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13 Things You Should Know If Your Last Name Is García

It's one of the most popular names in the Spanish-speaking world — but where does it come from, and what does it mean?

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3. It's popular on the other side of the Atlantic, too. As of 2010, García was the sixth-most common last name in the United States.

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When you consider that the main last names are Smith (1), Johnson (2), Williams (3), Brown (4), Jones (5), Miller (6), and Davis (7), this is quite a big deal. And it is steadily climbing the ranks. In 1990, García was only the 18th-most popular name. In 2000 it was eighth. At the time of the next US census in 2020, who knows?

4. Meanwhile, it's the fourth-most popular name in Latin America.

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Over half a million Colombians, for example, are called García. But the name's popularity is by no means limited to the Spanish-speaking world. It's even the 14th-most common surname in France.

7. And the first references to this last name date back to...

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It's in this year — around the time the Vikings killed the emissary of an English king, ushering in the Viking Era — that someone named García signed his name on an official document. It's the first time the name appears in the written record.

8. But its origins are so remote that its origin is not at all clear; the most common theory is that it derives from "gaztea" or "gartzia," which means "young" in the Basque language.

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According to Euskaltzaindia (the Royal Academy of the Basque Language), García is a medieval Basque male first name based on the Basque adjective "gaztea" (young).

As a last name, it began to be used as an identifying mark when, within the same family, the father and one of his descendants shared a first name: The older one was called Zaharra (old, older) and the younger one was called Gartzea.

9. Competing theories suggest it could come from a Germanic word for "war" — so, meaning young warrior — or from the Visigothic words "garxa" or "garcha," meaning "graceful prince."

10. If you've ever wondered what your medieval coat of arms would look like...here it is.

Heraldicablog / Via heraldicablog.com

Though it should be pointed out that, due to the different lineages of García, there is no single coat of arms and there are numerous variations.

12. Whatever the name's owner might have to say on the matter, García ought to an acute accent on the "i."

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At least, it should if you're spelling it the Spanish way. The Catalonian version often lacks an accent. And in countries beyond Spain, it varies. The actor Andy García spells it with an accent. The late rock star Jerry Garcia didn't.

This post was translated from Spanish.

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