As the decades change, so do our preferences for the names we give our children. Looking at the list of most popular Spanish baby names over the last century, it's clear that children in Madrid and Barcelona don't have the same names their grandparents did — and for a country steeped in tradition, that's a pretty big deal.
As BabyCenter explained in a thoughtful report, the turn of the 20th century saw little variation in baby-naming; right up through the 1950s, the names José, Antonio, Manuel, and Francisco occupied the top four spots on the list, while girls were overwhelmingly named María, María Carmen, Carmen, Josefa, and Dolores. Toward mid-century, the tide slowly started to turn, with double names like María Teresa, José Luís, Ana María, and Miguel Angel becoming trendy. The transition to democracy in Spain following the 1975 death of dictator Francisco Franco brought still more changes on birth certificates, and the list has become increasingly more varied ever since.
True, the baby-name shift in Spain hasn't been as dramatic as it has over here. American babies have gone from the Clarences, Berthas, Walters, and Idas of the 1880s to today's popular Noah, Liam, Emma, Sophia. You probably won't find many little Psalms and Chicagos romping around Málaga, but you will see a lot of interesting regional names in Spain, according to the Spanish language learning site Don Quixote. In Galicia, Anxo and Antía are popular; Markel and Ane are big in the Catalan region. In the Canarian area, Airam and Naira are tops with parents.
Below are the top 20 most favored baby names in Spain today. They're all so beautiful, maybe they'll stick around for a while and become the next long-standing tradition.
In a country where 68 percent of residents identify as Catholic, per World Atlas, it stands to reason that this name has been on the top 10 list for a century.
The Spanish variant of Alexander, meaning "defending men," first started appearing on the top 10 list in the 1990s. It's #208 on Nameberry's list of popular American names.
Pronounced "loo-SEE-ya," this pretty name means "light" and is a tribute to St. Lucia (or Lucy), an early Christian saint, according to Baby Name Wizard.
This classic Biblical name spans the continents. The second-most popular boy's name in Spain is also the 11th-most popular name here, per the Social Security Administration.
Another relative newcomer to the Spanish list, this feminine version of Paul means "small," per Baby Name Wizard.
The name of the legendary Hebrew king was a top-5 choice in America for several decades. Today, it's slipped to #17 on the Social Security Administration list, but in Spain, it's been red-hot since the '90s.
This Latin-derived name meaning "bay laurel" is pronounced a little differently in Spain than it is here. Say "La-OO-rah" with a soft emphasis on the middle syllable, recommended Nameberry.
The Spanish variation of Paul ranks only slightly lower than the female version. Art-loving parents might use it as a tribute to the brilliant Spaniard Pablo Picasso.
Pronounced with the emphasis on the last syllable, the female version of Andrew ironically means "strong and manly," according to Nameberry. It's a popular name across many cultures and can also be used as a boy's name.
This Latin name meaning "man of Adria" is becoming increasingly popular not only in Spain, but also in other parts of Europe such as Norway and Sweden, according to Nameberry.
While the English version doesn't even crack the top 200 American girls' name list, the Spanish version of Martha has been trendy in Spain for more than 40 years, reported Baby Name Wizard.
You might be more familiar with the alternate spelling, Xavier, but either way, this way-cool name comes from the Basque region and means "new house" or bright," according to Nameberry.
You might be more likely to think of this as a last name if you're a Jessica Alba fan, but in Spain, many girls go by this name meaning "white" as a first name, said The Bump.
This name meaning "old guard" sounds like it originated in Spain, but (surprise!) it's actually an old German name, according to The Bump.
American parents by far prefer the alternate spelling (with the H); for us, Sarah ranks #44 to Sara's #150. The Spanish language rarely uses silent letters, however, so the four-letter version makes their top 10.
This Latin-derived name meaning "to serve" isn't hugely popular in the US, but gets "a lot of love" not only in Spain, but also in Portugal and Italy, according to The Bump.
While the Spanish form of Anna is more popular over there (we prefer to stick in the extra N), they both mean "grace" and are equally nice as either a first or middle name.
As Baby Name Wizard pointed out, four kings of Spain have been named Carlos, so tradition-loving parents have kept this name on the charts since the '70s.
A name unique to the Basque region of Spain, Nerea means "mine," explained Nameberry, and it's lovely enough to deserve some attention over here.
With the popularity of Prince William and his family all over the world, it's quite possible that the Spanish variation of George could move up a few notches in Spain in the 2020s.