Surname Meaning and Family History: Soto

Silver Bark trees in Spain
Silver Bart trees. Stephen Shepherd / Getty Images

Soto is a surname of Spanish origins commonly thought to refer to one who lived near or in a forest or grove of trees, or possibly a swamp. From the Spanish soto meaning "grove" or "small wood." Soto (also spelled Desoto, Delsoto, de Soto, or del Soto) can also be a habitational name from any of several places called Soto or El Soto. Soto is the 34th most common Hispanic surname.

Common Locations

The surname distribution data at Forebears ranks Soto as the 472nd most common surname in the world, identifying it as most prevalent in Mexico and with the highest density in Chile. The Soto surname is the 6th most common last name found in Chile; the next closest are Puerto Rico, where it ranks 24th, Costa Rica (40th) and Mexico (50th). The Desoto surname variant is most common in the United States, while de Soto is most prevalent in the Dominican Republic and Guam.

Within Europe, people named Soto are most frequently found in Spain, especially in the regions of Murcia, Galicia, and La Rioja. The surname is also very common in Argentina, especially the Patagonia region.

Famous Sotos

  • Jesús-Rafael Soto: Venezuelan kinetic painter and sculptor
  • Hernando De Soto: Spanish conquistador and explorer
  • Gary Soto: American author and poet


  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
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Powell, Kimberly. "Surname Meaning and Family History: Soto." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). Surname Meaning and Family History: Soto. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Surname Meaning and Family History: Soto." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 30, 2023).