Spanish surnames with Celtic roots

Celtic connections

Flag of the Celtic Nations. Credit: User: Slashme/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

What’s in a name? The word ‘Celtic’ immediately conjures up images of Scotland and Ireland, but the Celts legacy reveals some surprising European connections.

The Celts made their mark between 800 BC and 450 BC across various European regions. They made their way to the Iberian Peninsula around the 8th to 6th centuries BC, and left behind a significant cultural footprint.

The term ‘Celtic‘ now broadly refers to the ethnic groups, cultures, and languages found in the British Isles, but also encompasses France, Galicia, Asturias, Castilla y Leon, Cantabria, and Portugal.

The combined flag of the seven Celtic Nations (pictured) displays the following regions, clockwise from the top: Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Wales, Brittany and Galicia.

Surnames with a story

Surnames like Gonzalez, shared by over 921,956 individuals as a first or second name, are possibly derived from the Celtic ‘gunthi’, meaning ‘fighter’.

Rodriguez comes from ‘Rodericus’, while Mendez and Perez, among the most common in Spain, have similar origins. Diaz, potentially connected to the Celtic ‘Deus’, is held by over 300,000 citizens.

Other names such as Rivera, Fraga, or Estrada, and even Lopez or Sanchez, are speculated to have Celtic roots, with Lopez possibly descending from ‘lupus’, meaning ‘wolf’, and Sanchez linked to ‘light’.

Spanish names and Celtic connections:

Arzua, likely of toponymic origin (one derived from the name of a place).
Estrada, indicating a geographical origin.
Farinas, a common surname with Celtic and Galician roots.
Fraga, a toponymic surname from Galicia.
Freire, suggesting a toponymic background.
Lake, a Galician-origin surname.
Lugo, named after the city, municipality, and province in Galicia.
Marin or Mariño, deriving from ‘Marinus’, indicating a seafarer.
Mendez, denoting descent from Mendo.
Mosquera or Mosqueira, originating from places named ‘O Mosqueira’, from the Latin ‘muscaria’, linked to ‘musca’.
Paez, a patronymic surname from ‘Paio’, a shortened form of ‘Pelaio’ or ‘Pelayo’.
Quiroga, a Galician surname of toponymic origin.
Ribeiro or Rivera, with a toponymic origin related to the shore of the sea or a river.
Ulloa, a Galician toponymic surname.

Surnames offer a tangible link to the past, showcasing the intertwined history and culture that persist over time. In Spain, this influence is a testament to a rich cultural heritage.

This brief exploration into the Celtic roots of Spanish surnames provides a fascinating glimpse into the past, highlighting the enduring impact of Celtic culture on modern identity.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.