How do Spanish last names work when married?

Answered by Willian Lymon

Spanish last names, or apellidos, hold great significance in Spanish culture and are deeply rooted in the country’s history. Unlike in many other countries, when a person gets married in Spain, they do not change their surname. Instead, they retain their original surnames throughout their life.

The tradition of not changing surnames upon marriage is influenced by Spanish civil law, which aims to preserve individuals’ identities and family heritage. This means that both partners, regardless of their gender, keep their respective surnames after marriage. For example, if a woman named Maria Lopez marries a man named Juan Garcia, Maria will continue to be known as Maria Lopez, and Juan will remain Juan Garcia.

However, there is an interesting convention in Spain that allows for the addition of the partner’s surname after the person’s original surnames. This is typically done using the preposition “de,” which means “of” in English. For instance, Maria Lopez could choose to be addressed as Maria Lopez de Garcia, indicating that she is married to Juan Garcia.

It’s important to note that the use of the preposition “de” is not mandatory and is often reserved for more formal or high society situations. In everyday life, it is quite common for married individuals to continue using their original surnames without the addition of their partner’s surname.

This unique approach to surnames in Spain has both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it allows individuals to maintain their own identity and family lineage, as surnames often hold historical and cultural significance. It also avoids the confusion that can arise from changing surnames and helps to preserve family connections over generations.

On the other hand, this tradition can sometimes make it difficult to determine a person’s relationship to their spouse. For example, if Maria Lopez de Garcia introduces herself simply as Maria Lopez, it may not be immediately clear that she is married to Juan Garcia. This can lead to some ambiguity in social interactions, especially in formal settings where knowing one’s marital status and connections is important.

The Spanish approach to surnames in marriage is a reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage and commitment to preserving individual identities. It is a fascinating aspect of Spanish society that sets it apart from many other countries where changing surnames upon marriage is the norm.