Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Silva Name
Silva Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This is a Portuguese and Galician (Spanish) habitational name referring to a person who lived on or was from one of various places called Silva, or it was a topographic name referring to a person who lived near a silva, a Portuguese, and originally Latin word meaning thicket of briers, forest, bramble, woodland, or jungle. One example of such as place is the town of Silva in the province of Valença do Minho, Portugal. Other places so named can be found in the provinces of Leon, Lugo, Coruna, and Oviedo, Spain. An alternate theory is that it does not mean forest, but rather refers to a wild bush/plant that provides red and black berries, and there are some unverified claims that when Jews fled from war, they would change their surnames to fruit or fruit trees. The Silva surname is very popular, ranking about 63rd in the entire world, with nearly 7,000,000 bearers (only 14 US states have more than 7 million people). The family had many noble/royal members, including Dom Rui Gomes da Silva (1516-1573), who was a Portuguese noble (Prince of Eboli and Duke of Pastrana) that served as one of the main advisers of King Philip II of Spain, who reigned in Spain from 1556-1598.
From Armorial Lusitano states the following in Portuguese: “Família das mais consideradas da Península, a qual se diz provir dos Reis de Leão. D. Guterres Pais, Governador da terra da Maia, teve por filho a D. Pelaio Guterres, Governador de Alva, e por neto a D. Guterres Alderete, rico-homem, senhor de Alderete e da Torre da Silva, situada na Aldeia do Alderete, Freguesia de Cerdal, termo de Valença do Minho, da Paróquia de Oserdão, de Alderete e de Jozam. Acompanhou o Conde D. Henrique de Borgonnha e esteve na tomada de Coimbra pelo Rei de Castela, D. Fernando I. Daquela torre, tomou o apelido de Silva, que transmitiu à sua geração. Casou-se com Dona Maior Pires de Ambia e teve D. Paio Guterres da Silva, rico-homem, adiantado-mor de Portugal, governador de muitas terras pelo Rei D. Afonso VI de Leão, alcaide do Castelo de Santa Eulália, senhor de Alderete, da Torre da Silva e do Porto da Figueira. Fundou os Mosteiros de Cucujães, Tibães, São Simão da Junqueira, São Salvador do Souto e Santo Estêvão de Vilela. Recebeu-se com Dona Sancha Anes, filha de D. João Ramiro, Senhor de Montor, neta de Ramiro Frade, da qual teve filhos, e contraiu segundas núpcias com Dona Urraca Rabaldes, filha de Cristóvão Anes e de Dona Maria Rabaldes, de quem houve geração. Os filhos de ambos os matrimônios tomaram o apelido de Silva e por eles se continuou a linhagem. As armas dessa família são: De prata, com um leão de púrpura, armado e lampassado de azul. Timbre: o leão do escudo, saint”.
Armorial Lusitano states the following in regard to this name, “Dom Guterre Alderete was the ‘senhor’ (lord? squire?) of ‘torre de Silva’ (Silva tower), in Alderete village, near Valenca (Valenc,a [sic]) town, Minho province, north of Portugal. He was son of Dom Pelaio Guterres and gr-son of Dom Guterre Pais. He was in the conquest of Coimbra by king Ferdinand I from Castilla (1017-1065), who later was also king of Lion. His son was Dom Paio Guterres DA SILVA, married twice and all his sons used the DA SILVA name”.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Zilva, Da Silva, De Silva, Silveira, Silvia, Sillva, Siilva, Silvaa, and Psilva.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Silva ranks 214th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks in the top 100 common surnames in six US States: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Connecticut.
The frequency/commonness of the surname Silva is substantial in the following European nations: Portugal (1st), Spain (110th), France (317th), and Italy (635th). It is also popular in many countries in the Central and South America: Brazil (1st), Mexico (61st), Venezuela (30th), Chile (7th), Colombia (72nd), Peru (34th), Argentina (41st), Ecuador (7th), Nicaragua (52nd), Uruguay (9th), Paraguay (69th), Cuba (87th), Bolivia (117th), Guatemala (224th), Honduras (200th), El Salvador (269th), Dominican Republic (394th), Panama (182), and Belize (56th). The name is present in significant numbers in England (877th), Canada (548th), Australia (1,029th), Scotland (1,820th), Wales (699th), Ireland (728th), and Northern Ireland (1,995th). Lastly, likely because of colonialism, the name is also present in many African/Asian countries: Namibia (219th), Mozambique (6th), Guinea-Bissau (7th), Cape Verde (4th), East Timor (20th), Sri Lanka (741st), São Tomé and Príncipe (8th), and Senegal (469th).
Early Bearers of the Surname
The earliest known bearer recorded to history was D. Guterre de Silva, a noble, who owned “Torre da Silva”, a fief (an estate of land held under feudalism) in northern Portugal, around the year 1000 AD. There was also a man named Lucius Flavius Silva in ancient Rome, but this predates the use of surnames, which developed in medieval Europe as a means of collecting taxes.
Silva Family Tree & Silva Genealogy
Manoel da Sylva or da Silva was born prior to 1756 in Canhas, Ponta do Sol, Madeira, Portugal. He married Maria Goncalves and had a son with her name Joao. Joao da Silva de Ribeira was born in 1777 in Madeira, Portugal. In 1794, he married Maria de Souza, and had the following issue with her: Maria, Anna, Manoel, Luiza, Joao, Jose, Antonia, and Luiza. His son Jose or Joseph da Silva was born in Canhas, Portgula in 1805. He married Antonia Vieira and had a son with her named Jose. This son, Jose II, was born in the same town in 1846. In 1874, he married Rosa Joaquina in Madelna do Mar, Portugal. He went to Hawaii aboard the S.S. Bordeaux in 1884. He had the following children: Maria, Helena, Joao, Louisa, Rosa, Maria Constance, and Helen. His son Jose Silva III was born in Madeira, Portugal in 1877 and went to Hawaii with his father. In 1899, he married Mary Franca and had the following children with her: Joseph, Mary, Helen Frances, Frepea Maria, Rose Frances, John Francis, Adelaide Roberta, David Francis, Odylia, Mildred, Eugene James, and Francis Francis. His son Francis Francis “Frank” Silva was born in Honomu, Hawaii in 1924. He had a son named Jim who was born in the 1960s.
Early American and New World Settlers
Some of the early settlers in the New World bearing this surname include Jeronimo de Silva (Peru 1560), Diego de Silva (Peru 1561), Maria de Silva (Hispaniola 1562), Juan de Silva Correa (Florida 1563), Antonio de Silva (New Spain 1566), Isaac Gomes Silva (Jamaica 1742), Joshua Gomez Silva (Jamaica 1742), Joze Roiz Silva (New York 1792), Juan de Silva (Puerto Rico 1803), and Manuel Silva (Puerto Rico 1803).
Here is another lineage/pedigree of the family in medieval times:
Pelaio Guterres da Silva, also known as O’Diacono (born around 1000 AD, married Asosinda Ermigues)
Guterre Alderete da Silva (born around 1040 AD)
Paio Guterres da Silva (born around 1070 AD)
Gomes Pais da Silva, senhor de Santa Olaia (born in Portugal around 1125 AD)
Martim Gomes da Silva (born around 1162 AD in Santarem, Portugal)
Aldonça Martins da Silva, Condesa de Cifuentes (born around 1175 AD in Santarem, Portugal)
I have identified one Silva family motto: Secundis dubiisque rectus (Upright in prosperity and perils).
We have 12 coats of arms for the Silva surname depicted here. These 12 blazons are from Jean Baptiste Rietstap’s book Armorial General, which was published in 1861. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Silva surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Antonio Maria da Silva (1886-1971) who was a Portuguese actor from Lisbon who appeared in over 40 productions such as Wild Cattle and Amor de Perdicao, 2) Frank A. Silva (1950-1995) who was an American actor best known for his performance in the hit TV series Twin Peaks, born in Sacramento, California, 3) Henry Silva (1928) who was an American TV and film actor from Brooklyn, New York, who is best known for his roles in Ocean’s 11 and The Manchurian Candidate, 4) Bernardo Peres da Silva (1775-1844) who was the Governor of Portuguese India in 1835, the only native Goan (a state on the west coast of India) to be appointed to this position during 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule, 5) Pedro da Silva (1647-1717) who was the first post courier in New France, which became part of Canada, 6) Maria José Marques da Silva (1914-1996) who was a Portuguese architect from Porto and was the first woman to graduate as an architect from the Porto School of Fine Arts, 7) Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992) who was a Portuguese abstractionist painter from Lisbon, 8) Alan Silva (1939) who is an American jazz bassist and keyboard player born in Bermuda who learned to play the trump in Harlem, New York City, 9) Baltasar Lopes da Silva (1907-1989) who was a poet, writer, and linguist born in Caleijão, Cape Verde, and 10) Daniel Silva (1960) who was an American author of thriller and espionage novels, born in Detroit, Michigan.
Silvas in the American Revolution
There are three known bearers of this surname who served in the Revolutionary War: 1) Matross (Artillery Soldier) James Silva, 2) Archibald Silva of Georgia, and 3) Private William D. Silva of Massachusetts.
Silva Coat of Arms Meaning
The two primary/common symbols contained depicted within the Silva coat of arms (or Silva family crest) are the eagle and lion, two of the most popular symbols in all of heraldry, each with their own unique meaning.
There can be no animal more clearly associated with Heraldry than the lion, majestic King of the Beasts. Originally it appeared only in one pose, erect, on one paw, with the others raised but such was the popularity of this figure, and the need to distinguish arms from each other, that it soon came to be shown in an enormous range of forms. The lion passant is an example of these modified form, showing the creature on all fours, as if walking proudly. In common with all representations of the lion it can be taken to be an “emblem of deathless courage”. The coat of arms of England bears three lions passant guardant, where the first two lions represented Rollo (Duke of Normandy) and the country of Maine (which became part of Normandy), and were born by William the Conqueror and his line, and the third lion was added by King Henry II in order to represent the Duchy of Aquitaine, which came into his possession through marriage. The lion rampant is an example of these modified form, and any family would be proud to have such a noble creature displayed on their arms. Rampant is the default attitude of the lion, raised on its hind legs, facing to the dexter and with front paws extended in a fearsome and powerful pose. The lion can also be viewed as a symbol of resurrection, as according to folklore, a baby lion is born dead and then has life breathed into it by its father after three days. The lion rampant is a symbol of resolve.
Where the lion is undisputed king of the animals, the eagle undoubtedly plays the same role in the realm of the birds, its use in this form dating back to at least the Roman period. They tend to be illustrated in quite some detail, especially in continental European arms, and have almost as wide variety of postures and accessories as the lion, well-illustrated in the reference as well as being just the eagle’s head or eagle’s leg. The symbology of the eagle is deep and complex, Wade devotes several pages to the subject, but suffice it say that it has long been associated with Empire and those held in high honour – any armiger would be pleased to have any form of Eagle upon their arms!