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Middle name

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Middle name

First/given, middle, and last/family/surname diagram with J. S. Bach as example. J. S. Bach shared his given name with six immediate family members and many extended family members, and shared his family name with most family members.

People's George Walker Bush).

In some English speaking countries 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 it is often abbreviated to the middle initial (e.g. Mary Lee Bianchi becomes Mary L. Bianchi, which is usually standard for signatures) or omitted entirely in everyday use (e.g. just Mary Bianchi). In the United Kingdom she would usually be referred to either as Mary Bianchi, M. L. Bianchi or Mary Lee Bianchi, or she may choose Lee Bianchi, and informally there may be familiar shortenings. 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 debatable 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 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.

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 preventing people with multiple middle names from being 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 as a form of discrimination against people who carry multiple middle names for cultural or religious reasons.

The abbreviation "N.M.N." (no middle name) or "N.M.I." (no middle initial), with or without periods, is sometimes used in formal documents where a middle initial or name is expected but the person does not have one. The middle name can also be a maiden name.

Since 1905, "middle name" has also developed a figurative usage meaning a notable or outstanding attribute of a person, as in the phrase "discretion is my middle name."


  • English 1
  • Some Notable Anglophones Known by Their Middle Names 2
  • Spain and Hispanic America 3
  • Portugal and Brazil 4
  • Arabic 5
  • Catholic 6
  • Chinese 7
  • German 8
    • Modern Germany 8.1
    • Nazi Germany 8.2
  • Netherlands 9
  • Scandinavia 10
  • Finland 11
  • Southeast Asia 12
    • Philippines 12.1
    • Thailand 12.2
    • Vietnam 12.3
  • South Asian 13
  • East Slavic names 14
  • See also 15
  • References 16
  • External links 17


In countries that primarily speak English, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, the forename of a relative is often used as ones middle name to regard familial heritage.[3]

Those who choose to be known primarily by their middle name may abbreviate their first name as an initial, as is with J. Edgar Hoover, or simply without the first name at all, as is with Mitt Romney[4] and Paul McCartney.[5] Sometimes, individuals may be given only initials as middle names, with the initial not explicitly standing for anything, as is with Harry S. Truman.[6]

Multiple middle names are common, including that of V. V. S. Laxman. Often, middle names are names of famous and influential people throughout history.

Some Notable Anglophones Known by Their Middle Names

Spain and Hispanic America

In Spain and Spanish America the traditional 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 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.

Traditionally, a person's surname is compounded of 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 follows the pattern used in most of Western Europe, with the mother's surname preceding the father's.

Complete names are formed generally as in 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 is 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.


An Arab person's name is like the person's family tree- the first name is given, the second name is the father's name, the third is the grandfather's name, and so on. Surnames are chosen from descriptives of their ancestors, such as "Alyatama" meaning "the orphans." In this example, the family name would have been a Bedouin tribe name such as Al-Ajarmeh. Arabic surnames and full names are used to identify the origins of where each person comes from and Arabs in history have been known to memorise these origins and would know a person's great great uncle just by being told the first, second, and last name.


Males in some predominantly 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 at 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 godparents choose David and Luke, the surname being Dimech, the child is 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, often these names are not used by their holders and are referred to only if another person has the same first and last name, e.g. Noel D. Dimech.


Middle names do not traditionally exist for the Chinese people. Most Chinese names consist of three characters – the surname, followed by a two-character given name (ming), which is not separated into a first and middle name in usage. Some Chinese given names contain only one syllable (e.g. Wong Kit). In some cases, two-character given names follow a naming tradition in which the first character of the given name (and thus the second character in the three-character full name) indicates the person's generation in his/her family. For example, the Yongzheng Emperor of the Qing dynasty has the given name Yinzhen (胤禛) while his brothers' names all begin with the character "Yin" (胤). His sons' and nephews' given names all begin with the character Hong (弘). Traditionally, the list of generational names may be decided many generations in advance by the ancestors. In such naming systems, the de facto given name is the last character of a person's full name. Even if that was the case most of the time, sometimes the person's given name is the middle character and not the last. The one that's common in all the names of a generation of children of the same gender determines the "generation name".

A fading Chinese tradition is to use a courtesy name, called (字) in place of a male's given name in adulthood. Traditionally is given by one's father upon reaching the age of maturity at 20 years old. This name is intended for use in formal situations and formal writing and confers a status of adulthood and respect. Like the ming, the is composed of two characters which usually reflect the meaning of the ming. Prior to the 20th century, sinicized Koreans, Vietnamese, and Japanese were also referred to by their . An alternative courtesy name is the hào (; ; hào; Japanese gō; Korean: ho; Vietnamese: hiệu), which usually referred to as the pseudonym. A hào was usually self-chosen and it was possible to have more than one. It had no connection with the bearer's míng or ; rather it was often a personal choice and may have reflected a personal belief or philosophy. Chinese adults may more frequently use the hào to refer to themselves. The or hào can be used independently of the given name and of each other, but the given name is almost always used with the last name in official situations.

Some Cantonese names, such as Bruce Lee's middle name, Junfan. There are also some new immigrants whose Chinese given names are their first names followed by English middle names.

The practice of taking English and Chinese given names is also common in Malaysia, 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.


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 ("Rufname"), 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 (among Catholics), 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, at least one additional, unambiguous name must be chosen. Furthermore, parents can neither choose names likely to expose the child to ridicule nor those 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.

Modern Germany

As a modern attitude of gender neutrality, the German law on marriage names (Namensrecht: Ehename, english) chosen as surnames was changed to allow for free choice between mother's name or father's name. Only that individual of a couple that changes her/his name is allowed to include her/his name of birth (for women: 'maiden name') as a middle name. This actual state of the law was preceded by an intermediate version stipulating just the opposite order. By administratively set by-law and without prior explicit legislative process, and different from most international habits, the German authorities force the separation of both parts of the surname with a dash Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift. However, a dash is not applied between parts of traditional names.

Nazi Germany

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. 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". This discriminating code of practice had been formally amended as a by-law (Runderlass des RMI vom 23. August 1938, printed in: Stefan Petzhold: Juden in Bergedorf / Schlossheft Nr. 8, hrsg. Verein der Freunde des Museums für Bergedorf und Vierlande, Hamburg, o.J., p. 33) to the German Civil Code and was terminated after capitulation of 1945, May 7 and under allied military government thereafter. Author of the Runderlass was the former Nazi constitutional lawyer Hans Globke, later Ministerialdirigent in the office of the chancellor Konrad Adenauer.


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 (or a derivative thereof) to use on a daily basis ("roepnaam"), as all of these names are given the same "rank".

Traditionally, Dutch Catholics tended to favour Latin versions of given names. For example, a catholic Dutchman might have the given name 'Henricus', while a Protestant Dutchman might have the Dutch version, 'Hendrik', as a given name. In daily life, both would go by the derived roepnaam 'Henk'.

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 S for Sar, instead of under 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. The term middle name does not refer to additional given names, which are instead referred to as given names. 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, middle names have a separate status. In practice, their status is similar to that of additional given names, and middle names are often omitted in everyday use, just like a person with 3 or 4 given names would only use one of them in most situations. The historical purpose of middle names is to honour some related family or person, a godparent, or even a completely unrelated person, such as a locally or nationally prominent figure. 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. There are few set rules for how names are constructed today; people are required to have one given name and one family name, but can have as many additional given names and middle names as they like.

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 or three 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 forename. 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 Asia


In the Philippines, the middle name is used exclusively to refer to the mother's maiden surname. For example, Juan Roxas Cruz considers Roxas, his mother's maiden surname, to be his middle name. In ancient pre-Hispanic Philippines the use of middle names was rare, as this was adopted from Spanish conventions. The older (and still used in legal contexts) method of writing it would be, Juan Cruz y Roxas, which is a reverse of the conventional Anglicised format.

This format also applies to people whose father or mother is not Filipino, particularly from countries where naming conventions are different, for example, Stephan Schröck and Ray Anthony Jónsson. If the naming convention of their fathers' countries (e.g. Germany, Iceland) was applied, then Jónsson and Schröck would not have a middle name, and the former will be referred to by his first name Ray only (applicable in Icelandic convention). A few Filipinos chose not to use this convention, applying Western conventions instead. The middle initials of the names such as Manuel L. Quezon and Benigno S. Aquino III stand for their second names Luis and Simeon respectively, not their middle names Molina and Cojuangco. If Filipino naming conventions were applied, then they would rather be known as Manuel Luis Molina Quezon and Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III.


In Thailand, middle names are not common. Thai people usually give a child a long first name, which usually has a meaning. Additionally, most Thai children are also given nicknames, which are usually one or two syllables. Some Thai persons use middle name to refer to the mother's maiden surname, or woman's surname at birth that has been replaced or changed.

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. For example, Chatchai Plengpanich a male actor whose nickname is "Nok", will be unofficially referred as "Nok Chatchai".


Traditional middle names in Vietnamese are "Văn" for male names and "Thị" for female names. However, modern Vietnamese consider these are not beautiful names, especially "Thị". Therefore, nowadays popular middle names also are popular first names. Middle names play an important role in Vietnamese full names; they could help creating beautiful names when combine with first names, distinguishing people who have the same first name (there are many common last names in Vietnam), and also distinguishing the gender of the names (unisex names are used widely in Vietnam). Hence, Vietnamese rarely abbreviate their middle names.

South Asian

In Nepal, 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, Ram Baran Yadav can be broken down into Yadav, the Nepalese surname; Baran, the family name; Ram, the first name.

Rajputs use Singh or 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 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, Sivakumaran is his first name; Morappakkam is the place where he 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. Examples are Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, a famous Indian Cricketer and Narendra Damodardas Modi who is the former Chief Minister of Gujarat and current Prime Minister of India. 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

The East Slavic naming system uses a Soviet states, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, also use this naming system. In Kyrgyzstan, Russian is the official language. In Ukraine, the patronymic ends with "-ovych" for males and "-ivna" for females. In Bulgaria, the naming system is similar, but the patronymic ends with "-ov" or "-ev" for men and "-ova" and "-eva" for women. In Russia, such names would end with "-ich" as explained above. Some Russian patronymics are transliterated in English as "-ovitch" or "-evitch", with a "t": e.g. the famous Russian arachnologist, Alexander Ivanovitch Petrunkevitch: his father's name is Ivan. The most formal way to address a person is by first name and patronymic, not by surname. Friends often use shortened patronymic as nickname to express close relationship status. Sometimes this behavior leads to situation when everyone knows only such nickname (e.g. Ivan Dulin and Mikhalych).

The patronymic 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. However, there are people with corresponding surname, given name and patronymic, such as Andrey Andreyevich Andreyev.

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 name and surname. 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


  1. ^ "middle name (language) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". 
  2. ^ "Middle name - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mitt Romney
  5. ^
  6. ^

External links

  • The Power and Peril of the Middle Name from BBC News
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