Meaning and Origin of the Surname Chavez

The Chavez surname derives from a Spanish root meaning keys.


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Chaves is an ancient Portuguese surname that literally means "keys," from the Portuguese Chaves and Spanish laves (Latin clavis). Often an occupational surname was given to someone who made keys for a living.

Chavez is also an alternate spelling of the Chaves surname, which in Portugal was often a habitational name from the town of Chaves, Tras-os-Montes, from the Latin acquis Flaviis, meaning "[at the] waters of Flavius." 

Chavez is the 22nd most common Hispanic surname.

Surname Origin: Spanish, Portuguese

Alternate Surname Spellings: CHAVEZ

Famous People With the Surname

  • Cesar Chavez: American civil rights leader
  • Hugo Chavez: President of Venezuela
  • Nicole Chavez: Hollywood celebrity stylist

Where in the World Do People With the Surname Live?

According to surname distribution data from Forebears, Chaves is the 358th most common surname in the world—found most commonly in Mexico, with the highest density of the surname present in Peru. Chavez is also a common last name in Bolivia, where it ranks 18th most popular in the nation, as well as Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Philippines, Honduras, and Nicaragua. WorldNames PublicProfiler also has the surname as most common in Argentina, especially Northwest and Gran Chaco, as well as New Mexico in the United States, and southwest Spain (Andalucia and Extremadura provinces).

Genealogy Resources for the Surname

CHAVES Family DNA Project
A Y-DNA project focused on family and genetic relationships between the various Chaves families around the world. This includes the Chavez and Caceres surnames of Spain.

Chavez Family Crest - It's Not What You ThinkContrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Chavez family crest or coat of arms for the Chavez surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male-line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.


Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.

Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Collins Celtic (Pocket edition), 1998.

Fucilla, Joseph. Our Italian Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.

Hanks, Patrick, and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.

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Powell, Kimberly. "Meaning and Origin of the Surname Chavez." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 28). Meaning and Origin of the Surname Chavez. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Meaning and Origin of the Surname Chavez." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).