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People's names in several countries include one or more middle names, placed between the first given name and the surname.[1][2] In most such countries, except Northern America, this notion of middle name does not exist, and those names are considered as a second, third, etc. given name. In the USA and Canada there is usually only one middle name, often abbreviated by its possessor to the middle initial (e.g. James Robert Smith becomes James R. Smith, which is usually standard for signatures) or omitted entirely in everyday use (e.g. just James Smith). In other English speaking countries people will have more than one given name, although they are usually known by one only. 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).

Despite their relatively long existence in Northern America, the phrase "middle name" was not recorded until 1835 in Harvardiana, a periodical of the time. 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 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 ability 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 as a form of discrimination against people who carry multiple middle names for cultural or religious reasons. However, it should be noted that this phenomenon is largely limited to English speaking countries[citation needed] since the different tradition in other western countries generally resulted in the development of databases which are able to handle more than one middle name.[citation needed]

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.

Many people are not known by their first name. Individuals under these circumstance commonly use their first initial in official settings. Examples of this form include Mackenzie Phillips (Laura Mackenzie Phillips), JoBeth Williams (Margaret Jobeth Williams), Rihanna Fenty (Robyn Rihanna Fenty) Jane Horrocks (Barbara Jane Horrocks), and Kaitlin Doubleday (Jan Kaitlin Len Doubleday). Many, however, simply choose exclude the first initial altogether, such as Evangeline Lilly (Nicole Evangeline Lilly), Rooney Mara (Patricia Rooney Mara), Faye Dunaway (Dorothy Faye Dunaway), Laurie Holden (Heather Laurie Holden), Marissa Ribisi (Santina Marissa Ribisi), Debra Winger (Mary Debra Winger), Bridget Moynahan (Kathryn Bridget Moynahan), Elaine Hendrix (Katherine Elaine Hendrix), Renee O'Connor (Evelyn Renee O'Connor), Victoria Silvstedt (Karen Victoria Silvstedt), Michelle Rodriguez (Mayte Michelle Rodriguez), Lynn Collins (Viola Lynn Collins), Dakota Fanning (Hannah Dakota Fanning), Rose Byrne (Mary Rose Byrne), Halle Berry (Maria Halle Berry), Alexis Bledel (Kimberly Alexis Bledel), Jacqueline Bisset (Winnifred Jacqueline Fraser-Bisset), Kay Panabaker (Stephanie Kay Panabaker), Jane Carr (Ellen Jane Carr), Elle Fanning (Mary Elle Fanning), Moon Bloodgood (Korinna Moon Bloodgood), Tyne Daly (Ellen Tyne Daly), Vonetta McGee (Lawrence Vonetta McGee), Kate Jackson (Lucy Kate Jackson), Megan McArthur (Katherine Megan McArthur), Catherine Hardwicke (Helen Catherine Hardwicke), Jane Leeves (Amanda Jane Leeves) and Reese Witherspoon (Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon).

Some people elect to use their middle name as their last name, as in Tom Cruise (Thomas Cruise Mapother), Jon Stewart (Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz), Ray Charles (Ray Charles Robinson), Jake Burton (Jake Burton Carpenter) and Tim Allen (Timothy Allen Dick).


English-speaking countries

Middle names are often 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 honor. Other uses of a middle name include giving a name that would have otherwise have been a social burden to the child as a first name. Surnames are also sometimes given 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's 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 woman with the first name Mary (or Marie or Maria) is often called by her middle name, because of the strong and enduring popularity of the name. American Southerners are sometimes referred to familiarly by both their first and middle names, such as Mary Anne or John Michael.[citation needed]

Middle names are usually not used in everyday life. People 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 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 (Queen Elizabeth II; as a queen, she doesn't need 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, William Arthur Philip Louis, Henry Charles Albert David, or 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 Latin America

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

Most people have two given names (Juan Pedro, 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. An example is José Luis, Juan Carlos, etc. People with those names will tend to use both names together, rather than only the first name José or Juan.

A person's last name is compounded by the father's last name (originally the paternal grandfather's last name) and the mother's last name (originally the maternal grandfather's last name). The first last name, 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 of his father, would be Juan Carlos Pérez Ríos. Pérez is the "important" last name and the one used if only one is needed. 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 for only one last name, it is assumed that the last word in a person's name is the last name, hence Jorge González Silva becomes Jorge Silva: a name they could not identify with. Legal documents based on passports or similar identification are a common source of this problem.


See also Arabic name.

Arabs of the Persian gulf states do not use middle names. Usually, the name of an Arab in the Persian gulf states will be in the form of a given name followed by a patronym, expressed as Ibn or Bint (son of and daughter of, respectively) and the father's given name.

Arabs in other 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.

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 is frequently the name "Mohammad". For example, such a person might be named Mohammad Hadi, or Mohammed Basheer, where Hadi and Basheer are the given names by which the person would be normally addressed.


Males in some predominantly Catholic communities (Belgian, French, Irish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese 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.

In Brazil, the middle name is usually the mother's maiden name.

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, eg.: Noel D. Dimech.

East Asian

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.

Most[citation needed] 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. 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 and one surname. 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 given the same "rank". For example, the German Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel could decide to be called Angela Merkel, Dorothea Merkel or Angela Dorothea Merkel. Other naming conventions include the lack of unisex names and the avoidance of surnames used as a given name. An exception to this is the use of Maria for males, as in Rainer Maria Rilke. Initials are not used to abbreviate extra given names. One exception is German TV personality Johannes B. Kerner with the 'B' standing for 'Baptist'.


In Denmark and Norway, the term middle name refers to names that are originally last names, but not part of the last name of the name bearer. For instance, one can have one's mother's maiden name or the last name of another close ancestor (for instance a grandparent) as a middle name. It is possible to have several middle names, although unusual to have more than one or two. Multiple given names are not referred to as middle names, but are all considered given names.

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. Unless his full name is used, he is correctly referred to as Lange, like in Mr. Lange, not as Manthey Lange.

In Sweden, the situation is much the same as above. Given names that follow the first given name are in everyday parlance called "middle names", but this is not the way such names are treated by Swedish authorities. Since there are a number of people who are "known by their middle names", records in Sweden that aspire to a high degree of precision often ask people to fill in both their given names and which one that is their "name of address" (tilltalsnamn). Sometimes, people can choose to use their middle name proper as their last name 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 uses Svartholm as a last name. Since Swedish-speakers nowadays only very rarely address one another with "Mr./Mrs. X", it is more or less a moot point if the correct term of address here is Mr. Svartholm Warg, Mr. Svartholm or Mr. Warg.

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 rarely used to refer to the person's other given names.

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 nick names, 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 Middle name.

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.

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 ru:Отчество, 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 confused for the middle name, since it is often rendered with the middle initial (e.g., Vladimir V. Putin).

There are no formal conventions that forbid any first name from corresponding with the person's patronymic root. 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 the root of their surname, so Sergey Ivanovich Sergeyev would be a less common name, and matching first name, father's name, and surname root are nigh-unheard of, so naming one's son Sergey Sergeyevich Sergeyev would most certainly be considered quaint.

Bastardy, adoption, and estrangement from the father are sometimes cause for unconventionally formed patronymics. Unwed mothers who do not list the father on their children's birth certificates are commonly asked to either provide or make up a male first name, to be used for 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 oftentimes done to honor a stepfather or distance oneself from an absent or disliked biological father. It is also sometimes done for odd-sounding patronymics or to erase one's visible connection to a different culture or ethnicity, whether to fit in more, avoid discrimination, or to sever a tie with a culture that one does not feel a part of. Foreign patronymics may also be localized, either legally or informally, for simplicity's sake (such as Andrewvich > Andreyevich or Andriyivich > Andreyevich).

See also


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Quotations involving the middle name

  • Actually, my name is Austin Powers. Danger is my middle name. -- Austin, in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
  • Danger's my middle name! Well, actually it's Quincy, but you guys get the picture. -- Steve Urkel in Family Matters
  • Call me Eugene. It's my middle name. --Jerome Morrow in Gattaca
    • Reference: Gattaca is a film about eugenics.
  • Oh, forgiveness is my middle name. Well, actually it's LaVelle, and I'd appreciate it if you guard that secret with your life. -- Xander Harris, Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Teacher's Pet"
  • I can handle this. "Handle" is my middle name. Actually, "handle" is the middle of my first name. -- Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), Friends
  • And my middle name used to be Helping People. The Helping People Tick. -- The Tick, The Tick
  • George: Elaine, Julie.
    Elaine: Hi.
    Julie: Oh, hi. Elaine's my middle name.
    Elaine: Oh, mine's Ike.
    -- "The Big Salad", Seinfeld
    • Note: It was revealed in another episode that her actual middle name is Marie. Ike is actually the nickname of the male-only names Isaac and Dwight.
  • We'll put that stuff at the back, not in the window. Luxury is not our middle name. -- Margaret Atwood, Robber Bride (414)
  • 'Cause Privacy is my middle name
    My last name is Control.
    No, my first name ain't Baby—
    It's Janet. Miss Jackson, if you're nasty.
    — Janet Jackson, "Nasty"
  • Actually, Scarlet is my middle name. My whole name is Will Scarlet O'Hara. [pauses] We're from Georgia. -- Will Scarlet, Robin Hood: Men in Tights
  • Woody, Woody, Woody… I promise that I will keep an open mind, okay? And anyway, "sensitivity" is my middle name. [opens the door] SWEET MARY IN THE MANGER!-- Dr. Nigel Townsend, Crossing Jordan
  • Well, trouble's my middle name. Actually, my middle name is Marion, but I don't want you spreading that around. - Z (Woody Allen), Antz
  • "You might end up dead" is my middle name. -- Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
  • Bending is my middle name. My full name is Bender Bending Rodriguez. -- Bender the robot, from Futurama
  • "First name Mr, middle name 'period', last name T!"

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