In common Spanish family names like González and Sánchez, the -ez ending originally meant ‘of,’ or more specifically ‘descendant (and especially son) of.’ The relationship is clearer in the old spelling -es, which is sometimes still used, as in the Gonzales that coexists with González. It’s clearer etymologically because many Latin nouns took an -is ending when they were put in the genitive (possessive) case. For example, with the name Caesar, the form Caesaris meant ‘of Caesar’ or ‘Caesar’s.’ In fact the ‘s in that second English translation is a native cognate of the Latin genitive ending (something I wish high school Latin teachers knew and would point out to students).
In any event, Gonzales started out meaning ‘Gonzalo’s [son].’ In the case of Jiménez or Ximenes, as it used to be spelled, the original sense was similarly ‘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 and is therefore descended from someone named Gome, notes that Ximeno may have been a Spanish rendering of the Hebrew name Shimeon or Shimon, now standardized as Simón and Simeón. As for Sánchez, it means ‘descendant of Sancho,’ a name we recognize from Don Quixote’s big-bellied sidekick Sancho Panza.
© 2015 Steven Schwartzman