Brazilian Surnames

top 6 most famous brazilian surnames: silva, santos, oliveira, ferreira, souza and pereira.

Brazil is a nation known for its diverse heritage and a complex history that has influenced its surnames. Brazilian surnames offer a unique glimpse into the blend of indigenous, European, African, and other influences that arrived here. In this Dica, we’ll explore the most famous Brazilian names and surnames, their origins, and meanings. You will for sure end this Dica wishing you could have a last name like us!

Origins of Brazilian Family Names

In Brazil, the registration of surnames is regulated by the National Register of Civil Registries (CRC), which falls under the jurisdiction of the National Justice Council. When a child is born, parents must choose a surname from their own family names or from a combination of both. The choice of surnames is generally flexible, allowing families to honor their heritage or create unique combinations.

It’s important to note that there are laws in place to prevent names that may be offensive or detrimental to the child’s well-being. The Brazilian legal system encourages a degree of creativity but ensures that children are not burdened with names that could lead to ridicule or discrimination.

Brazilian surnames have a diverse range of origins, reflecting the country’s multifaceted history. They have their origins in a variety of sources, including indigenous, Portuguese, African, and immigrant influences. The Portuguese, who colonized Brazil, played a significant role in shaping the nation’s naming traditions. Often, Portuguese surnames are derived from professions, locations, or characteristics.

Brazil’s history of immigration has further enriched its surnames. Italian, German, Japanese, Lebanese, and many other cultures have made their mark on Brazil. As a result, Brazilian surnames can be a blend of various linguistic and cultural influences. For instance, names like Nakamura and Oliveira can coexist in the same family tree. Who would have guessed, right? Learning Portuguese can always surprise you!

Brazilian Surnames and Meanings

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most famous and common surnames you can have here!


The most common surname in Brazil, “Silva” is of Portuguese origin and often denotes a family’s agricultural background. Silva means “forest” or “jungle”. Its widespread use is due to the large number of Portuguese immigrants in the country’s early history. It was also a chosen surname for many slaves when they got freed and began to have proper documentation. If you want to learn more about our heritage, we advise you to subscribe to our A Dica do Dia. We always have something new regarding our origins!


Santos is another popular Brazilian surname, which means “saints” in Portuguese. It is often associated with religious connections, reflecting the deep Catholic influence in Brazilian society. This last name used to be given to people that were born on November 1st.


This name has Portuguese origins and typically represents the olive tree. It’s a testament to the historical importance of agriculture in Brazil. There are two possibilities for the origins of the surname. One is that people who lived in places near olive trees adopted the name in Portugal. Another is that Jews forced into Catholicism adopted this surname so that they would not be persecuted.


Pereira is derived from the Portuguese word for “pear tree” and is a common surname in Brazil, hinting at the country’s strong Portuguese influence. More than 2.2 million Brazilians have this surname, impressive, right?


This surname is associated with blacksmiths and ironworkers, a profession that has been influential in Brazilian history. Interestingly, in its most diverse variations, it ends up being one of the most common surnames in the world. I am sure you have heard of the surname Smith before, right? Well, Ferreira is the Brazilian equivalent!


Souza is one of those last names every Brazilian knows someone who has this last name. This surname means “pebble”, “stone”, “wild pigeon” or “one who belongs to the Sousa River”. In Spanish, there is a equivalent, but with an S, Sousa.

Brazilian names and surnames reflect the country rich history and cultural diversity. With influences from Portuguese, African, indigenous, and other immigrant groups, these names are a testament to the complex herintage in Brazil. The registration of surnames is a flexible process, allowing families to celebrate their roots and create unique combinations that will carry their history forward into the future. What about you? Which Brazilian last name would you choose for yourself? Which of the Brazilian last names and surnames had the best meaning for you? Tell us in the comments below!

Click on the links below to see more related Dicas
Brazilian Flag
Brazilian Folklore
Santos Dumont
Rio de Janeiro Neighborhoods

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This is the best way to learn portuguese in Rio! Great atmosphere, vers good teachers and very efficient active learning method through one big bonus of this school: Rio&live !! Definitely recommand!!
Kanso M
Kanso M
Llevo solo unas semanas estudiando en línea con Rio & Learn y puedo decir que mi portugués ya ha mejorado notablemente! Espero poder visitar la escuela pronto para realizar una inmersión completa y conocer a todos los profesores que son geniales. Muchas gracias Rio & Learn!
Pablo Gonzalez
Pablo Gonzalez
I have been taking online group classes here for about a month. The entire class is in Portuguese so you learn super fast. The class sizes are small and after each class the teacher evaluates you, so you learn at your own pace. All the teachers I've had are super enthusiastic and encouraging. You're also put in a WhatsApp group to practice and there are extra online activities which are super fun. I both laugh and learn a ton in my classes. I highly recommend this school and I hope someday in the future I can visit in person!
Sam Terlizzi
Sam Terlizzi
I had a lovely time with the teachers and my fellow students during the classes and the activities the school provided. They push you to speak as much Portuguese as possible during and outside the classes. This made it possible for me to start smal conversation after one week!!! Thank you very much for all the fun and teachable moments! “Eu gosto Rio and Learn!”
Mathieu Vandemaele (MathieuV)
Mathieu Vandemaele (MathieuV)
Rio & Learn is a one stop shop for learning Portuguese while enjoying the amazing Carioca lifestyle. The teachers and the staffs are very accommodating and they always encourage you to speak and immerse in the language. The immersion classes would take you on amazing journeys to local historic spots of the city while keeping you extra fit. Highly recommend!!!
Khoa Pham
Khoa Pham
excelente experiencia, quero visitar novamente, os professores foram maravilhosos - Diogo e Ana Paula! A escola é bem organizada, bem localizada e funciona bem. Obrigada a todos!
Wonderful experience of Portuguese learning! The curriculum combines class room lectures and RioLIVE! field trips. My favorite activities are samba and cooking lesson. Staff and teachers are very friendly and helpful.The school is perfectly suited few steps away from beautiful Copacabana beach. Diogo is amazing and fun, he makes a beginner like feels really comfortable and able to learn!
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Hong Lynn Zeng
E ai pessoal! Rio & Learn fue una experiencia maravillosa. En la escuela tuve clases muy interesante que mezclan temas gramaticales con conversación de una forma muy bien planificada. Adicionalmente, las actividades programadas por la escuela en la tarde y los fines de semana son muy divertidas y son una extensión de las clases por lo que se puede continuar practicando portugués en un escenario más pragmático. Complementario a esto, los profesores son muy buenos y tienen mucho ánimo y disposición para enseñar, preocupándose de que el estudiante aprenda ya sea en un entorno individual o grupal; debido a que el profesor que dicta la clase cambia con cierta frecuencia uno tiene la posibilidad de desarrollar más la habilidad de escucha con los diferentes acentos y dinámicas de cada uno. Finalmente, como solo traveler es el lugar ideal para hacer amigos en clase y pasar un buen rato con las actividades de RioLive mientras conoces Rio y practicas el idioma objetivo así que es una excelente combinación. Recomiendo completamente, amé mi experiencia, cree amistades para toda la vida y mejoré mi portugués tal como quería, superó mis expectativas con creces.
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karolina roa correa
la escuela es muy útil para aprender portugués, las clases son interactivas y divertidas. Tiene excelentes profesores que ayudan al aprendizaje de manera efectiva.
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I highly recommend Rio and Learn, especially as a solo-traveler. You will make so many friends from the classes and have a lot of support from teachers as well. The group classes are quite great and allow you to maximize your time in the city. I love how you spend the first half of the day focusing on grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary and then afterwards you actually apply it while visiting some of the coolest places in Rio.
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michael alcorn