What Is Anthroponymy

Anthroponymy (from the Greek άνθρωπος, “person” and ὀνομα, “name”) is an area of onomastics (science of names) that studies only the proper names of people, whether surnames or surnames ( family surnames ), [ 1 ] [ 2 ] ] called anthroponyms ( European Portuguese ) or anthroponyms ( Brazilian Portuguese ) . Explaining its origin, evolution and variation depending on place, time and customs.


There are several ways of classifying anthroponyms:


When we personally apply a name to an individual, we do not clearly specify in what sense we are using it. There are basically four definitions for the term name: [ 2 ]

  • Full name: It is the set of personal designations. For example: José Leite de Vasconcelos;
  • First name or individual: It is the name given at the moment of the person’s birth, that is, the name of baptism . As an example: considering the full name of the example, the individual name is “José”;
  • Surname : This also called “family nickname”, is the portion of the individual’s name related to their ancestry (related to genealogical study ). For example: Antunes, Bragança, Rodrigues, etc.
  • Any element of the name: When asking the name of a person, directly to him or to someone else, we would get varied answers. For example: considering the full name of the example, we have: José, Vasconcelos, or Leite de Vasconcelos; Despite the different categories, all are designated simply by names;
  • nickname( European Portuguese ) or nickname ( Brazilian Portuguese ) or nickname: It is a form of informal treatment, of a temporary character (nickname) or permanent (nickname), being considered a name from the moment that individualizes a certain person. For example: a common nickname in Brazil, considering the first name “José”, is the reduced form “Zé”.

Origin of the name

To allow designation among individuals, (pre) names or surnames were assigned based on six motivations: [ 2 ]

  • As for historical, political or religious influence: As for religious motivation, in ancient times parents sought divine protection for their children by giving divine names (Greek, Hebrew, German, etc.). With the advent of Christianity, the trend continued, now in the form of homage to the saints of the Catholic Church. For example: the hieronyms Peter, Jesus, Mary. As for political motivation, it refers to the admiration of parliamentarians in evidence and, their relationship with power. For example: Romeo, a pilgrim who went to Rome to receive the Pope’s indulgence; Percival, knight of the Holy Grail demand.
  • As for the place or time of birth: it refers to physical particularities or moral qualities. For example: João Guimarães, born in the Portuguese city of Guimarães; Libânio, born in Mount Lebanon; Lucius / Lucia, child born during daylight; Bruno, a child with dark eyes and hair;
  • As for professions: As for example: Ferreira, they come from blacksmith; Cavalcante, they come from knight; Jorge, they come from a farmer;
  • As for eccentricity : Most of them are atypical and difficult to understand. For example: Edeluz, they come from a spirit of light;
  • As for conservation: It is characterized by perpetuating  certain family names, becoming a family tradition;
  • As for the influence of fashion: It is characterized by being imposed mainly by the mass media. For example: old anthroponyms like Rodrigo, Marcos, Daniela and, Cláudia.


They also occur due to syntactic phonetics phenomena :

  • By agglutination: Occurs through the union of two existing names to create a new one. For example “Cláudio” + “Leonor” → Claudionor. [3 ]
  • By transposition: It occurs through the adaptation of a foreign language name to a new reality, it is an appropriation, but in this case it is not related to the place, trade or custom. For example: Thomas Woodrow Wilson → Wilson Silva. [3 ]

Leave a Comment