What Every Presidential Candidate’s Last Name Means

Source: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

Julián Castro (D)
> Occupation: Former secretary of housing and urban development
> Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas
> Age: 44

An old and well-known name in Spain, and common today in Latin America — but also found in Portugal, Italy, and Sephardic Jewish communities — Castro is a place name deriving from the Latin “castrum,” meaning a fortress or castle.

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Bill de Blasio (D)
> Occupation: Mayor, New York City
> Birthplace: New York City (Manhattan)
> Age: 58

The name of New York’s controversial mayor is first recorded in the city of Benevento, east of Naples, in the 14th century. In Italian, the “di” (sometimes converted to “de”) generally indicates emigration from one place to another. The original name was simply Blasio or Blais, but there are said to be over a hundred variations — including Blas, Blaze, Blaise, and Balazs. It may come originally from the Latin “blaesus,” which means “stammering,” or from the Ancient Greek “vlaisós,” meaning bent, distorted, or splay-footed.

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John Delaney (D)
> Occupation: Former representative, Maryland
> Birthplace: Wood-Ridge, New Jersey
> Age: 56

Delaney is an English and Irish name of Norman French origin. It seems to be related to place names in northern France that were based on the Old French “aunaie,” meaning “alder grove,” with the preposition “de” added. The Irish version of the name is sometimes said to be related to the Gaelic name Dubhshláine, from “dubh” (“black”) and “slán” (“challenge”) or “Sláinge,” the river today known as the Slaney.

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Tulsi Gabbard (D)
> Occupation: Representative, Hawaii
> Birthplace: Leloaloa, American Samoa
> Age: 38

Gabbard could be an old Anglo-Saxon variant on the name Gilbert, which draws on the Germanic terms “gisil” or “gisl” (which can mean either “hostage” or “noble youth”) and “behrt” (“bright” or “famous”). It is more likely, however, to be an Americanized version of the German name Gebhardt — in turn from the German words “geben,” “to give,” and “hart,” “hard” or “tough.”

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Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
> Occupation: Senator, New York
> Birthplace: Albany, New York
> Age: 52

A common medieval Scottish surname of Old English origins, Gillibrand — also spelled Gellibrand and Jellybrand — was originally Gislbrand. The “gisl” is apparently the same root that forms part of “Gilbert” (see above), and “brand” means “burning” — though one source translates Gislbrand to “burning bright.”