The birth of Cost Rican number 5,000,000 is expected on September 1. And shedding away customs and traditions of distant years when Costa Rican parents would give their newborns up to five names, like José Macario de Jesús or Fermina Luisa de la Trinidad, the most likely names today is Angelina, Emma, Ronaldo or Keylor.

The evolution of modern society, where radio, film, television and, more recently, the Internet have brought people from all over the world in contact with each other, which opened up a huge range of options for parents naming their children.

That conclusion is based on an analysis of the evolution of names throughout the history of the country with a historical and cultural perspective and with the information provided by the Civil Registry, an entity attached to the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) – elections tribunal.

In its report, La Nacion explains how parents went from five names to one: the most frequent custom one in Costa Rica.

The most used names in the country

Our name differentiates us from others and identifies us throughout life, chosen by our parents from among those who have been in the family before, from someone much loved and admired, from some famous historical figure or from a current public figure from entertainment and football to politics and science.

However, in families of Hispanic-Christian tradition – like Costa Ricans – just 450 years ago the custom offered limited options: the santoral, those names that the Catholic Church considered eligible, or the Bible, of which it was possible, to take names of the Old and New Testaments, with previous approval of the parish priest.

On other occasions, the name of the parents, grandparents or great-grandparents were the inspiration. A sponsor, an uncle or a close relative of the family could be another option.

Also from those times and still at the end of the 20th century, many Catholic families added a name that corresponded to the invocation; that is, a divinity or saint that would protect or sponsor the baptized.

However, in the last 150 years, the possibilities have been expanded with the inclusion of names of other cultures and languages.

The evolution of modern society, where radio, film, television and, more recently, the Internet has brought people from all over the world in contact with each other, which opened up a huge range of options in onomastics.

Likewise, other religions that diminished the primacy of the saintship and benefited, some of them, the use of Biblical names of the Old Testament, which previously were not allowed.

Also, a famous person could inspire the name that was assigned to the newborn. For example, in colonial times it could be a governor, a priest or a king of Spain. Several centuries later, they would be a singer, an actress, a soccer player or a president of a powerful country.

Today, however, the name Shakira (Colombian singer), Angelina (American actress Angelina Jolie), or Keylor (the goalkeeper Keylor Navas)- could be an option for younger parents.

In the 19th century, four and five names were common, though, the person was known by one or two names first names; only in the close family – not always by all – was the full name known. Subsequently, in the 1930s it evolved to a maximum of three – very rarely four – which was reduced to two from 1964, and it has once again reached a single first name in the 21st century.

Although the oldest records of the Costa Rican Catholic Church were irretrievably lost due to the humid climate of Cartago and the hazards of time – remember that this city was founded in 1561 -, a recount of the names recorded in the first book of baptisms from 1594-1625 is preserved.

In the list of the names of that period that today are not usual among Costa Ricans we have the following: for women Jerónima, Úrsula, Violante, Elvira, Damiana, Sabina, Gertrudis, Josefa, Dominga, Pascuala, Magdalena, Juana, Margarita, Gracia, Petrona (o Petronila), Fabiana, Clara and Micaela. For men, Melchor, Antón, Cristóbal, Salvador, Hernando, Pascual, Jerónimo, Leandro, Jacinto, Lázaro, Lucas, Ambrosio, Baltasar, Domingo, Buenaventura, Cosme, Gaspar, Isidro y Agustín.

There are others that are still valid, such as: Ana, Catalina, María, Francisca, Luisa, Leonor, Inés, Lucía, Beatriz, Andrea, Elena, Isabel, Juan, Diego, Francisco, Andrés, Pedro, Miguel, Sebastián, Santiago, Mateo, Vicente, Bernardo, Alonso, Esteban, Marcos, Rafael, Tomás, Pablo, Simón, Antonio, Matías, Luis, Felipe and José.

Also, between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, there was a large number of names whose present vitality is practically nil; some of them are Águeda, Antonia, Bartola, Benita, Bernabela, Bernarda, Cesárea, Dorotea, Efigenia, Egipciaca, Estéfana, Felipa, Hermenegilda, Ildefonsa, Práxedes, Rita, Sinforiana, Teodosia, Tomasa, Tomasina, Alejo, Amparo, Anacleto, Basilio, Blas, Bonifacio, Casimiro, Cayetano, Clemente, Cornelio, Dámaso, Dionisio, Hilario, Jacobo, Justo, Narciso, Lázaro, Lorenzo, Nicomedes, Pancracio, Pánfilo, Romualdo, Silvestre, Ulises, Victorino and Zacarías.

In the 21st century, the most frequent names of men are Sebastián, Santiago, Gabriel, Alejandro, Mathías, José Pablo, Matías, Samuel, Isaac and José Daniel; while for women, Valentina, Sofía, María José, María Fernanda, Jimena, Mariángel, Isabella, Valeria, María Paula and Mariana.

Unisex names
Uncommon names, according to the Civil Registry

 


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