Spanish family names ending in -ez

In common Spanish family names like González, Sánchez, and Rodríguez, the -ez ending originally meant ‘son of.’ The relationship is clearer in the old spelling -es, which is sometimes still used, as in the Gonzales that coexists with González. When I say that the relationship is clearer, I mean clearer to an English speaker, because that final -s is etymologically the same as the ‘s that English adds to nouns to indicate possession. In other words, Gonzales started out meaning ‘Gonzalo’s [son].’ In the case of Jiménez or Ximenes, as it used to be spelled, the original sense was therefore ‘Ximeno’s [son].’ (The x in Spanish words like this used to be pronounced the same as English sh.) Guido Gómez de Silva, who himself has one of those family names ending in -ez, notes that Ximeno may have been a Spanish rendering of the Hebrew name Shimeon or Shimon, now standardized as Simón and Simeón.

Our story continues. It so happens that there was once a Spanish apothecary by the name of J. Ximenes, in whose honor the botanical genus Ximenesia was named. Now, it may come as a surprise to people interested in language, but quite a few botanists have had a fondness for words as well as plants. On more than one occasion, a botanist has created a new genus name from an existing one by changing the old name in some fashion. That happened to Ximenesia: a botanist took its nine letters, cast aside one i, rearranged the remaining eight letters, and came out with the almost-anagram Sexmenia. Then—either for the sake of modesty, since it would be too flagrant to have a name beginning with Sex, or else to avoid confusion with the Latin sex that means ‘six’ in various words—changed the initial s to a similar-sounding z (thereby coincidentally following the s~z alternation at the end of Spanish family names). With some poetic license we can even imagine that the z represents the buzzing of bees attracted to the orange-flowered plant that has come to be called Zexmenia. Botanists and native plant aficionados in Texas, where this member of the daisy family grows, still can’t resist the thrill of calling it sex mania and sex maniac.

A butterfly on zexmenia

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Advertisements

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Another Beginning « Portraits of Wildflowers
  2. David Hollombe
    Jul 21, 2011 @ 16:44:30

    Ximenesia is named for Spanish apothecary Jose Salvador Ximenes Peset (1713-1803). Zexmenia is named for Mexican rebel officer Jose Mariano Ximenez (1781-1811). That is the reason one has an S and the other has a Z.

    Reply

  3. Steve Schwartzman
    Jul 21, 2011 @ 17:18:32

    Thanks for your comment. I got my information about the origin of the name Zexmenia from the 1868 book A Pocket Botanical Dictionary, by J. Paxton assisted by prof. Lindley, p. 595. That now seems to be mistaken, and your explanation better explains why the word begins with a z rather than an s. In doing a quick search on the Internet a few minutes ago, I found that p. 2873 of CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names explains Zexmenia as an anagram of the last name of Francisco Ximénez; that’s still Ximénez with a z, but a seemingly different Ximenez from the one you cited. Can you tell us where you found the information about the connection to José Mariano Ximénez?

    Reply

  4. David Hollombe
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 18:20:15

    All of the genera proposed in the first fascicle of ‘Novorum vigetabilium descriptiones’ (and four of the genera in the second fascicle) were all named for heroes of the Mexican struggle for independence. The list of individuals honored is placed between the preface and the actual descriptions. “CLARISSIMIS MEXICANA GENTIS VIRIS MAGNO ANIMO EXCELSA PRAEDITIS MENTE

    MICHAELI HIDALGO.
    IGNATIO ALLENDE
    IGNATIO ALDAMA.
    MARIANNO ABASÓLO
    IOSEPHO MORELOS.
    MARIANNO MATAMOROS
    LEONARDO ET MICHAELI BRAVO, FRATRIBUS
    HERMENEGILDO GALEANA.
    IOSEPHO XIMENEZ
    FRANCISCO XAVERIO MINA.
    PETRO MORENO
    VICTORI ROSALES.
    JOACHIMO LENNO.

    A POPULO IN COMITIIS QUAM OPTIME DE PATRIA MERITIS HONORIFICENTISSIME DECLARATIS HIS ETERNA PERQUAMDIGNIS MEMORIA CIVIBUS QUI QUOD MAXUME GLORIOSUM DIVINUMQUE PRORSUS EST LIBERAM FLORENTEMQUE PATRIAM REDDERE ET COGITAVERUNT ET ADGRESSI SUNT Paullus De La Llave Et Ioannes Lexarza CONCIVES
    NOVA HOC FASCÍCULO CONTENTA GENERA D.”

    Reply

  5. Steve Schwartzman
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 18:54:43

    Great. Thanks for clarifying that. Now I’m wondering where the other two sources got their (different) attributions. Errare humanum est.

    Reply

  6. Trackback: Sons and daughters « Spanish-English Word Connections
  7. Trackback: Zexmenia daisy | Zubris

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
%d bloggers like this: