Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Order of names in Brazil and the U.S.

Let’s say the mother is Jane Lewis and the father is Paul Barber. They have a son.

In America, as well as other Anglo-based countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand, Jane and Paul would choose a given name, another given name and the father’s surname for their son. Example: James Steven Barber.

In Brazil, you choose one given name (sometimes two) and you add the mother’s surname before the father’s surnname. Example:   James Lewis Barber. No hiphens.

In Spanish speaking countries the father’s family name comes first, then the mother’s family name. Example: James Barber Lewis. No hiphens.

Why not add the mother’s family name to your kids name? Why is the paternal line more important?  I prefer the Brazilian way, and not because I was born there. I just think that a second given name is useless. A guy called Robert  Joseph will rarely be called Joseph. I can understand that people need a middle initial, sometimes to differentiate themselves from others with similar names. By adding your mother’s family name, you are honoring and recognizing both sides of the family. It’s less patriarchic. And the way celebrities are gibing their kids ridiculous names nowadays, the less given names the less chance of seeing  “Banana Daiquiri Smiths” around.

I myself have my name, my family name and my married name. I would not consider giving up my family name, nor did I want a hyphen to complicate things.  So I have 3 names. Sometimes I only use the first and last name. My children have my family name and their father’s family name. They are proud of being a part of both heritages.

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March 3, 2009 - Posted by | Difference between cultures

1 Comment »

  1. Hi, I arrived to this post trying to find out about the unusual Brazilian and Portuguese naming conventions. They are very interesting, and more flexible than the rest. I also realise this post is 4 years old, but nonetheless…
    I agree that the Brazilian system is less patriarchal than the alternative, but only marginally, as the “real” surname is still considered to be the last one, and maternal surname is only kept for one generation (grandchildren will keep their parents second surnames, i.e., their grandfathers’).
    On the same note, I see women taking their husband’s names as even worse, as females get to be defined by their civil status (either as ‘belonging’ -by means of surname- to their fathers or their husbands) while men aren’t. It would be interesting to know how men feel about changing their names when getting married.

    Comment by Sarah | June 11, 2013 | Reply


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