1) very frequently come from the Bible, and
2) are often compound, which is to say a person has two first names.
It doesn't take long to discover that in Spain, and in fact most Catholic countries, many people have two first names, or more accurately a compound name. This is not quite the same as in the United States, where people have a first and then a "middle name," because in Spain the name order is fixed by tradition (i.e. Juan or José go first). In the U.S. the middle name is really a second, alternative name by which a person can choose to go. While in Spain often the second name (the non Juan, José, or María name) _can_ become a person's used name, some of the second names in Spain could _never_ be used as their stand-alone name, for reasons that will become clear in a moment.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of common compound names, as well as common composites of the names used to distinguish one John or Mary from another:
Men: Common composites:
José María Josema, Josemari
José Luis Joselu
José Miguel Josemi
Juan Bautista Juanba
Juan Carlos Juanca
Juan José Juanjo
Juan Manuel Juanma
Juan Pablo Juanpa
Ana Belén Anabel
María José Mariajo
María Isabel Maribel
María de los Ángeles Mariángeles
María (del) Carmen Maricarmen, Maica
María Eugenia Maru, Maruja
María Cruz Maricruz
María Paz Maipa
María Teresa Maite
So as you can imagine, men don't go by "María" and women wouldn't go by "José," despite having them as a second first name. Morevover, the widespread use of the composite names helps distinguish the many Marías and Juans from each other.
|Celebrating one's Saint's Day is also common|
in Italy, as this greeting card shows.
|A Spanish blogger wrote this nice entry about the most common first and last names in Spain|
according to a survey published this past spring.