Anglicized Portuguese Names

By Zhaoyang Liu

Portuguese Immigrants in Lowell, MA c. 1910-1915

Many different ethnic groups chose to Anglicize their names upon arriving in the United States or other English speaking countries. There were many reasons behind this practice, such as making their names easier for English speakers to pronounce or avoiding discrimination and prejudice. Some viewed the Anglicization of their names as a way to show their pride upon naturalization. The method of Anglicizing Portuguese first names was quite straightforward, whereas with surnames the process was more intricate. Last names were modified based on phonetic similarities between the two languages or through direct translation. Some were phonetically similar while also being translations.

Portugal had ties with the United States since the beginning of the latter’s conception; it was one of the first neutral countries to fully recognize America’s sovereignty. Around this time, there were small pockets of Portuguese immigrants that came to the U.S., most settling in eastern areas. In the 1840s, a number of Portuguese whalers ended up settling in parts of Massachusetts. After the Immigration Act of 1965, there was a surge of Portuguese immigrants arriving in the United States, many of whom descended from Portuguese settlers who were born in Africa.

Here are some examples of Anglicized Portuguese names:

– Alexandre to Alexander (straightforward)

– Oliveira to Oliver or Olivier (straightforward)

– Moraes to Morris (phonetic)

– Barros to Clay (translation)

– Pinheiro to Pine (phonetic and translation)

A more comprehensive list of Portuguese names and their Anglicized counterparts can be found below:

Reflection Questions:

1. The Anglicization of names can be seen as a product of the overarching process of integration. How can Anglicizing their native names help immigrants bridge the gap between their old and new cultures? How are names, along with their origins, significant to our identities?

2. Immigrants often Anglicize their names due to fear of discrimination or worry that English speakers might have trouble with pronunciation. Given this knowledge, do you think that the Anglicization of names is harmful or ultimately necessary for easing the course of integration?

3. Many of the Portuguese names were Anglicized into already well established English names. In a general sense, how does the wish to feel accepted and at home in their new country affect the decisions that immigrants make?

4. Many individual immigrants as well as their respective groups chose to keep their original names. What reasons might lie behind this decision?