Wikipedia:Naming conventions (people)

This guideline contains conventions on how to name Wikipedia articles about individual people. It should be read in conjunction with Wikipedia's general policy on article naming, Wikipedia:Article titles, and, for articles on living or recently deceased people, also in conjunction with the Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons policy, which explicitly also applies to article titles.

Most biographical articles have titles in the form <First name> <Last name>, as with Albert Einstein and Margaret Thatcher. This guideline explains how to handle cases where this format is not obvious, or for one reason or other is not followed.

Scope of this guideline edit

In general this guideline deals with the naming of articles where a single article is devoted to a single person (although there are also sections on articles combining biographies of several people and several articles treating the same person).

This guideline does not cover articles on organizations or other non-biographical articles on groups of people, things named after people (Basilica of Saint-Denis, Queen Elizabeth 2), or gods and deities. Naming of such articles may be covered by other relevant guidelines: see the box at top right. Otherwise, consult the general policy on article titles.

This guideline also does not apply to fictional characters (for example P. D. Q. Bach, Dame Edna Everage), unless when the main biography of the creator of that character is contained on the same page (example: Conchita Wurst, article title treated similar to a stage name). Similarly, the guideline does not apply to pseudonyms (e.g. Anna O.) treated in a separate article from the main biography of the person they refer to.

Redirects should be created from other names by which readers are likely to search for articles. For the naming of disambiguation pages, see Wikipedia:Disambiguation.

Article titles for certain groups of people are dealt with on more specialized guideline pages. See:

There are also several other naming conventions for specific languages and cultures (see the box at top right).

Standard format and variations edit

The "First Name Last Name" format applies to the majority of biographical articles on Wikipedia. These are not usually problematic, except possibly in terms of orthography, which is treated in the guidelines for particular languages (see box at top right).

However, there are also many biographical article titles that do not have "First Name Last Name" format, either because the person has no name in that form, or because they are much better known by some other name. The following sections cover cases where other formats may be considered or where other issues arise with applying the standard format.

Important: provide redirects wherever possible (or appropriate disambiguation where redirects are not possible) for all formats of a name that are in use, or could reasonably be typed in Wikipedia's "Search" box by someone looking for information about that person. For example, "William Jefferson Clinton" would be added as a redirect to "Bill Clinton". This also lets future editors know that the chosen name was intended.

Capitalization: See Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters § Proper names. Names that are not capitalized include k.d. lang and danah boyd.

People from countries where the surname comes first edit

The conventions for dealing with such names vary from country to country, and are usually covered in specialized guidelines, such as those for Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese. With Hungarian names, use Western name order (given name before surname).

Single name edit

Sometimes, mostly for names from antiquity, a single word is traditional and sufficient to identify a person unambiguously: Aristotle, Livy, Plutarch, Charlemagne, Fibonacci, etc.

Some modern examples include Sukarno and Suharto of Indonesia, and Hirohito of Japan.

Using the last name as the page title for a person, when the first name is also known and used, is discouraged, even if that name would be unambiguous, and even if it consists of more than one word. Unambiguous last names are usually redirects: for example, Ludwig van Beethoven is the title of an article, while Van Beethoven and Beethoven redirect to that article.

Similarly, don't use a first name (even if unambiguous) for an article title if the last name is known and fairly often used. For example, Oprah Winfrey is the article title, and Oprah redirects there. Only if the single name is used as a true artist's name (stage name, pseudonym, etc.) can the recommendations of Nicknames, pen names, stage names, cognomens below be followed.

Exceptionally, the use of a single name without any other qualifier as article title helps in disambiguation, for example Tacitus (the author) is seldom confused with the emperor with the same name. More often it doesn't help—for example "Prince" has many meanings—so a disambiguator is still required for Prince (musician).

Middle names and initials edit

Generally, use the most common format of a name used in reliable sources: if that is with a middle name or initials, make the Wikipedia article title conform to that format. Examples: John F. Kennedy, Thomas John Barnardo, George H. W. Bush, J. P. Morgan.

For initials:

See also the section about pen names, stage names, nicknames and cognomens below: prefer what is most common, e.g. Malcolm X and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Adding given names, or their abbreviations, merely for disambiguation purposes (if that format of the name is not commonly used to refer to the person) is not advised.

Multiple and changed surnames – patronymics and matronymics edit

Some Western cultures use a "double last name" format, or add patronymics or matronymics. Also, people sometimes change their surnames, particularly on marriage.

The general rule in such cases is to title the article with the name by which the person is best known. Some examples are listed below.

  • Josep Puig i CadafalchPuig is the last name of his father, Cadafalch of his mother; i means 'and' (see Iberian naming customs).
  • Antoni Gaudí – not Antoni Gaudí i Cornet; this architect is better known without the mother's surname.
  • Pyotr Ilyich TchaikovskyIlyich is a patronymic based on the first name of the father (see Eastern Slavic naming customs#Patronymic). Only for very few Russians is the patronymic customary in English, notwithstanding widespread use of patronymics in the native language.
  • Tatiana Sukhotina-Tolstaya – on marriage, she combined the feminized versions of her husband's and father's surnames. The patronymic (Lvovna) is not used in the page title in this case.
  • Virginia Woolf – born Adeline Virginia Stephen, she took the married surname Woolf. The article title contains Woolf because that is the name by which she is best known.
  • Vita Sackville-West – her birth name, not her married name Vita Nicolson, which is rarely used.

Adding or subtracting a second last name or a patronymic artificially, as a disambiguation aid, is rarely advised. The most usual form of the name is the one that should be used.

"X of Y" format edit

Some people, particularly historical figures, are known by names in the format "First name of Location", such as Stephen of Ripon and Anne of Cleves. If, for a given person, this format is more often used than the usual "First name Last name" format, then it should be used as the article title.

If alternative "locations" are in use, then use the more common one. For example, Jeanne of Flanders and Jeanne of Constantinople both refer to the same person, but the first version is slightly more used, so that is the preferred article name.

For monastics, names in the form "X of Y" may exist where Y is not a location. If a variant with a location exists, that is the version preferred as the article title. For example:

  • Teresa of Ávila, not Teresa of Jesus (translation of Teresa de Jesús, the way she signed her letters and was known in her convent); but
  • John of the Cross, translation of Juan de la Cruz; no variant with a location available.

Sometimes the "of Location" part is differently formatted: à Kempis in Thomas à Kempis would by many be perceived as a surname, but is really 'of Kempen' differently formatted. Such an alternative format is only used for an article title when in English the name is nearly exclusively written in that form.

The "X of Y" format is widely used in Wikipedia for monarchs (see the royalty and nobility guideline). For many monarchs and saints, this format is useful for disambiguation, although in some cases the ambiguity persists – see for example Elisabeth of Bohemia (disambiguation).

Junior/Senior – the Younger/the Elder – Ordinals edit

In the case of Senior/Junior, the preferred formats differ by variety of English:

  • North American English: Sr. or Jr. written after the name, without a comma, and with a period.
  • Commonwealth English: Sr or Jr written after the name, with neither a comma nor a full point. The Snr and Jnr spellings are attested but in decline, and are not recommended on Wikipedia.

For Classical Roman and Greek subjects, the Elder and the Younger, or in some cases the Great[er] and the Lesser, are preferred (with that capitalization) rather than Latin Major and Minor.

For guidance on the use of ordinals with the names of European monarchs and other European nobility, see the royalty and nobility guideline. For others, use ordinals if they are commonly used in reliable sources. Do not place a comma before a Roman numeral designation, e.g. Otis D. Wright II, not Otis D. Wright, II.

For Spanish names, use North American spelling Sr. and Jr., even if the person is not from Latin America, as most Spanish-speaking countries use the same naming convention for generational suffixes as the United States and Canada. Examples:

Nicknames, pen names, stage names, cognomens edit

The name used most often to refer to a person in reliable sources is generally the one that should be used as the article title, even if it is not the person's "real" name, and even if it appears to pass judgement on the person (as with Alfred the Great).

Examples of pen names, stage names etc. used as article titles:

For guidance on the use of cognomens or other titles for monarchs and nobles, see the royalty and nobility guideline.

Article titles are hardly suitable to clarify, explain, or in any other way elaborate on the composition of a name. Any clarification can be placed in the article. Avoid (for example) adding a nickname, or a contracted version of the original given name(s), in quotes or parentheses between first and last name. For example: Bill Clinton, not William "Bill" Clinton. For pseudonyms containing quotation marks or other special characters, see WP:Article titles § Special characters, WP:Manual of Style/Biography § Pseudonyms, and WP:Manual of Style/Trademarks. To summarize: avoid such a stylization unless it is found in the name in the overwhelming majority of independent reliable sources; e.g. "Weird Al" Yankovic, but P!NKPink (singer). The page name uses preferably the most commonly used version of the name of that person; other variants should be redirects, and can also be mentioned in the article, as needed.

Titles and styles edit

Styles, such as "His Grace" or "HRH", are not used in the page titles of biographical articles.

Honorifics and other titles such as "Queen", "Blessed", "Father", "Doctor" are not generally used to begin the titles of biographical articles, unless they are used to form the unambiguous name by which the subject is clearly best known (as in Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa or Father Damien).

Where such qualifiers are used, they are not abbreviated. Redirects should be created from commonly used forms containing such qualifiers; this may include abbreviated forms. For example, Blessed John Forest redirects to John Forest, and Dr Livingstone redirects to David Livingstone.

For guidance on the use of the title "Saint", and for clerical titles such as "Pope", see the clergy naming guideline.

For the use of titles in the names of articles on monarchs and other nobility, see the royalty and nobility guideline.

Descriptive titles edit

When the subject is best known by a description, and not by a name, use it.

Exceptionally, when no direct name (not even a nickname) can be given for a person, or when such a name would have too much uncertainty and/or lack wide recognisability, a descriptive article title may be appropriate. For example:

Do not do this for disambiguation alone.

Disambiguating edit

As with many other Wikipedia articles, the titles of articles on people (arrived at using the principles described above) sometimes require further disambiguation. An article title will require disambiguation if there are other articles to which the plain title could also refer, unless the subject of the current article is considered to be the primary topic for that title.

When there is a usual way of distinguishing two people of the same name, use it. Examples:

If there is no usual form of conventional disambiguation, place a disambiguating tag in parentheses after the name. Examples:

The disambiguator is usually a noun indicating what the person is noted for being in their own right. In most cases, these nouns are standard, commonly used tags such as "(musician)" and "(politician)". Avoid using abbreviations or anything capitalized or containing hyphens, dashes, or numbers, that is apart from instances where more specific guidelines specify particular exceptions. If possible, limit the tag to a single, recognizable and highly applicable term.

Sometimes disambiguators need to be more specific. For example, "Engelbert Humperdinck (musician)" could still refer to two different people, so Engelbert Humperdinck (composer) and Engelbert Humperdinck (singer) are used. Or, failing a practical single qualifier, the disambiguator can be expanded with a second qualifier: e.g. Roger Taylor (Queen drummer) and Roger Taylor (Duran Duran drummer).

Years of birth and death are not normally used as disambiguators, as readers are more likely to be seeking this information than to already know it. Disambiguating by vital year may be necessary when there are multiple people with the same name and same specific disambiguation qualifier. In these cases, use [[Name (qualifier, born YYYY)]] with a comma and born unabbreviated (not b.). For example, with two actors named Charles Hawtrey: Charles Hawtrey (actor, born 1858) and Charles Hawtrey (actor, born 1914).

For historical figures for whom there is no dominant qualifier (at least no practical one), the descriptor may be omitted in favour of a single use of the date of birth or death. For historical figures, this will often be the date of death, when it is better known, more certain, or is more recognisable than their date of birth. Example: George Heriot and George Heriot (died 1610).

Self-published name changes edit

When the subject of a biographical article self-publishes a new name, both the article titling and biographies of living persons policies apply. Particularly relevant:

The determination of how much extra weight should be given to more recent sources is guided by the likelihood the new name is going to stick – while Wikipedia is not a crystal ball, it needs to be unavoidable that the new name will soon be the most common name. Examples:

  • Although several decades have passed by since his adoption and consistent use of a new name, Cat Stevens has not been moved to Yusuf Islam, as it seems impossible to predict whether his new name will ever become as popular as his former stage name.
  • Minutes after the announcement of his new name, the biography of Jorge Bergoglio was renamed to Pope Francis, as it seemed unavoidable that the former cardinal would immediately become primarily known by his papal name.

When the subject of a biographical article wants to return to an earlier name (e.g. removing honorifics no longer identified with, abandoning a pen name, etc.), also older sources may carry additional weight when the proposal is to go back to the name given at birth.

  • Example: Melvin Upton Jr.B. J. Upton after the baseball player returned to using his nickname (B. J.) in place of his given name (Melvin Jr.)

For minor spelling variations (capitalization, diacritics, transliteration, punctuation and spacing after initials, etc.): when a consistent and unambiguous self-published version exists, it is usually followed:

Articles combining biographies of two or more people edit

Occasionally, multiple persons with a strong connection are treated in a single article (the individuals may or may not also be the subjects of separate articles). Examples include:

A page titled with a single first name or family name will often be a disambiguation page, for example: Katz. The lead paragraph of such page may contain information about the name (etymology, variants and so on), for example: Peter. If such information consists of more than a short introductory paragraph, it is better to make separate "description" and "disambiguation" pages, for instance: John (name) and John—in this case John (disambiguation) redirects to the latter of these pages. Jean only has a disambiguation page, but the introduction of this page links to John (name) for the etymology.

If several people share the same name, a disambiguation page (or disambiguation using hatnotes) is generally used. Occasionally, however, a single page may be created for a number of people with the same name. (See Category:Groups of people and Template:R to joint biography.)

This is quite often done for ancient Roman names such as Julia (women of the Julii Caesares). Brief information is given on each person in a separate section, with a link to an individual article on that person if one exists. Even if there are no separate articles, the same layout can be used, that is: one ==...== section per person by this name (example: Lucius Valerius Flaccus). A mixed example (some sections summarizing stand-alone articles, while others have none to cross-reference) can be found at Lucius Julius Caesar. (Such pages are placed in Category:Groups of ancient Romans.)

Several articles treating the same person edit

The essentials of a person's life and significance can generally be summarized in 30–50 KB or less. If additional encyclopedic content seems justified, the Isaac Newton article structure can be followed: arrange the article on the person into sections, each giving a summary of another article detailing a specific part of that person's life or significance in history. It is best to link from the top of each such section to the relevant stand-alone article, using a template: {{Main|Article name here}}. For articles with a less hierarchical relationship, some other templates are also available.

See also edit