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Double-barrelled name

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Title: Double-barrelled name  
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Subject: Polish name, Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, Angela Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts, Surname, Château Marquis d'Alesme Becker
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Double-barrelled name

In the Western tradition of surnames, there are several types of double surname (also double-barreled surname[1]). If the two names are joined with a hyphen, it may also be called a hyphenated surname.

  • In British tradition, a double surname is heritable, and mostly taken to imply upper class origin,[2] reflecting an alliance of a woman of higher class who married below her social status. It was then common for her and her husband to assume a double surname so as not to diminish the social status of the woman and to gain for her husband a higher social status. This double surname would then become heritable by the couple's descendants; such was the origin of e.g. Spencer-Churchill. Some of these names were formed in order to preserve a family name which would have become extinct in the male line, connected to the inheritance of a family estate. Such was the case with the Harding-Rolls family.
  • In Hispanic tradition, double surnames are the norm, and not an indication of social status. A person will take the (first) surname of his father, followed by the (first) surname of his mother (i.e. his maternal grandfather's surname). The double surname itself is thus not heritable, but a true patronymic. These names are combined without hyphen (but optionally combined using y "and"). In addition to this, there are heritable double surnames (apellidos compuestos) which are combined with a hyphen.
  • In German tradition, double surnames are taken upon marriage, written with or without hyphen, combining the husband's surname with the wife's (more recently the sequence has become optional under some legislations). These double surnames are "alliance names" (Allianznamen) and as such not heritable.


  • British tradition 1
  • Hispanic tradition 2
  • Continental Germanic tradition 3
  • Scandinavia 4
  • Poland 5
  • Recent developments 6
  • Non-Western surname traditions 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9

British tradition

A few British upper-class families have "triple-barrelled" surnames (e.g. Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe; Cave-Browne-Cave; Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound; Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby; Smith-Dorrien-Smith; Vane-Tempest-Stewart). These are sometimes created when one spouse has a double-barrelled name and the other has a single surname. Nowadays, such names are almost always abbreviated in everyday use to a single or double-barrelled version. There are even a few "quadruple-barrelled" surnames (e.g. Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, Hovell-Thurlow-Cumming-Bruce, Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, Stirling-Home-Drummond-Moray, and the Danish Krag-Juel-Vind-Frijs family). The surname of the extinct family of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos was the quintuple-barrelled Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville.

Captain Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache is sometimes quoted as the man with the most ever "barrels" in his surname (six), but in fact all but the last two of these (Tollemache-Tollemache) were forenames.

Many double-barrelled names are written without a hyphen (this can cause confusion as to whether the surname is double-barrelled or not). Notable persons with unhyphenated double-barrelled names include Ralph Vaughan Williams, astronomer Robert Hanbury Brown, Helena Bonham Carter (although she said the hyphen is optional,[3]) comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (however, his cousin Professor Simon Baron-Cohen opted for the hyphen), former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies.

Hispanic tradition

When a person is born, the custom is for them to take the first surname of the father and then the first surname of the mother. Thus, when D. Julio Iglesias de la Cueva and Dª Isabel Preysler Arrastía had a son called Enrique, he legally was Enrique Iglesias Preysler. Where the optional conjunction y (and) is used, the example would become "Enrique Iglesias y Preysler" (never used in the case of Enrique Iglesias; see for example José Ortega y Gasset). On the other hand, actual double-barrelled names exist (called apellidos compuestos), such as García-Huidobro, Cruz-Coke or Pérez de Arce. For example, Luciano Cruz-Coke Carvallo is the son of Mr. Carlos Cruz-Coke Ossa and Ms. Lucía Carvallo Arriagada. In every day use Mr. Cruz-Coke Carvallo is Mr. Cruz-Coke, never Mr. Cruz.

In Portugal, where most of the population have two to four surnames (apelidos de família), the practise of using a double combination of surnames is very common. The person can either use a paternal and a maternal surname combined (Aníbal Cavaco Silva) or use a double last name that has been passed down through one of the parents (António Lobo Antunes). The last surname (normally the paternal one) is usually considered the "most important", but people may chose to use another one, often favouring the more sonant or less common of their surnames in their daily or professional life (such as Manuel Alegre or José Manuel Barroso, who is known in Portugal by his double surname Durão Barroso). The use of more than two surnames in public life is less common, but not unusual (see Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen).

One historic early aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, is known to have not only often used an equals sign (=) between his two surnames in place of a hyphen, but also seems to have preferred that practice, to display equal respect for his father's French ethnicity and the Brazilian ethnicity of his mother.[4]

Continental Germanic tradition

In Germany a double surname (German: Doppelname) is generally joined with a single hyphen. Other types of double surnames are not accepted by German name law. However, exceptions are made for immigrants and for marriages where the double surname already was the official name of one partner before marriage. A 1993 law forbids surnames with more than two components.[5] Prior to this, it was permitted for adults (e.g., Simone Greiner-Petter-Memm and formerly Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann-Maier-Leibniz[5]) but their children would not inherit the name.[5] The 1993 ban was upheld by the Constitutional Court in 2009.[5] The crew members of the famous First World War light cruiser SMS Emden were allowed to add the name Emden with a hyphen to their surname as a special honour after WWI.

In Switzerland double surnames are traditionally written with a hyphen and combine the surnames of a married couple with the husband's surname at first place and the wife's at second. This doubled name is called "alliance name" (German: Allianzname). The first name as such, however, is the official family name, which will be inherited by their legitimate children. So, for example, if Werner Stauffacher is married with Gertrud Baumgarten, both can use the name Stauffacher-Baumgarten. Their children Heinrich and Verena, however, bear only the surname Stauffacher. Prominent bearers of an alliance name are Micheline Calmy-Rey (Federal Minister for Foreign Affaires), Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (Federal Minister for Finance) or Johann Schneider-Ammann (Federal Minister for Economy). Lately, based on feminist pressure, wives have been permitted by law to place their maiden name before the family name. This doubled name is written without a hyphen and is borne by the wife only. So, in the example above, the wife's name is Gertrud Baumgarten Stauffacher, while her husband's name is Werner Stauffacher. Again, the children's names remain Heinrich and Verena Stauffacher.

Doubling of surnames is also practiced by the Dutch. A good example would be the name of its famous footballer, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. His name derives from the 17th century, when two farming families in the Enschede area of the Netherlands intermarried. Both the Vennegoor and Hesselink names carried equal social weight, and so—rather than choose between them—they chose to use both. "Of" in Dutch translates to "or" in English, which would mean that a strict translation of his name would read 'Jan Vennegoor or Hesselink'.


Denmark has a tradition of double surnames originating in the 19th century. This was a result of two Naming acts obliging commoners to use heritable surnames, passed for the Duchy of Schleswig in 1771, and for all of Denmark in 1828. Most people chose their patronymic as their heritable surname, with the consequence of an overwhelming dominance of a few surnames as a consequence. To alleviate this, Danes began using mothers' unmarried surnames as a middle surname, similar to the Hispanic system, as in Anders Fogh Rasmussen, son of Knud Rasmussen and Martha Rasmussen (née Fogh).


In Poland a double surname (Polish: nazwisko złożone) is generally joined with a hyphen and by law includes only one hyphen. Polish surnames (nazwisko (N. sg.)), like those in most of Europe, are hereditary and generally patrilineal, i.e., passed from the father on to his children. A married woman usually adopts her husband's name. However, other combinations are legally possible. The wife may keep her maiden name (nazwisko panieńskie) or add her husband's surname to hers, thus creating a double name (nazwisko złożone). A married man can also adopt his wife's surname, or add it to his.

Recent developments

Since the late 20th century, increasingly liberal legislation on the inheritance of legal surnames in many Western countries has led to the emergence of various non-traditional or ad-hoc coinages of combined surnames. For example, Hispanic American politician Antonio Villar and his wife Corina Raigosa adopted the "blended" surname Villaraigosa upon their marriage in 1987.[6]

In some cases, courts in member states of the European Union have refused to register children under the surname given according to a foreign naming tradition.[7]

In France a recent practice, abolished in 2010,[8] was to use two consecutive hyphens -- (not the same as a "long hyphen" or dash, or with a double hyphen) to distinguish between recently formed double surnames and ancient hyphenated family names (French: nom composé). The use of double surnames is legal but not customary. Children traditionally take on their father's surname (or, more recently, optionally their mother's).

In Canada, especially Quebec, it is not rare for children born since the 1970s to bear both parents' surnames, with no established rules as to whether the father's or mother's name should come first (in Quebec, under the provisions of the Civil Code enacted in 1980,[9] both spouses must retain their original surnames upon marriage). This situation was frequent enough that naming laws had to be amended in the early 1990s when those with double surnames began to marry, and wished themselves to give their children double surnames. In such cases, any combination involving at most two elements of the father's or the mother's surname is permitted.[10]

Non-Western surname traditions

A Chinese compound surname is a Chinese surname using more than one character. Many of these surnames derive from noble and official titles, professions, place names and other areas, to serve for a purpose. Some are originally non-Han, while others were created by joining two one-character family names. Only a few of these names (e.g. Ouyang, Shangguan, Sima, Situ) survive in modern times. Many clans eventually took on a single-character surname for various reasons. A small minority of Koreans and Vietnamese also have compound surnames. In 2007, PRC officials suggested that parents should be encouraged to create two-syllable (two-character) surnames for their children by combining their parents' (one-syllable) surnames; this could make people's names more unique, and "could help solve the problem of widely recurring names".[11]

In India, double surnames are comparatively common, especially in Bengal, examples including Roy Chaudhury (sometimes written as Chowdhury), Ghosh Dastidar, Das Gupta, Dutta Roy, etc.

In the Filipino naming tradition is derived from the Hispanic system, but was influenced by American (Anglo-Saxon) naming tradition when the Philippines became a United States colony in 1901. A child customarily will carry the mother's maiden name as his middle name and carry the father's surname. When the female marries, she keeps her maiden name and adds the husband's surname, but does not typically hyphenate it. So, when Maria Rose Aguon marries José Lujan Castro, her name becomes Maria Rose Aguon Castro and their children will typically carry the surname Aguon Castro.

See also


  1. ^ The term "double-barreled surname" was in origin used for "pretentious" British double names indicative of (partially) aristocratic background; so in Thomas Innes of Learney, The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands (1970), p. 186. Earlier usage prefers "double-barreled name" in reference to the British double surnames, the more specific "double-barreled surname" is a recharacterization after the recent tendency to use "double-barreled name" for the fashion of hyphenated given names. The term "double-barreled (sur)name" appears to have been coined in the Victorian era, originally with a sarcastic undertone implying pretentiousness; e.g.:
    • "It is looked on as a public blessing, a boon to the general good-humor, when a statesman is endowed with a double-barreled name. It brings on a perpetual feu de joie of squibs, and makes him so much the more agreeable to everybody but himself." Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, a Popular Journal of General Literature, Volume 18, 1876, p. 385.
    • "The hero, who was a prince, had a sort of double-barreled name, which would defy all sorts at pronunciation; and so had the heroine. They were names which, no doubt, would be instrumental in selling any fever and ague mixture should they be affixed to it." Puck, Puck Publishing Company, 1878, p. 21.
    • "an extravagant superfluity of new-coined phraseology and technical terms, which every distinguished person's illness elicits from some fashionable physician with a double-barreled surname and none denoting Christianity." Robert Joshua Leslie, John Leslie (bishop of Clogher), The life and times of ... John Leslie, bishop of the Isles, and of Raphoe and Clogher, 1885, p. 157.
    But it is now also used more generally of any double surname (an example for this is Azoulai, The Question of Competence in the European Union (2014: 180) using "double-barreled" to refer to a Danish double surname.
  2. ^ Lucy Clarke-Billings, "Britain's young elite: A double-barrelled surname helps you get ahead", The Independent, 30 March 2015.
  3. ^ Los Angeles Times Magazine, November 1999
  4. ^ Gray, Carroll F. (November 2006). "The 1906 Santos=Dumont No. 14bis". World War I Aeroplanes 194: 4. 
  5. ^ a b c d Kirchner, Stephanie (6 May 2009). "German Court Upholds Ban on Extra-Long Names".  
  6. ^ Sheri & Bob Stritof (2007-07-26). "Corina Raigosa and Antonio Villaraigosa Marriage Profile". Archived from the original on 7 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  7. ^ "For instance, in Garcia Avello, a case in which Belgium refused to register children of dual nationality with the surname of both parents following the Spanish tradition [...] in Grunkin and Paul [... a German court] refused to recognize a child's double-barreled surname as determined and registered in Denmark, where he lived, because the child was a German national." Loïc Azoulai, The Question of Competence in the European Union, OUP Oxford, 2014, p. 180.
  8. ^ Lichfield, John (8 January 2010). "Double-hyphen surname law gets both barrels".  
  9. ^ A Short History of the Civil Code, Government of Quebec
  10. ^ Section 51 of the Civil Code of Quebec, in LexUM
  11. ^ Name game: most Chinese use 3 characters, some use 10 or more, Xinhua, 2007-12-12.
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