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Hispanic names can appear confusing because they use a slightly different format than ours. When we have own format in mind, it can be difficult to determine exactly what is a Hispanic person's last name.

Our forms call for a First Name, a Middle name and a Last name. Hispanic names consist of a Nombre (or nombre cristiano) which is the entire name short of the Last names, and two Apellidos which are both parents' surnames.

Let's take a look at a sample name: Rosa María Muñoz Izquierdo.

Rosa María is the woman's name -nombre or nombre cristianoMaría is not her middle name - it is part of what we would call her first name.

Muñoz is her father's last name -or apellido paterno- this is what we would call her "last name".

Izquierdo is her mother's last name (maiden name) -or apellido materno- and is used only in conjunction with her father's last name. It is not what we would call her `last name'. It is only part of her complete last name.

So, we can call her Rosa María Muñoz, Rosa María Muñoz Izquierdo, señora Muñoz or Ms. Muñoz Izquierdo.

But we do not call her *Ms. Izquierdo!

This can be complicated when a woman marries.

If Rosa María were to marry Ramón Gómez González, she would take Ramón's paternal last name (the first of his two last names.) Many Hispanic countries add the conjunction 'de' to show that this additional name is a married last name. Others simply tack on the additional name.

Rosa María Muñoz Izquierdo is now called any of the following:

  • Rosa María Muñoz de Gómez
  • Rosa María Muñoz Izquierdo de Gómez
  • Rosa María Muñoz Gómez.
  • Or even Rosa María Muñoz Izquierdo Gómez
  • Her primary last name is still Muñoz.
When Ramón Gómez González and Rosa María Muñoz Izquierdo have a son, Mauricio Raúl,
  • his full name will be Mauricio Raúl Gómez Muñoz.
  • their daughter Patricia Luisa's full name is Patricia Luisa Gómez Muñoz.
This can be confusing on paper here in the United States because the last names of the parents appear to be different than those of the children.

Many second and third generation Hispanics in this country will have adapted to the United States system of names. In this case, they will follow the traditional first-name/last-name pattern of names, usually by dropping the apellido materno. They may also reverse the order: by putting the apellido materno first they are able to retain the familial name as a "middle name," but still accommodate U.S. paperwork.

Additionally there is the tradition of what appears to us as naming all of the children with the same first name. Since the nombre cristiano is the entire series of name short of the apellidos, these children do not have the same name. For example, my uncles are Juan Manolo, Juan Félix and Juan Francisco. They have different nicknames based on the second part of their nombres. Additionally, children are often given their parents' same nombres (this applies to mother-daughter as well as father-son.) Since in Hispanic culture the apellidos are different, there is no confusion.

Write your name in the Hispanic fashion below:

First names

(our first & middle names)

Father's last name Mother's last name de

Husband's father's last name

(if you are a married woman)


When you are confused about the names, it may help to remember your own name written this way.