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The Longoria Surname

The surname “Longoria” originated in the province of Asturias in northwestern Spain. Longoria is thus Spanish, but unlike other Spanish surnames, it has no known meaning in the Spanish language. Furthermore, the word “Longoria” does not exhibit any of the Moorish influences common in so many Spanish surnames, probably because the Asturian homelands where our Longoria ancestors resided remained part of that small region of modern Spain that was never conquered or dominated by the Moors. Neither does “Longoria” have any known meaning in German, which in earlier times had much influence on the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula upon its invasion by the Visigoths. Nor does “Longoria” have any known meaning in today’s Italian language, the modern language having its roots in the Roman Empire, which two millennia ago included all of the Iberian Peninsula and whose remains can still be seen today in Asturias.

The surname “Longoria” is not patronymic (derived from the name of one’s father), and it obviously is not derived from one’s occupation. Thus, we are left with the conclusion that it must be toponymic; i.e., derived from the name of a place or geographic feature. Indeed, there is a place named Longoria (Llongoria in Asturianu) in Asturias, in the Concejo de Belmonte de Miranda. References to a “lugar de Longoria” can be found in documents from the 15th and 16th centuries, indicating that such a place existed before then and probably before it became common for people to start using surnames. The question is – why was the place named Longoria? To answer that question we must explore the possible meanings of the word “Longoria”.

The Spanish word most resembling the word Longoria is longuera which means a long, narrow strip of land. Interestingly, the village of Longoria is located at the confluence of two rivers, the Rio Narcea and the Rio Pigueña. An aerial view of this locale from Google EarthTM (view) reveals that there is indeed a long, narrow flat strip of land created by the two rivers as they emerge from more mountainous terrain. This "longuera" extends from near the village of San Cristobal de Cuellar on the Rio Pigueña and the village of Villanueva on the Rio Narcea all the way to Pumarada, two to three miles downstream. Almost in the center of this "longuera" is the village of Longoria, giving rise to the possibility of the two words having a common meaning.

A lady from Rome, Italy first emailed me in April 2003 and suggested another possible meaning for the word Longoria. She pointed out that the Iberian Peninsula was once part of the Roman Empire and retains many words rooted in the Roman language. She suggested that Longoria could be derived from the two Italian words longo (meaning long) and ria (meaning river); hence, Longoria could mean “long river”. This is an interesting possibility considering that the ancestral Longoria homes were located along the Rio Narcea.

Another possible meaning of Longoria is suggested by a combination of the Italian word longo and the Spanish word orilla, which means a border, margin or bank of a river. The resultant word longorilla would describe very well the locale of the ancestral Longoria homes.

A subsequent email from the lady in Rome provided what I consider to be the most definitive explanation of the meaning of the word “Longoria”. She pointed me to a website that listed dialectic terms used in a certain area of northern Italy. Among the terms listed was longüre which it defined as being derived from the medieval Latin “longaria/longoria” meaning “striscia lunga de terreno”, or long strip of land. Furthermore, it stated that the definition was considered as a measure of agricultural area. Thus, the Italian longüre and the Spanish longuera have very similar, if not identical, meanings, and the root word for the Italian longüre is the medieval Latin word longoria or longaria. My lady friend in Rome further stated that the word longoria could be found in old notary acts, written in modern Latin, where a piece of land needed to be defined.

My conclusion is that the place named Longoria in the Concejo de Belmonte in Asturias took its name from a description of its geographical location, and that the origin of the word longoria was from medieval Latin. My conjecture is that the place named Longoria was called that from the time of the Roman occupation of the Iberian peninsula; hence, the place was called “Longoria”, meaning a long, narrow strip of land used for agricultural purposes. This perfectly describes the physical location, geography and land usage of the Narcea River valley where the village of Longoria is located.

The earliest I have been able to trace back our direct Longoria ancestry is to Pedro de Longoria, father of Alonzo de la Pontiga and the grandfather of Lorenzo Suarez de Longoria. And recent research by Jose Antonio Esquibel has identified Alonso de la Pontiga’s paternal grandfather as Pedro Cosme de Longoria and his great-grandfather as Pedro Cosme de la Debesa de Codejal. Pedro Cosme de Longoria became known as such when he moved to the place named Longoria, got married and made his living there; he was probably my first ancestor to start using Longoria as a surname.

But why was Alonso not called "de Longoria" as were his father and his son? The word pontiga has no meaning in Castillian Spanish; however, I was able to find it in a condensed version of an Asturianu dictionary. Pontiga is an Asturianu word that translates into “entrada de horreo” (entrance to a granary) in Castillian Spanish. That same dictionary has two other very similar words, pontica and pontigu and defines both as meaning "puente", or bridge. In fact, other Asturianu sources do define pontiga as meaning "a bridge of small dimensions". There is a small bridge over the Rio Pigueña at San Martin de Lodon, but I believe "de la Pontiga" did not refer to that bridge or any other bridge. My belief is based on the fact, as noted in historical documents, that this area was an agricultural region, and grains were a major crop. Thus, it is possible that the local citizenry considered this "longuera" as a large, extended granary. And since the "granary" began at the southern end of the "longuera" it is also possible that they viewed that point as the entrance to the "granary"; hence they would have referred to it as the "pontiga". Alonso, being a "Regidor Perpetuo" (councillor for life) would have been called by a title of distinction, and since the Longoria ancestral homes and properties extended over the length of the "longuera" from San Martin de Lodon to Pumarada, my speculation is that he was not simply just "de Longoria" (from the village of Longoria) but was over the entire area, or "de la Pontiga". My speculation is supported by a map found on page 33 of a book titled Alonso de Bello (1552-1632) by Juan Uria Maqua. The source of the map is unknown but it identifies an area just to the east of Pumarada as "Molinos de la Pontiga", or mills of the pontiga. The designation could mean that this area was the site of the mills grinding the grains harvested in the area -- an area known locally as "la pontiga", or it could mean that the mills were owned by someone named "de la Pontiga". My conjecture is that it referred to the area.

The Alcalá Surname

Alcalá is a Spanish word derived from the Moorish al Qa’lah, which means palace or castle. The Moors occupied almost all of Spain at one time and it took about 700 years before they were finally driven out in 1492. Among their many notable achievements were many buildings of Moorish architecture and towns that included the phrase al Qa’lah in their name to signify the presence of a palace or castle in that town. After the Spanish reconquest, these towns kept their Moorish names but the spelling was changed to the Spanish alcalá. It is my belief that the Alcalá family originated from one or more of these towns in Spain that have Alcalá as part of their name.

The town of Alcalá del Obispo, in the Council of Huesca in Aragon, is a likely possibility for the source of the Alcalá surname. This is the location of one of the ancient ancestral homes of the Alcalás , and is where historical records make one of the earliest mentions of an Alcalá, a knight by the name of Galin Jimenez de Alcalá, in the year 1137. (Could it be just a coincidence that my wife’s Alcalá ancestors came from a town by the name of Jimenez in Tamaulipas, Mexico?) There are several other subsequent mentions in the historical records of other prominent men with the surname Alcalá. Among these were two knights, Odon de Alcalá and Pedro de Alcalá, in the year 1160.

Other towns with the name of Alcalá include Alcalá de la Selva in the province of Aragon, Alcalá de Guadaira, Alcalá la Real and Alcalá de los Gazules in Andalusia, and perhaps the most famous of all, Alcalá de Henares in Madrid. In Madrid itself is the famous monument Puerta de Alcalá (photo), in the Plaza de la Independencia on the Calle Alcalá; it was a former gateway to the city on the road from Aragon.

Other Family Surnames

Villarreal is a combination of the two Spanish words villa, meaning town, and real, meaning royal. Thus, Villarreal means royal town in Spanish. Several towns in Spain have this name, and probably signify that a King kept a royal residence there. Our Villarreal roots are believed to be in Castile, but the exact location cannot be determined until we identify our first Villarreal emigrant ancestor to the New World.

Garza means heron in Spanish. Probably the most common Spanish surname in the New World, it originated in Castile.

Treviño is of uncertain origins and meaning. Some believe it to be of Castilian origin, from the mountains of Burgos, while others believe it to be of Basque origin. There are also some who believe that the word derives from the Italian tre, meaning three, and vino meaning wine or vines; thus, the meaning would be three vines.

Solis is Asturian in origin, being one of the oldest and most famous names in Asturias. It dates from the 12th century, from a man named Gutierre Rodriguez, Señor de Solis. In Asturias also, there is a small parish named Solis in the municipality of Corvera, under the jurisdiction of Aviles (just to the north of Oviedo). Another famous Solis, Pedro de Solis, was from Aviles and attained several prominent positions, including Abad de Arbas (abbot of Arbas), Dean of Oviedo (dean of Oviedo) and Arcediano de Madrid (archdeacon of Madrid). In Tineo also, the Solis attained important and prominent positions.

Quintana is believed to be of Roman origin, with a meaning of “country house”. Some believe it originated in central Spain, others believe it is Basque. There are several places named Quintana throughout Spain. In Asturias, there is a Quintana east of Oviedo and another Quintana in the Concejo Belmonte de Miranda, just to the west of Longoria.

Vidaurri is of Basque origin, translating into “facing the road” or “fronting the road”. There are Vidaurri ancestral homes in Orduña (in Viscaya), in Villafranca de Oria (in Guipuzcoa) and in Arguiñano (in Navarre).


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Copyright © 2001.  Raul N. Longoria.  All rights reserved.