Middle name

Middle name

People's names in several cultures include one or more additional names placed between the first given name and the surname.[1][2] In Canada and the United States all such names are specifically referred to as middle name(s); in most European countries they would simply be regarded as second, third, etc. given names. In some countries there is usually only one middle name, and in the United States and Canada it is often abbreviated to the middle initial (e.g. James Ronald Bass becomes James R. Bass, which is usually standard for signatures) or omitted entirely in everyday use (e.g. just James Bass). In the United Kingdom he would usually be referred to either as James Bass or as J. R. Bass(although he might choose to be referred to as Jim Bass, Ronald Bass, or Ron Bass). An individual may have more than one given name, or none. In some other countries, the term middle name is only used for names that are originally last names, but not part of the last name of the bearer (for instance one can have one's mother's maiden name as a middle name).

It is debated how long middle names have existed in English speaking countries, but it is certain that among royalty and aristocracy the practice existed by the late 17th century (and possibly much earlier), as exemplified in the name of the Stuart pretender James Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766).

Despite their relatively long existence in North America, the phrase "middle name" was not recorded until 1835 in the periodical Harvardiana. Since 1905, "middle name" gained a figurative connotation meaning a notable or outstanding attribute of a person, as in the phrase "________ is my middle name."

The use of multiple middle names has been somewhat impeded recently by the increased use of computer databases that occasionally allow for only a single middle name or more commonly a middle initial in storing personal records, effectively depriving persons with multiple middle names of the possibility to be listed in such databases under their full name. Especially in the case of government records and other databases that are used for legal purposes, this phenomenon has sometimes been criticized[by whom?] as a form of discrimination against people who carry multiple middle names for cultural or religious reasons.

In the United States, the middle initial or a religious initial can be used to replace a middle name even if the name is not printed on a birth certificate. It is sometimes used in place of the middle name on identity documents, passports, driver licenses, social security cards, university diplomas, and other official documents. Examples of this form include George W. Bush and John D. Rockefeller. The abbreviation "NMN" (no middle name) or "NMI" (no middle initial) is sometimes used in formal documents where a middle initial or name is expected when the person does not have one. It is also common for people to use their middle name as the first name.

Upon marriage, individuals have the option of no longer using their middle name (see also married and maiden names).


English-speaking countries

Middle names are normally chosen by parents at the same time as the first name. Names that are popular as first names are also popular as middle names. The given name of a relative is often used because of tradition or to show esteem. A middle name may be chosen which might have been a social burden to the child as a first name, perhaps because it is unusual or indicates a particular cultural background. Surnames are also sometimes used as middle names, usually to honor a relative. It is quite popular to use the mother's maiden name as the middle name, especially in the American South. A child is sometimes given a middle name that is the first or middle name of one of his or her parents. In the United States, it is also common for a baby boy to be given the same given name as his father, in which case the middle name may be used as if a first name so as to distinguish him from his father.

A minority use their middle names and, as with all minorities, receive some intended or unintended discrimination. For example, most forms that people fill out ask for first name and middle initial, when people who prefer their middle name may wish to be known either with a first initial (like J. Harrison Ford), their full name (like John Fitzgerald Kennedy) or simply without the first name at all. People who choose to be known primarily by their middle name may abbreviate their first name to an initial (e.g. F. Scott Fitzgerald and W. Somerset Maugham). Sometimes the first name is not commonly used at all (e.g. Paul McCartney whose first name is James). Rarely, individuals may be given only initials as middle names, with the initial(s) not explicitly standing for anything (e.g. Harry S. Truman). This practice is common among the Amish, who commonly use the first letter of the mother's maiden name as a solitary initial for the sons and daughters. Thus, the children of a woman named Sarah Miller would use the middle initial M. The practice of abbreviating middle names to initials is rare in the United Kingdom.

Examples of multiple middle names: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary (Elizabeth II; as a queen, she does not use a surname), J. R. R. Tolkien, George H. W. Bush and V. V. S. Laxman. The British upper classes are traditionally fond of giving multiple middle names: for example, The Duke of Cambridge (William Arthur Philip Louis), Prince Harry (Henry Charles Albert David) and The Princess Royal (Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise). In even more extreme examples, British musician Brian Eno's full name is Brian Peter George St. Jean le Baptiste de la Salle Eno; Canadian actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas named their son Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland. Often, middle names are names of famous and influential people throughout history, such as well-known baseball pitcher Cal McLish, whose full name is Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.

Spain and Hispanic America

In Spain and Spanish America the composition of personal names is different. In the name Juan Pedro Gómez Martínez, Juan Pedro are the given names, Gómez is the father's surname, and Martínez the mother's surname. Argentina is largely an exception, as most Argentinians' identity is recorded at birth using only the father's surname.

Many people have two given names (Juan Pablo, María Claudia) but use only one. In the case of women whose first name is María, it is not uncommon for the second name to be used alone. Other names, however, are considered as a unit, and often used together. Examples are José Luis and Juan Carlos. People with those names will tend to use both names together, rather than only the first name José or Juan. In some cases, people use nicknames that include part of both names (Marijose for María José, Juanjo for Juan José), but this is usually informal.

A person's surname is compounded by the father's surname (originally the paternal grandfather's last name) and the mother's last name (originally the maternal grandfather's last name). The first surname, that of the father, is the main one, but people commonly use both, making it easier to tell the father from the son, something harder to do in the US if both share the same first name. The son of Juan Carlos Pérez Larios and Susana Estela Ríos Domínguez, if given the same first name as his father, would be Juan Carlos Pérez Ríos. Pérez is the "important" last name and the one used if only one is needed. Another example is the father-and-son Puerto Rican baseball players known in English as Sandy Alomar, Sr. and Sandy Alomar, Jr.. In Spanish, their names are respectively Santos Alomar Conde and Santos Alomar Velázquez. Those so named may encounter difficulties in English-speaking countries with the way they are addressed in letters and formal documents. Since it is usual in these nations to have only one surname, it is assumed that the last word in a person's name is the surname, hence Gabriel García Márquez becomes Gabriel Marquez: a name they could not identify with. Legal documents based on passports or similar identification are a common source of this problem.

Portugal and Brazil

Portugal and Brazil, as Portuguese-speaking countries, use Portuguese naming customs, in which the order of multiple family names is usually reversed from that of Spanish—with the mother's maiden name preceding the father's surname.

Complete names are formed generally as in Western Europe, i.e., by first names, followed optionally by one or more middle names, followed by the mother's family surname, followed by the father's family surname. However, it is quite common for a person to go by one of their surnames which is not the last one in order, especially if it very common. For example, someone called João Cavaco Oliveira can be commonly called "Cavaco" and Ayrton Senna da Silva chose to be known just as Ayrton Senna because Silva is a very common surname.


See also Arabic name.

Arabs in parts of the Middle East, particularly the Levant, will generally have two middle names: their father's given name, followed by their grandfather's given name. Occasionally, Arabs living in Western countries or people of Arab ancestry will continue this practice.

Iran and Syria

Iranians and some Arabs, particularly Syrians, customarily place another name before the given name. While not appearing in the middle of the full name, this prefixed name serves the same function as western middle names. This name is often given as a blessing, and are names by which the person would be normally addressed. The name "Mohammad" is one such frequently used name. For example, such a person might be named Mohammad Ali, Muhammad Hadi, or Mohammed Basheer, where Ali, Hadi and Basheer are the given name.


Males in some predominantly Catholic communities (Belgian, French, Irish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Polish Catholics) are sometimes given what would otherwise be considered a female given name, especially the name Marie or Maria (famous examples being Erich Maria Remarque and Rainer Maria Rilke). In France, the most common case is to give a compound first name, such as Jean-Marie or, more rarely, André-Marie or Bernard-Marie; more rarely, Marie is used as third or subsequent given name. Females, too, are often given compound names which feature male given names, i.e. Marie-Pierre, or Marie-Georges. See French names for more details on naming practices in France.

Hispanic females, conversely, sometimes have the middle name José. This is particularly common in Roman Catholic families. Therefore, the name "María José" is a common female name, while "José María" is a common male name, such as with PGA Tour golfer José María Olazábal.

The use of such names is primarily a cultural issue, rather than a religious issue. There is no Church teaching regarding such names.

In many English-speaking countries it is customary for a person being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church to adopt a Confirmation name, that may be used as a second middle name, and is without effect in civil law, unless, of course, the confirmand pursues the appropriate legal avenues.

In Malta, a person is given a first name, which is used in official documents. This name would be also the name given on Baptism. Custom has it that that one has two godparents, and these choose a name each. These names are generally not officialised, but are recognised by the Church. These are then used as middle names. For example if the parents choose Noel as a first name, and the god parents choose David and Luke, surname being Dimech, the child is therefore named Noel David Luke Dimech. A common choice for godparent names used to be the name of an important person such as an ancestor, great grandparents, etc. However, most of the times these names are not even remembered by their holders and are referred to only if another person has the same first and last name, e.g.: Noel D. Dimech.

East Asian

Middle names do not traditionally exist for the Chinese people. Some Chinese have only one syllable in their given name (e.g. Wong Kit); they have no middle position in their full name and thus no middle name. However, even if a Chinese person has a given name made up of two characters, the two characters are not separated to form two names.

Some Chinese Americans move their Chinese given name (transliterated into the Latin alphabet) to the middle name position, and use an English first name, e.g. James Chu-yu Soong, Jerry Chih-Yuan Yang, and Michelle Wingshan Kwan. The Chinese given name usually has two characters and it is usually combined into "one" middle name for better organizational purposes, especially with Cantonese names, such as Bruce Lee's middle name, Junfan. There are also some new immigrants whose Chinese given names are their first names, and have English middle names.

The practice of taking English and Chinese given names is also common in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. However, rather than placing the Chinese given name between the English given name and the family name, it is commonly placed after the family name in these places. Under such a system, Bruce Junfan Lee would have been Bruce Lee Junfan. This practice is consistent with both the Western convention of putting the given name before the family name and the Chinese convention of putting the given name after the family name.

German speaking countries

Legally, a person has one or several given names (forenames) and one surname. Using the mother's maiden name as a given name is generally not admissible unless it happens to be a name that is accepted as a first name; using a parent's first name as the child's middle name is allowed, but uncommon. In the case of multiple given names, the individual (or parents) will choose which name to use on a daily basis, as all of these names are legally equivalent. For example, the German Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel could decide to be called Angela Merkel, Dorothea Merkel, or Angela Dorothea Merkel. Hyphenated names, however, count as one item. Someone called Hans-Jürgen, for instance, cannot choose to drop either part of his given name. Initials are not commonly used to abbreviate extra given names. One prominent exception is German TV personality Johannes B. Kerner with the 'B' standing for 'Baptist'.

There are very few unisex names. An exception is the use of Maria for males, but not as a first given name; so Rainer Maria Rilke would be admissible, but Maria Rainer Rilke would not be. If one of the forenames happens to be unisex (e.g. Robin or Toni), at least one additional, unambiguous name must be chosen. Furthermore, parents can neither choose names likely to expose the child to ridicule nor ones that would normally be assumed to be surnames. Foreign names are generally admissible if the parents can prove that the name is actually in regular use somewhere in the world.


Beginning in 1938, specific middle names were imposed on many German Jews by the Nazi government to mark them as "non-Aryans" according to the racist ideology of the party. This antisemitic measure applied to all Jews who did not have a first name that was on a list of supposedly "typically Jewish" names drawn up by the government, as many German Jews at that time bore first names that were no different from those used by other Germans. The names forced upon them were Israel for males and Sara for females, both of them extremely rare among non-Jewish Germans at that time, although Sara/Sarah has become a fairly common female name in Germany today. Failing to use these imposed names in any kind of official communication was punishable. Also for any Jews born in Nazi Germany from that time, the parents were forced to choose only names from the above mentioned government list of "Jewish names".


In Switzerland, for several unisex first given names like Andrea (female in German, male in Italian) or Maria, a second given name is required. A third given is required for given names like Andrea Maria.


Legally, a person has one or several given names and one surname. In the case of multiple given names, the individual (or parents) will choose which name to use on a daily basis ("roepnaam"), as all of these names are given the same "rank". For the most part the naming convention is similar to Germany. In the Netherlands, and also in Belgium, many surnames include a tussenvoegsel: a prefix such as "van der". Many Dutch databases have a separate field to store the tussenvoegsel. In a Dutch phone directory you would find Edwin van der Sar under the S for Sar, instead of under the V. This is not the case in Belgium, however.


In Denmark and Norway, the term middle name refers to names that are originally surnames, but not part of the last name of the name bearer. A middle name could be e.g. one's mother's maiden name or the last name of another recent ancestor (for instance a grandparent). One can have several middle names, but it is unusual to have more than one or two. In law, such middle names are considered as additional given names. The historical purpose of middle names is to honour some related family or person. Until the 19th century, it was not unusual to have the last name of a godparent as one's middle name, even when the godparent was no blood relative. This practice, and the use of middle names in general, however, was mostly limited to the bourgeois class and the nobility, and was seldom seen among common people. In the 20th century, the use of middle names, especially one's mother's maiden name, was more widely adopted, although it is by no means mandatory.

In the example Carl Viggo Manthey Lange, the names Carl and Viggo are given names, while Manthey is a middle name and Lange is the family name. Manthey is his mother's maiden name. Unless his full name is used, he is correctly referred to as Mr. Lange, not as Mr. Manthey Lange. Carl Viggo Manthey Lange has a name typical of the Norwegian bourgeois class, with both his family name and his middle name being of foreign origin and being recognised surnames. Most Norwegians and Danes of the working class and peasant class used patronymics until the 19th century, when permanent family names became mandatory, first in Denmark in the early 19th century and then in Norway around 1900. A middle name is usually a recognised surname and not a patronymic. One reason middle names have become popular in the 20th century, particularly in Denmark, is that most Danish surnames originated as patronymics and are shared by a large number of people. The use of middle names in modern times serves to differentiate them from other people. For example, Danish politician Lars Løkke Rasmussen has some of the most common given and last names in Denmark (Lars and Rasmussen); his mother's maiden name is the slightly more unusual name Løkke, derived from a small agricultural property, so he uses it as a middle name, which differentiates him from other people named Lars Rasmussen.

In Sweden, the position is much the same as in Denmark. Middle names were inaugurated in the previous Name Act of 1963, then called "tilläggsnamn" (additional name), and are called "mellannamn" (middle name) as of the present Name Act of 1983. However, it had previously been more common to join e.g. the last names of a child's both parents, or for a married woman to join her maiden name and the husband's last name, as a double name with a hyphen, and commonly, large portions of the Swedes have not adapted to the official system to this day, i.e. for almost 50 years. People often use a hyphen between their middle name and last name themselves, and/or are spelled that way by other people. Not even mass media know things correctly, but contribute to misinterpretations.

Furthermore, when the term middle name was introduced in Swedish ("mellannamn") the word was assumed by many to mean the additional given names (apart from the "name of address" (tilltalsnamn)), so since 1983 the word is being used more and more in this, officially, erratic meaning.

Occasionally, Scandinavians choose to use their middle name as their surname in everyday life. So Per Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has Per and Gottfrid as his given names, where Gottfrid, not Per, is his name of address, Svartholm as his middle name and Warg as his last name, but in practice he uses Svartholm as a surname. This usage, however, is unofficial. Historically, a middle name could become part of a double-barreled surname (family name) and hence cease to be a middle name, especially if used for several generations. There are many family names of this kind, which contributes to the confusion about middle names that shall not be hyphenated. Some of these double-barreled surnames are combined with a hyphen, while others are not, so a double surname without a hyphen can sometimes be indistinguishable from a middle name followed by a family name.

In Scandinavia, there is no limit on how many given names one can have. Given names have never been referred to as middle names, apart from many in Sweden believing so, as mentioned above. The use of more than two given names is generally associated with the upper class. The first given name is not necessarily the name of address. For the sake of completeness, Swedish forms often ask people to fill in all their given names and to indicate which one is their "name of address" (tilltalsnamn).


In Finland one can have up to three given names, one of which can be officially registered as the main fore name. Upon marriage the original family name can be taken as a personal last name that is written before the actual last name and separated by a hyphen.

Southeast Asian

In the Philippines, the middle name is used exclusively to refer to the mother's maiden surname. For example, in the name "Juan Miguel Batumbakal dela Cruz", the name "Batumbakal", his mother's maiden surname, is his middle name. The term "middle name" is almost never used to refer to the person's other given names. However, ancient pre-Hispanic Philippines did not make use of middle names often.

In Thailand, middle names are not common. Thai people usually give a child a long first name, which usually has a beautiful meaning. Additionally, most Thai children are also given nicknames, which are usually one or two syllables. Thai people are generally known by their nicknames; public figures such as politicians and actors are often referred to by their first names. Surnames are only rarely used in everyday speech.

South Asian

Rajputs use Singh or even Kumar as their middle name.

Sikh men, who for religious reasons are supposed to be named Singh as their surname, sometimes instead take Singh as their middle name, such as Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, better known as Monty Panesar. Sikh women, who for similar reasons normally take the surname Kaur, may instead take it as a middle name: a notable example is Parminder Kaur Nagra.

In South India, the first initial is frequently a family name assigned to every member of a particular family, and is usually in addition to the last name. It is carried by every member of the paternal family. For example, Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy can be broken down into Yeduguri, the surname; Sandinti, the family name; Rajasekhara, the first name and Reddy, the caste name.

In Tamil Nadu, the first initial is normally the place of birth, and is followed by the middle name, i.e. father's and/or mother's name and then the first name of the individual and then finally the caste/community name. For example, Morappakkam Vedachalam Sivakumaran Pillai. Here, Morappakkam is the place where Sivakumaran was born; his father's name is Vedachalam; and his caste/community is called Pillai.

In the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in India, the middle name is the father's or husband's first name, though some people, such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali, use their mother's name as a middle name.

In Pakistan, in some tribes, Khan is used as a common middle name, followed by their tribe's name as their last name. For example, Khushal Khan Khattak, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Feroz Khan Noon.

East Slavic names

There is no middle name in personal names in the cultures associated with the Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian languages. Such names consist of three parts: given name, patronymic, and last name. The most formal way to address a person is by first name and patronymic, not by surname. This system was also imposed on people of other descent, both in the Russian Empire (e.g., Adam Johann von Krusenstern is known in Russia as "Ivan Fyodorovich Kruzenshtern") and in the Soviet Union (with certain exceptions). The patronymic in such names is sometimes mistaken for a middle name, especially as it is often rendered with the middle initial (e.g. Vladimir V. Putin).

There are no formal conventions that forbid the first name from corresponding with the patronymic. A son named after a father is permissible and relatively common, making for names like Sergey Sergeyevich Ivanov. Although not a rule, the unwritten convention is to avoid giving children names that match their surname, so Sergey Ivanovich Sergeyev would be a less common name, and matching all three of first name, father's name, and surname is almost unheard of, thus a name such as Sergey Sergeyevich Sergeyev would most certainly be considered quaint.

Illegitimacy, adoption, and estrangement from the father are sometimes reasons for unconventionally formed patronymics. Unwed mothers who do not list the father on their children's birth certificates are commonly asked either to provide or to make up a male first name, to be used as the legal patronymic. Legally adopted stepchildren sometimes change their patronymics officially or informally use a non-legal patronymic occasionally or interchangeably. Adults may change their patronymic legally while keeping their first and surnames. This is often done to honor a stepfather or to distance oneself from an absent or disliked biological father; or to avoid an odd-sounding patronymic; or to erase one's visible connection to a different culture or ethnicity, perhaps to conform in order to avoid discrimination, or to sever a tie with a culture with which one does not identify. Foreign patronymics may also be Russianised, either legally or informally, for simplicity's sake (such as Andrew'vich > Andreyevich or Andriyovych > Andreyevich).

See also


External links

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