types of names are found.


[1] Fernão Lopes. The English in Portugal, 1367-1387: Extracts from the Chronicles of Dom Fernando and Dom João with an introduction, translation, and notes by Derek W. Lomax and R. J. Oakley (Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips, Ltd., 1988). Unfortunately, the extracts in this source are not complete, but I have not yet located a complete copy of these to include the rest of them.

       Fernão Lopes. Chronique du Roi D. Pedro I / Crónica do Rei D. Pedro I (transcribed Giuliano Macchi, translation to French and notes Jaqueline Steunou). Éditiones du Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, 1985.

Editting, layout, & publishing by Arval Benicoeur

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