Names of Greek, Latin or Germanic origin generated patronymic surnames, e.g.,

Álvaro   -> Álvares
António  -> Antunes
Estêvão  -> Esteves
Fernando -> Fernandes
Geraldo  -> Geraldes
Henrique -> Henriques
Lopo     -> Lopes
Martim   -> Martins
Pero     -> Peres
Rodrigo  -> Rodrigues

However, it seems that names of Hebraic origin seldom did generate patronymic surnames, e.g.,

Daniel   -> ?
David    -> Davides 
Gabriel  -> ?
João     -> Eanes
José     -> ?    
Manuel   -> ?
Miguel   -> Miguéis
Rafael   -> ?
Samuel   -> ?
Simão    -> Simões

My hypotheses:

  • the Portuguese Jews did not use the patronymic suffix -es (which some claim is of Visigothic origin) and used the prefix Ben instead. For example, King Dom Afonso Henriques's "finance minister" allegedly was Yahia Ben Yahi III. His father allegedly was Yahia Ben Rabbi. Jews born under Moorish rule seem to have used the Arabic prefix ibn as well.

  • the Portuguese Jews dropped their Hebraic surnames and adopted gentile surnames to escape the Inquisition.

  • names of Hebraic origin only became popular after patronymic naming ended. This would explain why so few patronymic surnames of Hebraic origin seem to have been generated.

  • Estêvão também é sobrenome.
    – Jorge B.
    Feb 14, 2017 at 12:54
  • Rodrigo eu não disse o contrário, só que além de nome também é sobrenome.
    – Jorge B.
    Feb 14, 2017 at 14:49
  • 2
    Simão/Simões is another Hebrew origin pair; from Wikipedia's list it seems to be the most common Hebrew origin patronymic surname in Portugal. (It's the only one I can find from skimming their list of top surnames.)
    – Dan Getz
    Feb 14, 2017 at 14:57
  • (Not that I'm likely to have an answer for you, but) could you clarify what you're looking for in an answer? Are you just looking for a list of which surnames of that type exist? Or other information related to your hypothesis?
    – Dan Getz
    Feb 14, 2017 at 15:10
  • @DanGetz Ideally, a passage from a history book stating that Jews dropped their Hebraic surnames and adopted gentile surnames when the Inquisition was started. Assuming that was indeed the case, of course. Perhaps Jews did not use patronymic surnames. Not my area of expertise. Feb 14, 2017 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


It says here that before their forced conversions Portuguese Jews had "easily recognizable" names (I don't know if that's true) and it gives a long list. It also says:

Como característica geral, os nomes judeus nunca têm patronímicos à portuguesa, se bem que pelo menos os nomes antecedidos por ben o pareçam ser. Como é o caso, por exemplo, de Benafaçom, que significaria filho de Afaçom. Na verdade, só encontrei três judeus com nomes de família que podem ser patronímicos à portuguesa: Marcos, Vicente e Manuel, se bem que este último nome também apareça como Manueell. Claramente patronímico português só encontrei um, aliás associado a um primeiro nome cristão. Trata-se de Álvaro Gonçalves, judeu, morador na cidade de Évora, que a 15.10.1454 teve perdão da justiça régia pela fuga da prisão. Mas julgo tratar-se já de um converso (ou um dos vários que, como vimos, foram por certas pessoas obrigados a converter-se), ou então um descendente de judeus de Castela, onde as conversões forçadas começaram em 1391 e desde 1449 estavam em vigor os estatutos de pureza de sangue.

The idea that Jews in the Iberian Peninsula all changed their surnames to names of trees or of geographical accidents is widely considered to be a myth. Converts had to be baptized, so many adopted the surnames of their godfathers; others just chose common surnames (they were trying to blend in, not stand out!).

According to Wikipedia the Spanish patronymic suffix -ez (-es in Portuguese) seems to have ceased being productive in the 13th century. There are no sources there, but I've read the same elsewhere, simply stating that from 1200 onwards the surnames in -ez had become more or less fixed. This is well before the Inquisition and the forced conversion of Jews.

This still doesn't explain why there seem to be no patronymics in -es formed from Hebrew names. Browsing several lists of medieval Iberian names reveals a possible reason: there seem to be no or very few personal names of ultimately Hebrew origin ending in -el at the time. There are people called João, José, Mateus or, in Spanish, Juan, José, Mateo (that is, the old forms of those names), but among the lists one has to go until later to find some instances of people named Miguel and Gabriel. Could it be that these only became fashionable after the end of the Middle Ages? Finding this out would require sources that I don't have.

  • So, there was no gentile named Gabriel, José, Manuel, Miguel, Rafael, Samuel before the 13th century? Feb 14, 2017 at 17:04
  • 1
    @RodrigodeAzevedo I've just edited the answer. Surprisingly that seems to be the case.
    – pablodf76
    Feb 14, 2017 at 22:58
  • Sesnando Davides might be a counterexample Dec 18, 2023 at 19:40

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