Cardenas, also found recorded although quite rarely as the diminutives Cardenoso, Cardenosa, and Cardenoza, is a Spanish habitational or locational surname. It describes a person who originally lived by an area where the blue purple fern with severe gorse-like needles known as the ‘Cardeno’ grew, or who came from a place so named. ‘Cardeno’ itself is an ancient word from the period two thousand years ago when Spain was a Roman colony around the time of Christ. The original spelling was ‘Carduus’ meaning ‘thistle’, to which was added the word ‘tierras’ – land, although this suffix is now all but lost. There are a number of small villages called ‘Cardenas’, the thistle itself was used until quite recently in country areas for ‘carding’ wool, a method of cleaning and purifying the fleece. In that sense ‘Carduus’ is also the origin of the English surname ‘Card’, a metonymic or nickname for a person who prepared the fleece prior to spinning. Many of the early recordings of the surname contain the preposition ‘de’ implying aristocratic and noble origins, and specifically the ownership of estates. Amongst these early recordings are those of Ana Franco Cardenoza, christened at Valldolid, Spain, on August 28th 1577, and Almagro de Cadenas, who married Maria Lopez Serrano Montalua, at Cordova, Spain, on July 1st 1668. Sterling Cardenas is recorded in San Francisco on June 11th 1953. The coat of arms has the blazon of two black hound dogs courant, on a gold field. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Pedro de Cardenas, which was dated November 26th 1573, married Juana Bautista at Vilapalacios, San Sebastian, during the reign of King Philip 11 of Spain, 1558 – 1598. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Source: Surname Database