Middle name

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First/given, middle, and last/family/surname diagram with John Fitzgerald Kennedy as example. This shows a structure typical for English-speaking cultures (and some others). Other cultures use other structures for full names. FML names-2.png
First/given, middle, and last/family/surname diagram with John Fitzgerald Kennedy as example. This shows a structure typical for English-speaking cultures (and some others). Other cultures use other structures for full names.

In various cultures, a middlename is a portion of a personal name that is written between the person's first given name and their surname. [1] [2] A middle name is often abbreviated and is then called middle initial or just initial.


A person may be given a middle name regardless of whether it is necessary to distinguish them from other people with the same given name and surname. In cultures where a given name is expected to precede the surname, additional names are likely to be placed after the given name and before the surname, [3] and thus called middle names.

Usage in various languages


Among royalty and aristocracy, middle names have been used since 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 term middle name was not recorded until 1835, in the periodical Harvardiana .

Not every name that stands as the middle word in a three-name string is a middle name. Major classes of this theme are as follows:[ citation needed ]

In the U.S., the middle name is often abbreviated to the middle initial (e.g. Mary Lee Bianchi becomes Mary L. Bianchi). [4] This is usually standard for signatures or omitted entirely in everyday use (e.g. just Mary Bianchi). An individual may have more than one middle name, or none. In the United Kingdom, for comparison, she would usually be referred to as either Mary Bianchi, M. L. Bianchi, or Mary Lee Bianchi, or she may choose Lee Bianchi, and informally there may be familiar shortenings.[ citation needed ]

In countries that primarily speak English—such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom—the forename of a relative is sometimes used as one's middle name to honor familial heritage. [5] Typical examples are a father named John William Smith whose son is named Thomas John Smith or a grandmother named Mary Grace Tilley whose granddaughter is named Ashley Mary Smith. In many cases in the United States, however, a person's middle name does not derive from relatives, but is used instead to honor close family friends or notable public figures. [5] A rare case of an individual being given only an initial as a middle name, with the initial not explicitly standing for anything, was Harry S. Truman. (He once told reporters—apparently at odds with his own practice—that the S should thus not be followed by period.) [6] Other people with single-letter middle names include Robert B. Hollander Jr. and Mark M Davis. [7] [8]

More than two given names are fairly common. In Britain, they are traditionally more common among the upper and middle classes. [9]

There is a minor tradition in English-speaking countries whereby maiden names from the family tree that are especially celebrated by the family are carried into succeeding generations as middle names or as given names, whereas the tradition of married names would otherwise obliterate them. For example, this is how the first name of Johns Hopkins came to have the terminal -s that differentiates it from John; Johns was the surname of some of his ancestors. It is also how Robert Strange McNamara got his middle name (it was his mother's maiden name). There is some overlap between open-compound surnames and maiden-names-as-middle-names; in various cases the same motivation (preserving maiden names from oblivion) has produced both such kinds of names, and there are instances from the nineteenth century that are ambiguous today as to how the bearers of a name thus inspired parsed it themselves (either as part of a compound surname or as a middle name).

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 in the United States, where a middle initial or name is expected but the person does not have one. Rarely a person may adopt a middle initial to overcome the problems imposed by systems whose design failed to properly handle the absence of one, or to ensure uniqueness. For example, screenwriter David X. Cohen was born David Samuel Cohen, but adopted the middle initial "X" when he joined the Writers Guild of America, as there was already a member named David S. Cohen, and the union forbid multiple writers from using the same name. [10]

A middle name that is rather unusual among English speakers is that of Jennifer 8. Lee, an American author. Lee was not given a middle name at birth so she chose "8" when she was a teenager, in a nod to her Chinese ancestry; in Chinese culture, the number eight symbolizes prosperity and good luck.

Middle name as primary forename

In England and the United States, some who choose to be known primarily by their middle name abbreviate their first name as an initial, e.g. J(ohn) Edgar Hoover, J(ohn) Paul Getty, J(ulius) Robert Oppenheimer and F(rancis) Scott (Key) Fitzgerald.

Others simply omit the first name in regular usage, treating their middle name like a first name, e.g. (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson. Many politicians use their middle name or its shortened version as a first name—for example, (Addison) Mitch(ell) McConnell, (Willard) Mitt Romney, (Thomas) Jon(athan) Ossoff, (Raymond) Jon Tester, (Rafael Edward) Ted Cruz and (Marion Michael) Mike Rounds are all sitting U.S. senators who use their middle names as first names. In the U.K., many politicians, including several prime ministers, have been known primarily by their middle name, or one of their middle names. The ten prime ministers to have done so are (Andrew) Bonar Law, (James) Ramsay MacDonald, (Arthur) Neville Chamberlain, (Robert) Anthony Eden, (Maurice) Harold Macmillan, (James) Harold Wilson, (Leonard) James Callaghan, (James) Gordon Brown, (Alexander) Boris (de Pfeffel) Johnson, and (Mary Elizabeth) Liz Truss.


Traditionally, Chinese names consisted 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. 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. A three-character name is both patriarchal and hierarchical, as it would inform of a person's belonging and rank within a family. During the One-child Policy, there was no need for a generation name as there was only one child in each generation. Many names in Mainland China were shortened to two-characters during this time, and there are many adults with shorter names remnant from this era. This would not be found in Taiwan or Hong Kong.

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 family name in official situations.

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 which are usually combined into a single 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 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.

Indian languages

Traditional names in India vary regionally due to its ethnic and religious diversity. Modern Hindu names across India adopt a first name, which is usually a word in Sanskrit or an indigenous Indian language, a middle name, which is the name of a child's father or spouse in case of a married lady followed by the surname which is usually the caste that the person's family belongs to, usually taken from the father or husband. However, diversity exists even here, for instance middle and last names from the traditionally matrilineal Nair community in Kerala are based on the mother's family. For example, in the case of the well-known statesman, VK Krishna Menon, his first name would be Krishna, the V stands for Vengyalil, which is a well known aristocratic Nair family from Kerala that Krishna's mother belonged to, the K stands for Krishnan, his father's name and the surname is Menon, one of the Nair subcastes. In modern times, this name would perhaps be styled as Krishna Vengyalil Krishnan Menon, in that order, Vengyalil Krishnan being the middle name. Traditionally the Dalit population of India were excluded from India's caste system and do not have a middle name and a caste surname. The same is true for people who have given up their caste identity, whose name just includes the person's first name followed by their father's name. Sometimes, the place of birth of an individual is included as their middle name.

Among the Sikhs of India, many have adopted the middle name Singh or Kaur which mean lion and princess respectively. This is followed by their Punjabi caste surname. Nowadays, many Sikhs have done away with their caste surname and have just kept Singh or Kaur as their surname.

Among Indian Muslims, similar naming conventions to Hindus and Sikhs are followed, but the names are usually in Arabic, Persian or Urdu.

Usage in various regions


The naming conventions of the Scandinavian countries do not call given names middle names. [11] [12] [13] While extra first names often are referred to as middle names in everyday language, the laws in those countries do not reflect that and consider all of them first names. A person can have multiple first names, [14] but usually, only one of them is used in addressing the person. A passport contains all names, but all except the surname are listed as first/given names. Names combined with a hyphen are counted as one name. A person named "Ulrika Britt-Inger Marie Fredriksson" has three first names and one last name, and she could choose to go by any of those three first names. [15]

Unlike the middle names in some English-speaking countries that are used as initials, the additional first names are usually either spelled out in full or fully omitted. Together with a person's personal identification number in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, or Iceland, only signing with the name of address and the last name is usually sufficient for almost all legal documents. A person can change the name they go by to one of the other already given names without applying for a name change. It is possible to apply to have the order swapped if desired, as the first of the first names will be assumed to be the name of address.

In Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, the legal term middle name refers most often to names that were originally surnames, but not part of the last name of the name bearer. A middle name could be one's mother's maiden name or the last name of another recent ancestor (for instance a grandparent). [16]

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.

In Sweden, however, although middle names were introduced in the Name Act of 1963, later called tilläggsnamn (added name), and then mellannamn (middle name) in the Name Act of 1983, the Name act of 2017 removed the term entirely. Existing last-name middle names may still be used, but can no longer be added. [17]

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.


Traditional middle names in Vietnamese are "Văn" for male names and "Thị" for female names. However, modern Vietnamese do not consider these to be attractive 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 create beautiful names when combined 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.


Middle names constitute the mother's maiden surname; is inserted between the given name and the surname (father's surname) and almost always abbreviated signifying that it is a "middle name". For example; given the name Jose Patricio Santos. This is usually abbreviated to Jose P. Santos. The abbreviated "P" signifies it is the maternal maiden surname. If a person has two given names, Jonathan Jose P. Santos, the abbreviated "P" will represent the mother's surname. The given name would therefore be Jonathan Jose. The second name "Jose" is never classified as a middle name. There have been a few documented exceptions, such as Benigno S. Aquino III, Jose P. Laurel, and Manuel L. Quezon, whose Western-style middle initials actually stand for their second given names Simeon, Paciano, and Luis respectively.

See also

Related Research Articles

Surname conventions and laws vary around the world. This article gives an overview of surnames around the world.

A patronymic, or patronym, is a component of a personal name based on the given name of one's father, grandfather (avonymic), or an earlier male ancestor. It is the male equivalent of a matronymic.

A nickname or nick, also known as a sobriquet, is a substitute for the proper name of a person, place or thing. It is commonly used to express affection, amusement, a character trait or defamation of character. It is distinct from a pseudonym, stage name or title, although the concepts can overlap. Nicknames are typically informal.

Chinese surnames are used by Han Chinese and Sinicized ethnic groups in Greater China, Korea, Vietnam and among overseas Chinese communities around the world such as Singapore and Malaysia. Written Chinese names begin with surnames, unlike the Western tradition in which surnames are written last. Around 2,000 Han Chinese surnames are currently in use, but the great proportion of Han Chinese people use only a relatively small number of these surnames; 19 surnames are used by around half of the Han Chinese people, while 100 surnames are used by around 87% of the population. A report in 2019 gives the most common Chinese surnames as Wang and Li, each shared by over 100 million people in China. The remaining eight of the top ten most common Chinese surnames are Zhang, Liu, Chen, Yang, Huang, Zhao, Wu and Zhou.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Surname</span> Hereditary portion of a personal name

A surname, family name, or last name is the mostly hereditary portion of one's personal name that indicates one's family. It is typically combined with a given name to form the full name of a person.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Courtesy name</span> Name given to adults in East Asia

A courtesy name, also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Korean name</span> Korean naming practices and history

A Korean name in the modern era typically consists of a surname followed by a given name, with no middle names. A number of Korean terms for names exist. For full names, seongmyeong, seongham, or ireum (이름) are commonly used. When a Korean name is written in Hangul, there is no space between the surname and the given name.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinese name</span> Naming customs of Chinese culture

Chinese names are personal names used by individuals from Greater China and other parts of the Sinophone world. Sometimes the same set of Chinese characters could be chosen as a Chinese name, a Hong Kong name, a Japanese name, a Korean name, a Malaysian Chinese name, or a Vietnamese name, but they would be spelled differently due to their varying historical pronunciation of Chinese characters.

Japanese names in modern times consist of a family name (surname) followed by a given name. Japanese names are usually written in kanji, where the pronunciation follows a special set of rules. Because parents when naming children and foreigners when adopting a Japanese name are able to choose which pronunciations they want for certain kanji, the same written form of a name may have multiple readings. In exceptional cases, this makes it impossible to determine the intended pronunciation of a name with certainty. Even so, most pronunciations chosen for names are common, making them easier to read. While any jōyō kanji and jinmeiyō kanji may be used as part of a name, names may be rejected if they are believed to fall outside what would be considered an acceptable name by measures of common sense.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Personal name</span> Set of names by which an individual is known

A personal name, full name or prosoponym is the set of names by which an individual person is known, and that can be recited as a word-group, with the understanding that, taken together, they all relate to that one individual. In many cultures, the term is synonymous with the birth name or legal name of the individual. In linguistic classification, personal names are studied within a specific onomastic discipline, called anthroponymy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Given name</span> Part of a personal name

A given name is the part of a personal name that identifies a person, potentially with a middle name as well, and differentiates that person from the other members of a group who have a common surname. The term given name refers to a name usually bestowed at or close to the time of birth, usually by the parents of the newborn. A Christian name is the first name which is given at baptism, in Christian custom.

Chinese given names are the given names adopted by speakers of the Chinese language, both in majority-Sinophone countries and among the Chinese diaspora.

A double-barrelled name is a type of compound surname, typically featuring two words, often joined by a hyphen. Notable people with double-barrelled names include Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Sacha Baron Cohen and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Traditional Vietnamese personal names generally consist of three parts, used in Eastern name order.

Filipinos have various naming customs. They most commonly blend the older Spanish system and Anglo-American conventions, where there is a distinction between the "Christian name" and the "surname". The construct containing several middle names is common to all systems, but the multiple "first" names and only one middle and last name are a result of the blending of American and Spanish naming customs.

Hungarian names include surnames and given names. Some people have more than one given name, but only one is normally used. In the Hungarian language, whether written or spoken, names are invariably given in the "Eastern name order", with the family name followed by the given name. Hungarian is one of the few national languages in Europe to use the Eastern name order, like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer and some Basque nationalists.

Indian names are based on a variety of systems and naming conventions, which vary from region to region. In Indian culture, names hold profound significance and play a crucial role in an individual's life. The importance of names is deeply rooted in the country's diverse and ancient cultural heritage. Names are also influenced by religion and caste and may come from epics. In Hindu culture, names are often chosen based on astrological and numerological principles. It is believed that a person's name can influence their destiny, and selecting the right name is essential for a prosperous and harmonious life. Astrologers may be consulted to ensure a name aligns with the individual's birth chart. India's population speaks a wide variety of languages and nearly every major religion in the world has a following in India. This variety makes for subtle, often confusing, differences in names and naming styles. Due to historical Indian cultural influences, several names across South and Southeast Asia are influenced by or adapted from Indian names or words.

In Chinese-speaking societies around the world, an honorific title is attached after the family name of an individual when addressing that person. Aside from addressing colleagues or family of equal or lesser rank, it is considered impolite to refer to others by their name only.

Personal names in Malaysia vary greatly according to ethno-cultural group. Personal names are, to a certain degree, regulated by the national registration department, especially since the introduction of the National Registration Identity Card (NRIC).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hao (surname)</span> Surname list

Hao is the Mandarin pinyin and Wade–Giles romanization of the Chinese surname written in Chinese characters. It is listed 77th in the Song dynasty classic text Hundred Family Surnames. As of 2008, it is the 82nd most common surname in China, shared by 2.7 million people.


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