In various cultures, a middle name 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.

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.

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 edit

English edit

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]

  • When part of a two-word given name: for example, Mary Anne and Jo Anne.
  • When part of a two-word surname, that is, a compound surname: for example, David Lloyd George or Henry Bence Jones, whose surnames are open compounds (that is, Bence is not his middle name; Bence Jones is his compound surname).
  • A maiden name expressed: for example, Hillary Clinton (née Rodham) is sometimes known as Hillary Rodham Clinton.
  • A patronymic in any of various Slavic languages, including Russian and Bulgarian, such as Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, is not normally considered a middle name. Russian language and culture has certain norms for when someone is to be called by their given name plus patronymic versus a title plus the surname (for example, Nikita Sergeyevich versus Mr. Khrushchev). The distinction is similar to the T–V distinction. See also eastern Slavic naming customs.
  • Traditional Québécois names: Traditionally, Roman Catholic Québécois, Franco-Ontarian, and Franco-Manitoban children were given three names, the first being Joseph or Marie, the second the godfather's or godmother's name, and the third the name chosen by the parents for the child. Examples include Jean Chrétien (Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien) and Gabrielle Roy (Marie Rose Emma Gabrielle Roy). Some children (especially those with English mothers) were given extra names that could serve as middle names in the anglophone tradition; for example, Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau). These traditions became less common after the Quiet Revolution.

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 a 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 edit

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.

Chinese edit

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 edit

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 edit

Scandinavia edit

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 this individual 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.

Vietnam edit

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.

Philippines edit

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 edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Middle name". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  2. ^ Carroll, John M. (2014). Confidential Information Sources: Public and Private. Elsevier. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-08-094364-0.
  3. ^ "Middle name (language)". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. ^ Evans, Michael Robert (2004). The Layers of Magazine Editing. Columbia University Press. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-231-12860-5.
  5. ^ a b Baird, Robert W. (November 13, 2013). "The Use of Middle Names". Bob's Genealogy Filing Cabinet.
  6. ^ "Use of the Period After the 'S' in Harry S. Truman's Name". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  7. ^ "Robert Hollander, towering scholar of Dante's 'Divine Comedy,' dies at 87". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-12-15.
  8. ^ Sapakoff, Gene. "Sapakoff: Raiders owner Mark Davis talks 'Clemson West' and Citadel ties". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2022-12-15.
  9. ^ Redmond, Pamela (January 21, 2013). "British Baby Names: Two middle names". Nameberry.
  10. ^ Trumbore, Dave (November 10, 2016). "Secret Science Nerds: David X. Cohen Brings Academy to Animation". Nerdist. Retrieved November 15, 2023.
  11. ^ "Mellannamn". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2022-10-04.
  12. ^ "personnamn – Store norske leksikon". Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved 2022-10-04.
  13. ^ Kirkeministeriet, Skrevet af. "Navneregler". (in Danish). Retrieved 2022-10-04.
  14. ^ "Förnamn". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2022-10-04.
  15. ^ "Personnamn". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2022-10-04.
  16. ^ Navneloven (Danish law regarding names).
  17. ^ "Ny personnamnlag från och med 1 juli 2017" (in Swedish). Skatteverket. Archived from the original on 2021-04-18.

External links edit