Rivera Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

In this article we'll look at the origin and meaning of the surname Rivera and how popular it is in the United States. We'll also look at the race and ethnic origin of people in the United States who are named Rivera.

Rivera, like all of the names we have data for, is identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a surname which has more than 100 occurrences in the United States in the Decennial Census survey. The most recent statistics we have for the Rivera surname is from the 2010 census data.

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What is the Origin and Meaning of the Last Name Rivera?

The surname Rivera derives from the old Spanish word Ribera or “riverbank” which comes from the Latin rivus. It is a topographical name that was likely bestowed upon people who lived near the bank of a river or some other freshwater body. It was used as a unique identifier for people bearing the same given name. Those who lived by the river would use their given name with the addition of de Ribera or "of the riverbank."

This can also be location-based as a name and refer to someone who is from a town called Rivera or Ribera. It likely originated in Spain but versions of the name are found in Italy as well.

Juan Maria Antonio Rivera was an 18th century explorer of western North America. In 1765 Rivera left Santa Fe at the request of Governor Tomás Vélez Cachupin. Traveling north Juan traveled through present-day Utah and Colorado collecting ore samples along the way. It is thought that Rivera was the first to discover gold in Colorado although his superiors did not pursue this information.

Jose Eustasio Rivera Salas (February 19, 1888 – December 1, 1928) was born into a large Catholic family in San Mateo, Columbia, later renamed Rivera in his honor. A lawyer by profession he was also a writer and a one-time candidate for Congress. Rivera’s most noted work was La vorágine (translated as The Vortex). It is considered one of the most influential novels in Latin American literary history.

Where Does Rivera Rank in the Most Common U.S. Names?

According to the data, Rivera is ranked #46 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Rivera surname appeared 391,114 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 132.59 would have the surname Rivera.

We can also compare 2010 data for Rivera to data from the previous census in 2000. The table below contains all of the statistics for both years in a side-by-side comparison.

2010 2000 Change (%)
Rank 46 59 -24.76%
Count 391,114 299,463 26.54%
Proportion per 100k 132.59 111.01 17.72%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Rivera

We also have some data on the ancestry of people with the surname Rivera.

The below race categories are the modified race categories used in the Census Bureau's population estimates program. All people were categorized into six mutually exclusive racial and Hispanic origin groups: "White only", "Black only", "American Indian and Alaskan Native only", "Asian and Pacific Islander only", "Two or More Races", and "Hispanic".

For the most recent 2010 census data, the race/ethnic origin breakdown for Rivera was:

  • 5.40%, or 21,120 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 0.95%, or 3,716 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 2.04%, or 7,979 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 0.18%, or 704 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 0.37%, or 1,447 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 91.06%, or 356,148 total occurrences, were "Hispanic Origin".

Note: Any fields showing (S) means the data was suppressed for privacy so that the data does not in any way identify any specific individuals.

Since we have data from the previous census in 2000, we can also compare the values to see how the popularity of Rivera has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 5.40% 5.92% -9.19%
Black 0.95% 1.06% -10.95%
Asian and Pacific Islander 2.04% 2.06% -0.98%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.18% 0.24% -28.57%
Two or More Races 0.37% 0.55% -39.13%
Hispanic 91.06% 90.17% 0.98%

Data Source(s)

All of the data on this page is sourced from the Decennial Census survey, from the United States Census Bureau.

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  • "Rivera Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin". NameCensus.com. Accessed on December 8, 2022. https://namecensus.com/last-names/rivera-surname-popularity/.

  • "Rivera Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/last-names/rivera-surname-popularity/. Accessed 8 December, 2022

  • Rivera Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/last-names/rivera-surname-popularity/.