Top Ten Surnames of Basque Origin

The Basques, or Euskaldunak, are an ethnic group residing in parts of Northern Spain and Southwestern France. This region is known as Euskal Herria, or the Greater Basque Country, as opposed to the Spanish administrative division.

Their language is unique and is most likely not related to any other language. This results in distinct words and surnames that are very different from the neighboring Romance languages, such as Spanish, French, and Aragonese.

Many of these surnames have meanings not found in other Spanish surnames, and they sound nothing like Latin ones.
The Top Ten
1 Loyola

One of the most recognizable Basque surnames, it comes from "lokatza," meaning "mud," and "ola," meaning "place of." Azpeitia, a town in Gipuzkoa Province, also has a neighborhood named Loiola, the original form of this name. However, Ignazio Loiolakoa (Saint Ignatius of Loyola) is from there. He founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), one of the largest orders of the Catholic Church, so "Loyola" is much more common now.

2 Etxebarria

In Spanish, this surname can be spelled "Echevarria" or "Echevarri." Here, "Etxea" means "house," and "berri" means "new." Putting it together, this means "the new house." It can also refer to Etxebarri, a suburb east of Bilbao. It is often associated with the creation of new farms after unknown crops were discovered in the Americas.

3 Irigoien

Here, "Iri" is likely an old Basque term for "hamlet," although "Bazter-herri" is the modern form. On the other hand, "goi" just means "high," so the two elements together form the meaning "hamlet of high altitude," from where this surname originated.

4 Montoia

This surname is famous because of Inigo Montoya, a character from The Princess Bride. It's derived from a ghost town named Montoya in the Basque Country, located at 42.8212, -2.8826. Since languages evolve over time, "Montoia" isn't used in the Basque language anymore, but it might have meant "hills and valleys."

5 Etxenike

This surname means "close to the house." Common to many Basque surnames, "Etxea" means "house," but the "nike" element is unexplained. It could refer to the words "girl," "nearby," among others. Due to differences in the Spanish language, this name is often spelled "Echenique" outside of the Basque Country.

6 Bergara

"Bergara" refers to a place name, rather than having a meaning by itself. It comes from a town named Bergara in Gipuzkoa Province, which is part of Basque Country. The Spanish spelling, "Vergara," is slightly different but also more recognizable.

7 Ortuzar

"Ortuzar" means "old orchard." It's comprised of a noun and an adjective, in that order. The noun "ortu" means "orchard," and "zahar" refers to old age. In Spanish, the surname may be slightly modified to have an accent on the second syllable, so it is sometimes written as "Ortúzar."

8 Mendoza

"Mendoza" is NOT "Son of Mendo," although the Spanish surname "Mendez" looks similar. Rather, it means "cold mountain." It is comprised of two words, "Mendi" and "Hotz," which mean "mountain" and "cold" respectively. The "a" at the end is the suffix for "the," which is a definite article.

This name is widespread, most likely due to Íñigo López de Mendoza, 1st Marquis of Santillana. He was a famous poet and politician during the 1400s. Many Filipinos have this surname, and there is a mid-sized city in western Argentina named Mendoza.

9 Uharte
10 Rekalde

This is a short form of Errekalde, which is composed of "erreka" meaning "stream, brook" and the suffix "-alde" meaning "by," with the English translation being "next to the stream." Also, it shares its name with a neighborhood in southern Bilbao. Its Spanish form is "Recalde," which is most commonly found in Argentina and Paraguay.

The Contenders
11 Guevara
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