Why do Spanish people have two surnames?

You have probably noticed that in countries where Spanish is spoken, native Spanish people have about four different names and you may have wondered why this is. The custom of having more than one surname originates from the Arabic influence in Spain between 711 and 1492 AD. It may seem a complicated way of naming and there are variations as to how it works but basically the rule is simple:

A child born into a Spanish-speaking family is given a first name and also two surnames. The first is taken from the father’s first surname (the name he was given from his father) and the second is taken from the mother’s first surname (the name she was given from her father).

Take for example the name “María García López”; “María” is the name she was given at birth, “García” would have been her father’s first surname and “López” her mother’s first surname.

When women get married in Spain they do not change their surname as is often the case here. Instead, it is common for her to add her husband’s first surname linked with “de” at the end of her name. For example, if “María García López” married “Felipe Ramos Pérez” it would be likely that she would add “de Ramos” to her name, making her new married name: “María García López de Ramos”.

 
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