Puerto Rican last names

Puerto Rico is a beautiful, unique island that has had many influences on its culture. One of the most interesting aspects of Puerto Rican culture is their last names. There are Spanish surnames, African surnames, and indigenous surnames. Last names can be used to tell you where someone’s ancestors came from or even what language they speak at home.

Puerto Rican surnames

Interested in learning more about this topic? Read on for some fascinating facts about Puerto Rican last names and their meaning:

Sanchez, (Spanish origins) meaning the son of Sancho (sanctified).

Diaz,  (Spanish origins) meaning the son of Diego (James).

Rodriguez, (Spanish origins) translating into “son of Rodrigo”.

Colon, (African origins) meaning city dweller.

Martinez/Maldonado, (Spanish meanings) both mean “the son of Martin” or Martha. 

Martinez, (can also have African origins) meaning one who is hardworking or one who is not afraid to do things.

Lopez, (Spanish meanings) meaning the son of Lope/Lopez.

Gonzalez, (Spanish origins) meaning the son of Gonzalo.

Otero, (Spanish origins) meaning one who resides on top of a hill.

Hernandez,  (Spanish origins) translating into “son of Enrique”.

Ortiz,  (Spanish origins) meaning the son of Orti/Ortiz.

Figueroa,(African origins) meaning one who is good at picking fruits and vegetables.

Torres, (Spanish origins) meaning the son of Tor (high tower).

Santos, (Spanish origins) meaning Saint.

Jimenez,(Spanish origins) meaning the son of Jimeno.

Cruz, (Spanish origins) meaning Cross.  

Perez, (Spanish origins) meaning the son of Pedro.

Ayala, (Indigenous origins) meaning waterfall.

Soto, (Spanish origins) meaning one who lives in or near a forest or woods.

Melendez, (Spanish origins) meaning one who is a protector of humanity.

Quiñones, (Hispanic origins), meaning one who comes from a place that is abundant with seeds or fruit. 

Santana, (Hispanic origins),  meaning Saint.

Carreon, (Hispanic or Puerto Rican origin),  meaning one who is in charge of the care or transportation of travellers. 

Negron, (Puerto Rican), meaning one who is black, dark-complexioned.

Vasquez, (Hispanic origins),  meaning one whose origins are from the Basque region and who is related to a person with Vasco ancestry.

Rivera and Ramirez are two very common Puerto Rican surnames that stand apart from most others because they mean different things in Puerto Rico than their original Spanish meanings. Rivera, from the Latin “rivus” meaning a small river. Hence a dweller by a stream. Ramirez means son of Ramiro.

The indigenous people of Puerto Rico originally had no last names before the Spanish settlers colonized the island.  The Africans brought to work as slaves, however, did have last names that they carried with them. Many African surnames can still be encountered in Puerto Rico today, such as Sanchez and Rivera.

Many Puerto Ricans have last names of Spanish origins because the island was colonized by Spain for about 300 years.  When the Spanish settlers arrived on the island, they gave some Africans surnames that meant something in Spanish and assigned them to work for the Spanish people already living there. Africans were not allowed to take the same last names as the Spanish people. The majority of last names that were given to Africans ended in “ez.”

When Puerto Ricans move off the island and begin living in a different culture, they start using American last names rather than their Hispanic counterparts.  For example, Garcia becomes Johnson and Rodriguez becomes Anderson. However, many Puerto Ricans still use their Spanish origins last names.

Today most Puerto Rican families have one of three different kinds of last names: Indigenous, African, or Hispanic. Because the culture is so rich with history and unique traditions, Puerto Rican names are just another way to explore this wonderful island!

The Puerto Rican surname is passed down from generation to generation, and it can be a difficult task for any new member of the family. We hope you’ve found this article helpful in understanding more about what your surname may mean or how people perceive you when they hear your last name. Puerto Rican last names are, like the culture and people themselves, a complicated mix of influences. Sometimes it can be difficult to know who we should call “Puerto Rican” when there is such an amalgamation of cultures in this beautiful country.

Patricia Brown
Latest posts by Patricia Brown (see all)

Leave a Comment