Bettencourt is a surname and noble family of Norman origin. The head of the family in the 14th century, Jean de Béthencourt, organized an expedition to conquer the Canary Islands, resulting in his being made King of the Canary Islands. Though the royal title would be short-lived, it allowed the family to firmly establish itself afterwards in the Azores and Madeira islands. The family is one of the most expansive and established families of the Portuguese nobility.

Escudo de Brasão da familia bettencourt, Portugal.gif
Armorial of the Bettencourt family.
Current regionAzores, Brazil, Canary Islands, France, Madeira, Uruguay
Earlier spellingsBéthencourt
EtymologyToponymic name meaning Betten's Estate
Place of originNormandy
Estate(s)Bettencourt Palace
Madre de Deus Manor

Through the expansion of the Portuguese Empire and Spanish Crown, the family and name spread across the world, mainly throughout Iberian America (Portuguese America and Spanish America), as well as Portuguese Africa.

Variants of the nameEdit

Though the spelling Bettencourt is the most widely used and standardized spelling of the family, both in Portuguese and French, other spellings of the name have arisen. Some of these spellings include: Bethancourt/Betancourt, Béthencourt, Bentancour, Bentancourt, Betancoor, Betancur, Betancurt, Betancurth, Betancor, Betancurt, Betencur and Betancor.

Family historyEdit

Communes of France ending with -court
Coat of arms above the main entrance of Bettencourt Palace, Angra do Heroísmo

Bettencourt and Betancourt are originally place-names in Northern France. The place-name element -court (courtyard, courtyard of a farm, farm) is typical of the French provinces, where the Frankish settlements formed an important part of the local population. It is translated from the Old Low Franconian word *hof, meaning "courtyard", "courtyard of a farm", "farm" (Dutch, Old English hof, German Hof ).[clarification needed]

Bettencourt and Béthencourt correspond with Bettenhoffen, Bettenhof or Bettenhoven found in Alsace, Germany or Flanders.[1]

The first part Betten- is the Germanic personal name (owner's name) Betto.[2][3]

The surname Bettencourt/Béthencourt with various spellings extended throughout Spain, Portugal and their colonies, after the Norman-French explorer Jean de Béthencourt, who conquered the Canary Islands for Spain and received the title King of the Canary Islands.[citation needed]

To this day, Betancourt and other forms of his surname are quite frequent among Canary Islanders and people of Canary Islander descent, in spite of his death without issue,[citation needed] thanks to his having given his surname to newly baptized natives.

Examples include former Colombian president Belisario Betancur, former Venezuelan president Rómulo Betancourt, and Hermano Pedro de San José de Betancurt, a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Other modern notables are Venezuelan baseball player Rafael Betancourt, Azorean (Portuguese)-born American musician Nuno Bettencourt, and Colombian-French activist/politician Ingrid Betancourt.






Other variantsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Maurits Gysseling, Toponymisch Woordenboek van België, Nederland, Luxemburg, Noord-Frankrijk en West-Duitsland (vóór 1226), 1960, p. 135 (Dutch, French and German) [1]
  2. ^ Gysseling 135
  3. ^ Albert Dauzat et Charles Rostaing, Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de lieu en France, Librairie Guénégaud, 1979, Paris, ISBN 2-85023-076-6, p. 78b – 79a.