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Spanish Names in Mainstream America

written by: Bright Hub Education Writer • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 1/28/2013

If you don't have a name of Spanish or Latin American origin, you probably know somebody that does. This Bright Hub Education writer looks at some of the most common Spanish-language names that have found their way into common use in the United States.

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    What's in a Name?

    Given how many cultures and traditions mix together in the modern world, it's hard to say for sure that a name in common use developed in just one country or region. But by looking at a site that lists names based on census data and tracing the accepted origins and meanings of popular names, we can get a decent idea of what developed where. Just as many English names have made their way into common use in Spanish-speaking countries, there are many commonly used Spanish names in the United States. You can also click here for a list of English-Spanish name equivalents.

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    Men's Names

    Juan - The 52nd most popular men's name in the United States, this variation on "John" from Hebrew is well-used in both Spanish and English speaking countries. John was originally translated as, "The Lord is gracious."

    Carlos - This Spanish variant on the Old German "Charles" meaning "Free Man" is also a very commonly used Spanish name in the United States.

    Antonio - Sometimes shortened to "Tony," this is the Spanish-language equivalent of the Latin "Anthony" and comes in at a cool 100th place on the census records.

    Luis - Luis is a Spanish-language variant on Louis, "Famous Warrior" in Old German. It's a commonly used name among people of all descents.

    Manuel - You might know some of them as "Manny", but odds are good that you've run into more than more than one Manuel in the course of your life; this name came in 110th in the census records.

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    Women's Names

    Maria - According to the 1994 census, Mary was the most popular women's name in the United States. Its Spanish version, Maria, wasn't far behind in seventh place. It's worth noting that versions of the name Mary appear in almost every country of the world, including Máire and Màiri from Ireland and Scotland respectively, and Mare in Croatian.

    Teresa - While the name Teresa is originally considered to be of Greek origin, it's also one of the commonly used Spanish names that crops up in both Spanish speaking countries and the United States. The modern convention of "alternative spellings" in English names makes it almost impossible to guess how people expect you to pronounce their names, but there's a fair chance that when Teresa is spelled this way it is meant to bear a Spanish pronunciation, "Teh-RAY-sah."

    Rita - The diminutive form of the Spanish-language "Margarita" (a woman's name, not the alcoholic drink), Rita is now in popular use in the United States, coming in at 104th place compared to other women's names.

    Dolores - This popular women's name literally translates to "of sorrows" or "of pains" in Spanish. You might also encounter it in its less common alternate spelling form, Delores.

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