Surname Palencia: origin, history and meaning

The surname Palencia has its origin in the Spanish city of Palencia. It is one of those surnames linked to the place of birth or origin of the families that adopted it. The surname Palencia is therefore a toponymic surname. It was taken by the emigrants from Palencia to identify the families from Palencia with their place of origin or the place where they had their possessions. The surname Palenciano is a variant of the first one, which has the same origin and meaning.

In Spain, the first documented surnames appear in the 9th century. At that time they were reserved for a few wealthy families. Their use became widespread in subsequent centuries, when humbler people, who lacked surnames, after emigrating to other countries and losing contact with their land and their families, adopted the surname of their places of origin as their surname. This was very common during the 16th and 17th centuries, when there was an important migratory movement towards the American colonies.

There are also several towns on the American continent that still retain the name of Palencia or of other municipalities in Palencia as a result of the link that existed between Palencia and the New World.

Nowadays, Palencia is a small Spanish city, with about eighty thousand inhabitants, located in the region of Castilla y León, in the north of the country. It is a quiet, peaceful and very attractive city for tourism due to its monumental and historical heritage, as well as its beautiful landscapes and its highly appreciated gastronomy.

Known as Pallantia in Roman times, it was originally inhabited by the Vacceans. Palencia was the place chosen to establish the first university in Spain. It was a very prosperous city years ago but has lost some of its splendour up to the present day. Nevertheless, Palencia conserves numerous treasures throughout the length and breadth of its geography.

Among Palencia’s charms are the Cathedral of San Antolin, popularly known as “La Bella Desconocida” (The Unknown Beauty) and the Cristo del Otero, one of the tallest in the world and a symbol of the city. Palencia has plains, mountains and valleys, beautiful villages, nature reserves, Roman villas, medieval castles, a rich gastronomy and it is also known for having the highest concentration of Romanesque art in Europe. Especially in the northern part of the province there is a multitude of churches, monasteries, temples and small chapels of this architectural style. In addition, Palencia is also a crossing point on the Way of St. James, the main pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

Distribution of the Palencia surname by provinces in Spain (source: INE)
Distribution of the Palencia surname by provinces in Spain (source: INE)

The image shows the distribution of the surname Palencia in Spain by provinces. It can be seen that the majority of the Palencia surname currently resides in the Central Plateau. They are not only established in the provinces bordering Palencia, but the surname extends throughout the two Castillas, Madrid, Cantabria, the Basque Country, Murcia and Extremadura.

Countries where the surname Palencia is most common

Palencia is a frequent surname nowadays in countries such as Venezuela, Colombia or Guatemala, and it is also found, although less frequently, in other Latin American countries. The surname Palencia can be found in other parts of the world, particularly in countries such as the Philippines, the United States, Saudi Arabia, as well as Spain itself.

These are the countries with the highest number of people with the surname Palencia:

  1. Venezuela
  2. Colombia
  3. Philippines
  4. Guatemala
  5. Spain
  6. Mexico
  7. United States of America
  8. Honduras
  9. El Salvador
  10. Saudi Arabia
  1. Argentina
  2. Peru
  3. Cuba
  4. Canada
  5. Ecuador
  6. Israel
  7. Belize
  8. Singapore
  9. France
  10. Thailand

The surname Palencia is also registered in other countries such as Brazil, England, Germany, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Chile, Norway, Costa Rica, Iceland or Australia.

Distribution of the Palencia surname by country (Source: Forebears)
Distribution of the Palencia surname by country (Source: Forebears)