Humanities › History & Culture Surname Meaning and Family History: Soto Share Flipboard Email Print Silver Bart trees. Stephen Shepherd / Getty Images History & Culture Genealogy Surnames Basics Genealogy Fun Vital Records Around the World American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kimberly Powell Genealogy Expert Certificate in Genealogical Research, Boston University B.A., Carnegie Mellon University Kimberly Powell is a professional genealogist and the author of The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy. She teaches at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. our editorial process Kimberly Powell Updated November 21, 2019 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 sculptorHernando De Soto: Spanish conquistador and explorerGary Soto: American author and poet Sources Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.