Posted by: vip | November 22, 2010

Our more common mispronounced surnames

Our more common mispronounced surnames

When our Spanish surnames were handed down to us in 1850, it is doubtful there was ever conducted an orientation for the benefit of our ancestors regarding their new names – the meanings, origins, and even how these should be pronounced. Or maybe they were orientated, but they just failed to hand the lore down to us.

The first few months right after the Claveria implementation around May, 1850, spellings of surnames were correct (based on the católogo de apellido). Possibly, the list was right in front of our church scribes and it was their guide to spelling—which they at first followed. And possibly, too, they later just played the names by ear and transmittal from there to tongue caused the spelling changes.

For some time, a number of Carcar surnames were correctly pronounced (the Spanish way) all the way up until just a few decades ago. These would be Alfafara, Aviles, Barcelo, Barcenas and some others. But there were some other surnames that just never got off on the right foot [examples below].

The majority would ask why change now, what for? I can’t say about changing, but what do people do when they realize they’ve been wrong? It’s not up to us, but at least we have given an informed option. Only Carcar will ultimately decide on the issue and only time will tell how they finally decide. Besides, as part of language, names, too, and not just their spellings but variants and unrecognizable offshoots that look to be new whole names evolve, too. But I dread one of these days, we meet someone from whom we’ll get more than a polite chuckle with our pronunciation of our own names. And then, how should we respond—get angry?

Anyway, all it takes, as it did for me, is research your Spanish dictionaries, books, the internet, and here: As such, I welcome exceptions to my claims here. And additions to the list.

Albarracín (al-bar-ra-CIN) – (Aragonese, from the city of Albarracín) although an Argao surname, but there are some of the family living in Carcar and like the pronunciation in Argao, they also call themselves al-bar-RA-cin. (3 voters and 1 Albarrasin). Another famous Argao family where a branch left records in Carcar is Davide. Since we don’t know the origin of this surname, we can’t say, one way or the other, if the prevalent pronunciation, da-VI-de is correct.  The name doesn’t look Spanish though, while looking very much Italian in fact. But if it were the latter, the name would be pronounced DA-vi-de.  (no more voter in Carcar).

Alcós (al-COS) – The old books already spelled it as Alcos right from the start, but it is Alcuz in the catálogo, but even that would also be accented on the second syllable. (82 voters; 154th most numerous surname)

Alcoy (al-COY) – like Alcos, Carcar now accents this name on the first syllable. San Francisco Giants World series pitcher Tim Lincecum`s maternal great-grandmother was Alberta Alcoy who, reports say, had migrated to Hawaii as a little girl with her widowed mother. (26 voters)

Alcuésar (al-CUE-sar) – originally found as Alcuezar and Alcuesar in old Carcar records but now universally spelled Alcuizar in the town. Both Alcuesar and Alcuezar are Spanish, though, but the accent is on the second for both spellings. (119 voters; 72d most numerous) The surnames Alájar, Alcázar, Andújar, Mondéjar, Béjar, Eléjar and many others can be grouped similarly. The catálogo gave Alcuezar.

Alfáfara (al-FA-fa-ra) – during my boyhood in Carcar, the old folks always pronounced the surname this way but for whatever reason, the accent was relocated to the third syllable. (95 voters; 119th )

Angulo (an(g)-GU-lo) a patronymic surname not from the geometric figure but rather from the Germanic people, the Angles. Legend tells of Ludovico Angulo, a son of the Angle King of Scotland having served as steward of the king of Navarra, was granted lands in the valley in Burgos, which valley is now called valle de Angulo. He got the appellation Angulo (Ludovico the Angle) presumably to distinguish him from the rest of the populace; he would not have been called Ludovico de Angulo were he living with his own people because then they would all be Angles there. Let us allow for the possibility, though, that the name of the tribe may indeed have had something to do with geometry. Showing independence from Spain, however, South America pronounces the surname angularly, as do, probably via the Latinos, the Philippines. (3 voters)

Avilés (a-vi-LES) this is not a plural word of anything but an example of a gentilicio, a demonym, or origin of a person or thing. The English equivalent of this type of gentilicio would be the –ese: Japanese, Portuguese, Lebanese, etc. Thus, a person from Cárcar in Navarra (Spain) is a Carcarés, Aragón is an Aragonés, from Córdoba is a Cordobés, and one from France is a Francés. And in this case, someone or a thing from Ávila is an Avilés or Avilesa (pl. Avileses) There is an Avilés town in Asturias, too (gentilicio: Avilesino/a).  (5 voters)

Barañgan (ba-RA-ñgan) – We’ve been pronouncing this surname in Carcar as Baranggán as far back as I can remember, which turned out to have been not too far ago. An 1863 document signed by church diputados of Carcar showed Juan Barangan had affixed his signature with the “ñ”, which tilde indicates that the surname was pronounced, at least by Don Juan, as Bara-ñgan. Pronounced thus, its Visayan voodoo association may have something to do why an alteration in the pronunciation was done and, also, the alteration’s ready mass acceptance. (280 voters with 4 Baranggan;  10th most numerous)

Barcáistegui (bar-CAis-te-gui) – The Basque surname suffix –tegui means `a place for’ and is accented on the syllable before it: Muértegui, Amonátegui, Satrústegui, etc. There still exists a Barcaiztegui street in Manila, named after the Spanish cruiser Jorge Juan Sánchez Barcaiztegui which crashed into the Havana port when another ship collided with it in 1895, a huge sea tragedy of its time. Barcaistegui, though, is the actual spelling in the Catálogo de apellidos of the Claveria decree, but in Carcar by 1880s had become Barcaistigue and Barcaestigue but later further “devolved” to how it is spelled today—Barcastigue and pronounced bar-cas-TI-gue. (26 voters)

Barceló (bar-ce-LO) – a Catalan variant, this surname has the Castilian equivalent of Barcelón. Catalan surnames omit the final “n” found in their Castilian equivalents. The surnames Miró, Aguiló, Abelló, Griñó, Ribó, Roselló and many others are of this group. (60 voters)

Bárcenas (BAR-ce-nas) – (supposed to have originated from Burgos, Valencia, Spain) (108 voters; 89th)

Bardelás (bar-de-LAS) – In old records as well as in the catálogo, the surname was spelled Bardelas, but there is no registered voter in Carcar who still uses the correct Spanish spelling of the surname and everybody now spells it Bardilas. (10 voters)

Bárdenas (BAR-de-nas) – Same with Bardelas, everyone in Carcar is now Bardinas. Maybe the spelling change was a result of our pronunciation of “e” as a hard “ee” and, thus, with the hard ‘ee”pronunciation, the spelling “i” would come more naturally, and, further, with the “i” spelling and its pronunciation as hard “ee”, accenting it still on the first would make for a little tongue-twister, thus the pronunciation now of bar-DI-nas and bar-DI-las. (123 voters: 66th)

Bargayó (bar-ga-YO) – a Catalan surname, a variant of Bargalló.  The name can be grouped along with Barceló above. (100 voters; 109th)

Camús, Camós (ca-MOOS and ca-MOS) – and yet another Catalan surname. (56 voters with 1 Camos; 227th)

Garcés (gar-CES) – whether Catalan or Aragonese, the surname is pronounced gar-CES. In Cebu, they are a mestizo Sangley family that originated in Parian.  One or two of the family apparently transferred to Talisay and started what is now the big branch in that town. The surname is a derivative of Garcia. (150 voters; 49th) Other similar surnames in Cebu some of which may have trickled to Carcar are Pagés (Catalan and pronounced as pa-ZJES, but generally pa-JES in Spain), Panés, Pañarés, Reynés, Totanés and others.

Génave (GE-na-ve) – a town in the province of Jaén in Andalucía, Spain.  Originally spelled thus in old records, it is now spelled Genabe in Carcar—and pronounced je-NA-be. (4 voters)

Jaén (ja-EN or ja-YEN) – a mestizo Sangley family from Parian. Jaén is the capital city of Jaén province. (4 voters)

Navarés (na-va-RES) – it’s doubtful whether anyone remembers this surname to have been pronounced this way once upon a time, if it ever was. But today, one would probably be laughed out of Napo (where the surname is considered indigenous and at its most prevalent) if he kept pronouncing it this way.  Group with Pañarés. (195 voters with 8 Navarez; 28th)

Padín (pa-DIN) –  Along with Alcós, Bargayó, Camús, Navarés, and Rodís (below) , Padin would be one of the more surprising pronunciations for Carcar folks. (269 voters with 2 Paden; 13th most numerous voters)

Rodís (ro-DIS) – Like many surnames in the list, we do not remember anymore whether Rodis was ever pronounced this way, but it’s there: this is how the surname should have been accented. The surnames de Asís, Celís, Solís among others belong to this same group. (5 voters)



  1. Hi,

    This is a very interesting read. My girlfriend is Spanish and I sometimes have trouble pronouncing her familiy’s names. My last name is Visaisouk (vee-sai-sook) and also gets mispronounced quite a lot. One thing that has helped me is called an ANT or audible name tag, you should check it out at

    • very useful website. problem with our town is, as shown above, the families concerned do not know anymore the “correct” pronunciation of their own names.

  2. Hi there! Thanks for this really interesting blog….I have been facing with this problem of how our surname is pronounced every time my name is called whether in social gatherings or public events. I am a descendant of the Jaen family from Carcarand I was there last December 2012 to meet up with my relatives. Our family has lived here in Butuan City for decades and with our unique family name, we always get a certain kind of attention.

    Hope you get to feature our family history so the next generation Jaens will get to appreciate our roots and how our lineage can be traced all the way back to Carcar.


    Owen S. Jaen

    • thanks for writing. but if you really appreciate your roots, from carcar it even traces back to cebu city.

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