Two Middle Names: Guide to a Charming Tradition
We all know, thanks to Princess Diana’s infamous wedding blunder, that British people like to use lots of middle names. But it’s not just about quantity: The multiple British names feel inventive and surprising, chosen less for any conventional notion of flow and more for individual considerations of style and family.
Thalia Violetta Carlisle? I would bet the nameberry farm that not a single child in America was given that combination of names last year….or maybe any year. It’s quintessentially British, and it works.
In the examples of recent British baby names below, you’ll notice that lovely antique first names are combined with surnames are mixed up with nicknames, and that once in a while a word name – Rabbit, Reckless – is stuck in, just in case things weren’t eccentric enough already.
Name aficionados will want to check out the Birth Announcements in the London Telegraph for hundreds more such goodies. WARNING: This makes highly addictive reading. Do not undertake too close to bedtime.
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on June 4th, 2009 at 7:20 am
BRITISH BABY NAMES: Quirky & Charming – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry…
In the examples of recent British baby names below, you’ll notice that lovely antique first names are combined with surnames are mixed up with nicknames, and that once in a while a word name – Rabbit, Reckless – is stuck in, ……
on June 4th, 2009 at 11:02 am
I ended up going with British names for my kids, starting with my oldest born in the 90’s: he’s Alexander Jasper Davis, nicknamed Alec (but his dad wanted to call him Jasper). His sis, also born in the 90’s, is Arabella Sydonie Foster. The littlest one, more recent, is Gemma but the middle names are more Welsh: Arwen Eressea.
on June 4th, 2009 at 11:07 am
What great names! I’m wondering if someone could tell me what Princess Diana’s wedding blunder was though. I’m sure I could figure it out myself with google, but I thought I’d ask first and save myself the time! 🙂
on June 4th, 2009 at 11:13 am
What are some newspapers from major American cities that post birth announcements online? I enjoyed looking at the British ones and thought I’d browse the equivalent for New York or LA, but I haven’t been able to find any.
on June 4th, 2009 at 11:13 am
Sorry, I should have spelled it out: When she was saying her wedding vows, she stumbled over a couple of Prince Charles’ many middle names.
on June 4th, 2009 at 11:16 am
As for Birth Announcements, we see them in small town papers and hospital newsletters, but I don’t know of any major paper that runs them anymore. On the other hand, the British government has stopped compiling and publishing national name popularity statistics because of budget cuts, so for England we’re back to tracking name trends via birth announcements.
on June 4th, 2009 at 12:19 pm
I love those names! A lot of “British” names (Poppy, Daisy, Imogen, Alice) are rather popular down here too, and I think it’s lovely. I think we can alldefinitely take cues from the British (and Scots and Irish, too)… Jemima, Beatrice, Alasdair, Hamish, Angus, Brighid, Siobhan, Sinead… stunning names but sadly underused 🙁
on June 4th, 2009 at 12:57 pm
These names are right up my alley… I’m a single middle name gal, but love seeing all the combinations. My first has a British name (for her dad’s home country and because we liked it) and I suspect a second will likely have another British name… some of the names above are on our short-list. Love the post!
on June 4th, 2009 at 1:45 pm
Willow Serena May is beautiful!
on June 4th, 2009 at 1:52 pm
Beautiful indeed! Why can’t we do these kind of individual combinations more often? Names that “flow” too often put you to sleep. Let’s shake it up!
Kim W Said
on June 4th, 2009 at 3:57 pm
Good point, Pam. I wonder why name “flow” is so important to us Americans.
on June 4th, 2009 at 4:35 pm
Maybe the trick is to stop thinking of middle names as different from first names and just choose two or three (or four) names you really love and string them all together. After all, most of us don’t get to name very many children these days, so we might as well get all the names we love in there!
on June 4th, 2009 at 5:34 pm
Last year, I recorded every single name that appeared in the Times and Telegraph birth announcements, and here are some beauties from the 2008 lists:
Alice Margaret Mary
Edith Eleanor Clementine
Elizabeth Ophelia Boudica Joy
Elodie Genevieve Isabel Clare
Elodie Lily Octavia Mae
Emily Martha Constance
Florence Kitty Rose
Jemima Clemency Rose
Lucinda Rose Charlotte Mary
Matilda Doris Rose
Penelope Elizabeth Anne
Violet Mary Myrtle
Albert Nathaniel Angelo
Alexander Hamish William
Benedict William Murray
Charles Benedict Rex
Edward Oswald Benedict
Hamish William Fergus
Henry Christopher Montague
Isaac Rodolphus Badian
Oliver Finbarr Andrew
Rex Anthony Octavian
Rufus Edward Baskerville Cadwallader
Theodore Barclay Raven Beville
Wilfred Robert Hawksmoor
William Thomas Ernest
Willoughby Frederick Charles
Pam – you will be pleased to hear that The Office of National Statistics for England & Wales have now said they will be producing a list of the most popular names for 2008. It should be available in July or early August.
on June 4th, 2009 at 8:15 pm
Some of these names are wonderful!
Beatrice Isabella Catherine
Evangeline Sophia Kate (Gorgeous!)
Pearl Amelia Rose
Milo George Thomas
Toby James Hedley
The not-so-good ones:
Millie Mary Holly
Wilbur Willis Benjamin
God, I love British names! Lol
on June 4th, 2009 at 9:33 pm
These are such fun!!! Thalia Violetta Carlisle is indeed gorgeous. Ivo William Casimir is my other love here.
Regarding the middles, I get the impression that most of them honor family, but maybe that’s exactly the impression we’re supposed to get? They also seem to favor alliteration, as is evidenced by Millie Mary and Wilbur Willis above.
On my blog I’ve accumulated many standouts (to me) over the past year. It’ll save you time if you don’t want to be up until 4 a.m. 😉
on June 4th, 2009 at 9:44 pm
Loveday Hedgcock is so quietly British – I love it! If we would have had two girls in our trip set I would have used it with Honor. Alfred, Honor and Loveday. Sigh – so can someone explain if we liked Honor so much why we call her by her middle name?
on June 5th, 2009 at 2:34 am
My daughter’s name is Roseanna Ruth Adeline and I like to think it “flows” despite the length!
Those are truly some beautiful name combinations.
on June 5th, 2009 at 8:52 am
I love British names. My grandma had a long collection which was Emma Pearl Bridget Mary Josephine, and her mother was Lilly Alexa Leah Mary Louise.
Emmy Jo Said
on June 5th, 2009 at 12:25 pm
I think name “flow” is important to some degree. After all, it’s good to choose individual names that please us, but we should want the combined effect to sound pleasing as well.
That being said, I get very tired of filler middles chosen just for flow. Grace and Marie are NOT the only rhythmically pleasing middle names. In fact, I think most of the combos above flow just fine. I especially like:
Cecilia Katherine Ottilie
Dorothea Isobel Anne
Evangeline Sophia Kate
Willow Serena May
Ivo William Casimir
Maximilian Arthur Bennett
Even fairly rhythmically bland combos (like Joseph Saxon Wallace or India Isabel Mary) can have a beauty of their own.
But Millie Mary Holly? No. It’s just not pretty. It sounds far too sing-songy when said together. While each of these names is beautiful in isolation, this combo takes the beauty away from each name. I’d say it’s the only one above that really doesn’t “work” for me at all.
on June 6th, 2009 at 11:51 am
My great grandmother was Maggie Esther Violet. I just love it. Since this is my last baby I’m definietly going to fit an extra name in there somewhere. Off to see the London Times birth announcements now.
on June 6th, 2009 at 12:32 pm
The Irish Times also lists birth announcements at irishtimes.com/notices.
on June 7th, 2009 at 7:26 pm
Some of these are just gorgeous! I’m considering two mns for my future children and these just fuel the fire… I especially like the boy’s names because they include some classics but make a unique overall.
Beatrice Isabella Catherine — I’m loving Beatrice.
Cecilia Katherine Ottilie — darling!
Christabel Charlotte Silvia — love Christabel!
Dorothea Isobel Ann — so old fashioned and sweet.
Eilidh Anne Muir — I had to look up the fn pron. (Ay lee) — quite a lovely name.
Elisabeth (Elsie) Sarah Joyce — well balanced!
Elspeth Alice Eugénie — love it!
Evangeline Sophia Kate — sweet!
India Isabel Mary — modern and classic!
Maizie Anne Patricia — love the variation on Maisie.
Matilda (Tillie) Ivy Fiona — cute, cute.
Pearl Amelia Rose — darling.
Ruby Anne Mora — I love Mora!
Tatiana Adairia Lucy — so frilly!
Thalia Violetta Carlisle — the combo works!
Willow Serena May — great flow on this one, modern feel!
Alexi William Martin Rabbit — despite its length it works. Alexi is nice instead of Alexander.
Barnaby Thomas Montgomery — Barnaby may be in for a quiet comeback, fab combo!
Felix Michael Harry Lisle — also good flow and I love Felix.
Gus Edward William — modern twist.
Hugo Edward Fleetwood — Hugo is great!
Ivo William Casimir — daring, interesting and works.
Maximillian Arthur Bennett — Yay, Arthur Bennett!
Oliver Konstanty Melville — unusual but nice.
Toby James Hedley — I love Toby James!
on June 8th, 2009 at 6:23 pm
Nameberry, I love your site, but I must say, as an Englishwoman myself, I find that this is article is based on somewhat of a generalisation; “British people like to use lots of middle names” is not exactly true! I am a middle class girl and I barely know anyone with more than one middle name. Those who do have are generally for family honouring (such as my best friend, whose Grandmother’s first names make up her two middle names) rather than to impress with a gloriously quirky combination. The Birth Announcements that naming websites or blogs usually look at have an enormous majority of upper class families, who typically use more unusual names (mainly because many of these children will go to public schools with the offspring of other like-minded parents, and so a Christabel or Ivo will not stick out as much). I don’t mean to be pernickity and I love these name lists as much as anyone else, but I think all non-Brits should be aware of the fact that class plays a large role in Britain, and, thus, naturally reflects in naming.
I hope you don’t mind me pointing this out, and I am not trying to be deliberately awkward, but sorry if I come across this way!
on June 8th, 2009 at 6:26 pm
(That should be ‘I am not trying to be deliberately awkward, so sorry if I come across that way!’. I should really learn to proofread)
on June 10th, 2009 at 12:42 am
Elsabea posted, “The Office of National Statistics for England & Wales have now said they will be producing a list of the most popular names for 2008. It should be available in July or early August.” Could you tell me where you found that information? I’ve been hunting for it on the Internet with no luck. I was *so* disappointed in January when ONS announced there would be no list for 2008 released.
And Esme, thanks for your reminder of how class is reflected in naming styles in Britain. I’ve read this from other British posters, but need to be reminded from time to time as I’m a big fan of the Telegraph birth announcements. I read on one UK blog (ordinary folks I think) that the test of a name is whether you would feel comfortable calling it out in a supermarket. Hugo was the name in question and the concern was that it might be too upper class.
on June 15th, 2009 at 4:03 pm
Patricia posted “Could you tell me where you found that information? I’ve been hunting for it on the Internet with no luck. I was *so* disappointed in January when ONS announced there would be no list for 2008 released.”
Someone I know on another message board, has been in regular contact with the ONS about this, and she received in the information in an e-mail from the ONS a few weeks ago. I think other people had been contacting them too, so they gave in to public pressure.
on June 15th, 2009 at 5:23 pm
That’s great news — thanks for letting us know! We’ll definitely be reporting on this and please keep us up to date.
on June 17th, 2009 at 1:19 pm
One my cousin’s has several middle names, mostly because her parents weren’t sure they were going to have any more kids and wanted to honor every body at once. Her younger sister has multiple middle names, too, but they are the only people I know that have more than one middle name.
on June 18th, 2009 at 2:27 pm
I love the british names! I love Urusla! I also love Elspeth, Eugenie, Alice, Ivy, Catherine, Sylvia, Ottilie, Pearl and Florence and for boys Edmund, Felix, Hugo, and Barnaby!
on June 23rd, 2009 at 1:06 pm
Two of my children have 2 middle names.
Octavian James Abel
Zachariah Thomas Solomon
I kind of wish we’d given our first born daughter, Ekaterina Joy another middle name too. 🙂
I loved Evangeline Sophia Kate!
on August 26th, 2009 at 10:13 am
I love particularly these two associations:
Dorothea Isobel Ann, for a girl.
Maximilian Arthur Bennett, for a boy.
Smart, refined and without bad tasting.
on September 21st, 2009 at 4:45 am
I’m from the UK but not living there and have named my daughter
Freya Mary Maud
I love it! Freya for Freya Stark, an early British explorer, and Maud a particularly outrageous great-aunt. I just hope Freya appreciates it when she’s big enough. My grandmother, on the other hand, had to go by Mary Gertrude Patricia, and my brother ended up with a whole pile of middle names that were mentioned in jest & my mother, somewhat addled by childbirth, didn’t realise and thus he was registered. Luckily he has broad shoulders.
on January 12th, 2010 at 1:50 am
I saw the name: Octavia Isobel Rose
on January 19th, 2010 at 1:41 pm
Our daughter is Isobel Kitty Taylor. Kitty is a family name and although Isobel is really popular now, our spelling isn’t used as much ( people like to tart it up with odd spellings and add ons )
on March 2nd, 2010 at 3:00 am
My grandfathers first name was Casimir (middle name Bowen). I really like the idea of using his name in our (on the way) baby’s name somewhere. I also like Loveday what a great name Casimir Loveday has an interesting ring.
Our first born is Fionnuala Hillary Anne.
on March 13th, 2010 at 6:04 pm
I am British and our children are Raphaela Rose, Georgina Grace and Gabriel Thomas. I was given three names (not including my last name/family name) at birth but as we are Catholic we decided to let our children add their third name at their Confirmation.
on March 13th, 2010 at 6:24 pm
BTW all mine are 9 and under. Their cousins are called Lily Francesca, Polly, Harry, Harvey, Milly, and their friends are Lucy, Alice, Charlotte, and Nell. We live in Germany and their German friends are Albert (age 4), Magnus, Clara-Charlotta, Maxi (short for Maximillian), Henning, Marlene (pronounced Marlena) and Jonas. We would have called our second daughter Verity but my husband is from the US and none of our American friends could pronounce it, they kept saying “Vee-ra-EE”. Somehow the “t” would get lost and we wanted names that would be pronounced the same (or at least in a way we liked) on all continents! Georgina has always been my very favorite girl’s name so I was delighted when my husband agreed. She is now 6.
on May 31st, 2010 at 5:04 pm
Oh! I just love quintessentially British names! My top three girls names are Poppy, Clementine and Bryony. And for boys it’s Charlie and Hugo! My only concern is that some names, like Clementine, which just sound quirky and fun in the US would sound uppity and la di da in the UK. I don’t think this will stop me, though! Thanks for the posting this list. Lovely names.
on February 6th, 2011 at 8:01 pm
LOVE the courageousness and eccentricity of upper crush Brits, but Millie Mary Holly is cracking me up.
A Anonymous Said
on February 11th, 2011 at 12:48 pm
Have just stumbled across this website and the Willow Serena May referred to is my daughter, born May 2009, whose birth announcement was placed in The Daily Telegraph. Her sisters are Emilia Katharine Rose and Katharine (known as Kitty) Matilda Grace. Am currently pregnant with my fourth child and am considering Florence Alice Clementine – any thoughts?!
on February 24th, 2011 at 7:35 pm
Florence Alice Clementine is great! It fits perfectly into this style.
on April 30th, 2011 at 7:59 pm
How do you monogram for four names? Obviously, this would be a matter of preference, but I would like to get some opinions 🙂
Leslie Owen Said
on May 9th, 2011 at 7:04 pm
I considered four names for my children — they were to be Caitlin Emily Louisa and George Thomas Caleb — but because we hyphenated our surnames, that was a mouthful.
My godchildren are Philip Francis James and Elisabeth Doris Marie, all family names.
on June 3rd, 2011 at 5:02 pm
I am currently pregnant and if my baby is a girl she will be Kaya Posey Elizabeth. I love the way it all sounds together! Plus, I’ll have the added nickname of KP which I adore.
I’m also curious of how to monogram it…any pointers?
(unfortunately, the daddy will not let me impose two middle names on a boy)
on July 16th, 2011 at 1:42 am
I have two middle names and I *love* it! Great way to honor more family members, and make a name unique!
on July 19th, 2011 at 9:33 am
As a fellow Brit most people do have only one middle name. These adorable combinations certainly belong with the upper classes in society – well the majority anyway. In my family it’s common for males too have two middle names for instance my brother is William Leonard John and my cousin is Michael Leonard John etc however some of my female cousins have two middle names for instance my couisn Katherine is Katherine Emily Rose. I had a friend who was Katherine Margaret Cherry Rosalina which I was found intriguing and beautiful.
Out of these I love…
Beatrice Isabella Catherine: Beatrice has recently been growing on me combined with Isabella and Catherine it’s gorgeous.
Cecilia Katherine Ottilie: this looks really attractive
Christabel Charlotte Silvia: My Spanish friend has the name Christabel I always though it was perfect for a child born around christmas time, Charlotte Silvia sounds beautiful with it.
Dorothea Isobel Ann: This is just so old-fashioned and sweet
Elisabeth (Elsie) Sarah Joyce: again this is similar to Dorothea perfectly old fashioned and yet timelessly graceful
Evangeline Sophia Kate: This just sounds beautiful! I love Evangeline and with Sophia Kate to follow it looks so pretty.
Florence Elizabeth Avril: Again this is effortlessly beautiful I love Florence combined with Elizabeth and Avril so pretty.
Matilda (Tillie) Ivy Fiona: I love the name Matilda, Ivy follows it nicely yet even though Fiona is pretty it doesn’t have a nice flow which I believe is important to combinations.
Pearl Amelia Rose: I love this name it’s so sweet and elegant
Phoebe Grace Florence: Again a lovely name yet lacks ‘flow’ however it is forgiven like with Matilda because it’s so pretty.
Willow Serena May: Willow is delightful however I’m unsure whether i’d use it still the name is pretty. To A Anonymous I think Florence Alice Clementine goes wonderfully with your daughter’s names.
Felix Michael Harry Lisle: This goes surprisingly well together and I love Felix which is just adorable and a family name too! On the scottish side my Great Uncle was Felix and my Irish Grandmother Elizabeth said there’d be no Felix’s running around her house when asked whether she’d name her child Felix lol.
Hugo Edward Fleetwood: Hugo is adorable and I love it with Edward Fleetwood it’s just superbly simple yet effective and geek chic. Love it!
Joseph Saxon Wallace: You have to love Joseph which is just a soft classy classic and I love it with Saxon Wallace very chic.
Maximillian Arthur Bennett: Maxmillian is adorable and looks very cool and effective Arthur rolls of the tongue with Maxmillian Bennet following nicely. Very cool, effective lovely.
Milo/Oliver: Lovely names however dislike the middle names unfortunately. Thomas is nice however but George, Konstanty and Melville are scarily unpleasant.
Raphael Kenneth Vincent Windsor: Now this is very well-to-do simply perfect Rapheael oozes charm followed by these three names I wouldn’t personally use it but you have to congratulate the parents on thinking it up!
on November 2nd, 2011 at 9:45 pm
Millie Mary Hollie? For real? I have no expertise at naming, and even I instantly recognize that this is a complete flop for a name. At least the first name is cute:)
on November 8th, 2011 at 4:54 pm
Both of my kids have two middle names. I live in America but two middle names was just always what I wanted to do. Rosemary Ismene Bandit and Milo Finnick Alexander
on December 28th, 2011 at 8:28 pm
Elspeth is my aunts name so I am so going to use it for a middle name for my first. From my user name you can see I have 2 middle names Mary and Jane I love it. Emily Mary or Emily Jane does sound anywhere near as good as Emily Mary Jane. And my nickname Milly goes well too.
on March 20th, 2012 at 4:36 pm
I just had to throw this in, even though it’s been a while since anyone posted a comment. I’ve been looking through the birth announcements in te Londob Telegraph, and one that caught my eye was Jack Michael Leonard, brother to Hugo. Hugo and Jack are so perfect together, and Jack’s middle names are fantastic!
on December 24th, 2012 at 8:39 pm
My Aunt and Uncle did this with their children
Timothy Micah Daniel-David (Timmy)
Lydia Lovejoy Noelle (Joy)
& Josiah Benjiman Amos-Joel (Banjo)
I might do it also because I like a bunch of names but only plan on having three or four.
on December 31st, 2013 at 5:09 am
@ESME, My family came from Sweden to Polk, Nebraska (USA), all generations had at least 3 middle names, it was until my father’s parents chose that their generation would have one middle name. My grandmother, had 4 middle names. She was wealthy, my grandfather was not, and the generation of 3 names or more spanned 8 generation here in the US alone, not including prior ancestors from Swede. I will mention that each family had 8 kids min. I grew up in a Polish, Swede, German, Russian community and all them seemed to have at least two middle names and most of them started out poor dirt farmers. So I’m not for certain ALL Americans will have to worry about it being ONLY a “Rich MANs” tradition via UK or USA. With that said, it is interesting that you brought it up, because it does stereo type the wealthy or people as narcissistic as if you have to be wealthy to be bold enough or just self-imposed impotency to name your child multiple middle names. I for one want to honor my families traditions. I chose:
Snowdrop Sapphira Vittoria (Our absolute Favorite)
Wisteria Wintress Obelia
Pomeline Snow Belle Emerence
Vesperina Eulalia Nightingale
Haytham Theodore Winthrop
Beacon Leopold Brynmor
Kester Cassander Prospero
Casimir Vyvyan Voltaire
Penrose Peregrine Knightly
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