British Baby Names: Two middle names

two middle names

If there’s one British baby names trend that Berries all over the world have embraced full-heartedly, it’s the old upper class practice of giving children two (or even more, ala Uma Thurman) middle names.

Rooted in royalty as a way to honor a raft of vaulted relatives, the multiple-middle-name practice was pegged by one visitor to our pages as being “very posh and a bit snobby.”

But it’s also a way for name lovers to indulge their enthusiasm by using more of their favorites on fewer children.  Americans who give their babies two middle names are often simply packing more name power into one extended appellation.  They may also (as my husband and I were, when we named our daughter Rory Elizabeth Margaret) be adding extra middle names to honor both sides of the family at the same time.

Judging from the birth announcements in the London Telegraph, the three-barreled British baby name is distinct in a couple of important ways:

Flow is not a factor.  American baby namers often look for middle names that maximize “flow”: a progression of sounds and syllables that are pleasing to the ear.  For the Brits, what matters is to pick names with the right connections, flow be damned.  So a name that encompasses discordant styles like Nancy Honor Moone or moves at a two-two-two trot such as Hector Felix Horace is fine, given the relatives who are being honored.

Anything goes. We tend to think of the Brits as being relatively conventional, name-wise, using only traditional proper names such as Elizabeth and Charles.  But in practice and as evidenced by the examples that follow, a range of diverse choices can go into the multi-name mix: nicknames such as Annie and Willie, distinctly ethnic choices such as Bronislav and Ichihashi, and surnames such as Stenhouse and Coleridge.

Eccentricity reigns. Given the naming choices detailed above, the end result is often names that have an eccentric air, as if the three choices were picked at random from a baby naming bag.  But we think these names, rooted more in meaning and family than in an air-brushed ideal of style, can ultimately be more charming.

Now on to the real goodies: the real British baby names, 20 for girls and 20 for boys, from recent London Telegraph birth announcements.

girls

Alice Poppy Belinda

Annie Isabel Meredith

Antigone Clementine Millicent

Beatrice Beverley Kit

Cecilia Catherine Ida

Cressida Helena Christine

Elizabeth Flavia Mary Clifford

Honor Nancy Moone

Ilona Dawn Jean

India Jemima Alice

Indigo Rose Honor

Isla Rosie Ichihashi

Lucinda Veryan Stewart

Mina Victoria Ruby

Ophelia Elizabeth Princess

Orla Naomi Florence

Polly Martha Rosemary

Rose Virginie Finovola

Tallulah Diana Phina

Tilly Elizabeth Amelia

 boys

Archibald Digby Duncan

Auberon Samuel Bronislav

Bertie Pepys Willie

Digby Herbert Emery

Freddy Ian Kim

Hector Felix Horace

Henry Charles Allan William

Hugo Arpad Lucius

Humphrey Arthur Edward

Jasper John Dexter

Joash Simon Hector

Kit Hallifax Charles

Maximilian Cassius Stenhouse

Ned Benjamin Holland

Orlando Sebastian Rees

Otto Rupert Coleridge

Peregrine James Kingham

Rafe Harry Hassan

Ranulph Patrick Guy

Wilfred Piers John

This adorable birth announcement by Tiny Prints.

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41 Responses to “British Baby Names: Two middle names”

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Elenath Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 1:51 am

This is not a British thing. It’s done in the Netherlands and Belgium as well. I’m fairly certain these are not the only countries in Europe where parents give their children more than one middle name.

cosmic_dusts Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 2:19 am

It’s also worth pointing out that the announcements in the Telegraph are usually from the upper classes, it’s not a common thing in Britain really.

milo2011 Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 2:24 am

I wanted two middles for my daughter but hubby was worried it would get too long.

milo2011 Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 2:24 am

I wanted two middles for my daughter but hubby was worried it would get too long.

auroradawn Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 3:03 am

I’ve heard also that it’s an upper-class thing, though I haven’t studied the stats myself.

About the names, though–I have to say the girls’ list isn’t doing much for me, though Orla Naomi Florence is lovely and Polly Martha Rosemary is sweet. But the boys’ list!! Archibald Digby Duncan? Bertie Pepys Willie?? Whoa! Though I love Peregrine James Kingham, and I’ve been saying people ought to be using Joash.

Using two middles usually seems to me to be overkill, but sometimes I’m tempted. They can be charming.

Dominoms Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 3:26 am

I’m from the South west of England and by no means posh. My son has two middle names, this is just one family name from each side of the family not to be snobbish

Jinxgirl Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 6:34 am

My goddaughter and her brother were both born in England and have four middle names-

Nikit@ @shlynn Neve Rose and Conr@d Dwyer P@trick J@mes

Maerad Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 7:25 am

Sometimes I think it’s a way to get out the British quirkiness…
In places like America people might just give the unusual name as a first name rather than as a middle name, or maybe as the first middle name. I know families who have very normal first and middle names, and then throw in a curve ball at the end.
e.g.
Siblings – Jack Michael Hercules, George Harry Perseus and Louise Marie Atalanta. Greek mythology is apparently something their parents quite like – not that you’d know at all unless you asked for the children’s second middle name.

I also know a family of 5 girls where they all have 3 middle names!
Arabella, Lucinda, Miranda, Camilla and Pandora. 3 middle names each (I can’t remember all of them, I know Jane, Margaret, Isabelle, Tallulah and Calypso are in there somewhere, just not sure which child!). And then they have a double barrelled last name!

The names in the list might not actually do it for me – although Orla Naomi Florence and Beatrice Beverley Kit are stunning! And I’m not sure how I feel about naming a child Antigone… Some of them are quite jaunty, and I like that.

alzora Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 8:02 am

I just don’t know if I could give a child so many names, for practical reasons. Forms and documents, at least in America, often have a space for a single middle name or a single middle initial. I understand that a person who has multiple middle names can simply choose one of them to use, but it feels like an inconvenience to me if all of the middle names can’t be fully represented consistently. It leaves the name-bearer having to choose which middle name is the “official” middle name for forms, and which middle names are just “for fun” and don’t really count for anything in real life. I want all of my child’s names to have equal weight.

I also feel that too many names detract from the beauty of the first name, and become just a long list of words for people to have to memorize.

I say all this, and yet if my husband and I have a son, we would like to honor my dad with the name, and would possibly resort to two middle names to go with our choice of Lane. My dad’s name is Carl, but he goes by his middle name of Dan (not Daniel). Lane Dan doesn’t work. Lane Carl would hardly be a nod to my dad, as few people know his first given name. We will have to choose between burdening our son with two middle names (Lane Carl Dan) or burdening him with a hyphen (Lane Carl-Dan) unless we choose a different first name and can use Dan alone. So in the end, I do understand the reasons for using two middles out of necessity when it comes to honoring people.

Flick Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 8:18 am

All of our children have two middle names and any future ones will, too – we have never come across issues with forms or anything like that, people make way more of a deal out of that than it actually is. We’ve never had to “choose” which one to use and even if we did, that doesn’t make the name less meaningful to us.

In addition to family meanings for us, we just love the sound and floe of long names.

norskelove Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 8:44 am

I love two middles. I don’t know why people are apprehensive– it has been a non issue when it comes to forms. If it asks for a middle initial, you just use the first initial of the first middle name (the child never “chooses” which middle to use, the order is consistent). I either put the first initial or the full middle name, neither name gets forgotten about (most firms ask for an initial, so it’s not like the middle name is recognized, anyway — whether there is one or more. I have two middles and it has never been a hardship in the slightest. One of my daughters has two middles because it worked out (all her names are very meaningful), but my other two do not. I honestly don’t think it is a big deal either way, and it certainly doesn’t feel pretentious when a person gives their child two middles……most have no idea what your child’s middle name is,one middle or more. Focus should be on what is meaningful for the parents, which in turn will be meaningful for be child.

ottilie Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 9:07 am

It’s definitely an upper and upper middle class thing. The middle, lower middle and working class usually use one middle.

I love the post though, and actually know one of those babies!

UselessKitty Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 9:31 am

My hubby’s family uses two middle names, so we are keeping with the tradition. It’s never been an issue or problematic. I don’t consider it snobby. One middle name is a name we loved, while the other honors family. It flows ok, not great, but I don’t care. Flow never mattered to me much, unless it is really horrendous. The best part is we got to use TWO names that we loved and not just one, and still got to honor family!

estelluxx Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 10:04 am

Just wanted to chime in with UselessKitty – I’m a 27 year old American woman, I have 2 middle names and it’s never been a problem. I’ve been married for 2 years and just tacked my husband’s surname on the end of my name, since I love my name. Now I have 5 names, and it’s still totally Not an issue. Makes for a lot of writing on my SS card, that’s it. I’m proud of it even.

When I was unmarried, the license bureau was happy to write my name as Firstname MI Lastname on my card, as in Both middle initials on my driver’s license. Sometimes I get mail with only the first middle initial, but hey, then I know it’s junk mail. Truly – no big deal. Do it if you like it.

Lup Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 10:58 am

Thanks for this article, I always wondered about the 2 baby names trend english people seemed to have (I am french 🙂 ) and I had no idea the number of middle names could be linked to any idea of social class.
I have 3 middle names (complete name : Julia Marie-Eve Babou Lola) and although it is quite unusual, most french kids I know have 2 middle names, usually for honoring both sides of the family, just like you said.

But I think American people might use the middle name differently. It comes up quite often doesn’t it ? I mean you use your middle initial quite a lot (like, I don’t know, “Orson C. Card, George W. Bush” or even just “J.K. Rowling, T.S. Eliot”) whereas in France we never, ever use them.
They are just there for tradition and/or fun. The only moment I use them is when filing administrative paperwork. They don’t even all appear on my papers for lack of space (I have a double family name).

The main reasons for picking middle names in France :
-honoring grandparents
-honoring godparents
-placing the child under a saint’s protection, especially if the child’s name is not a saint’s name (this one is oldfashioned but still crucial for religious people. It is also the reason why in a lot of families, kids have “Marie” as a 2nd name, regardless as gender) (For instance one of my brothers is named François Marie Christophe Christian)
-using names the parents loved but decided not to give as a 1st name (this is more and more frequent)

I think it is quite similar to what’s going on in the english naming habits in a way, I don’t know.

Anyway I hope I didn’t bore anyone, I just thought it’d be interesting to let you know about french naming habits in that regard, make a comparison !

In spain they all have a lot of names, plus they always keep the father AND the mother name. Their (complete) names are usually sentence-long.

linda Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 11:04 am

Thanks very much for giving us the French perspective!

spotlightstarlit Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 11:38 am

I’m from a large southern (US) family and need two middle names just to honor everyone who expects it. Luckily we have a great tree of names to shake from. I think it is rather practical to quell family feuds. ; )

saraallison Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 11:57 am

My son has one mn, but my daughter (born last year) has two. It was something I had never even considered till I got on nameberry and read about some people having two. I knew I wanted to give my daughter my maiden name as her mn, but I also really wanted to honor my grandmother’s fn. This solved the problem for me, and I am still so grateful I got on here and got the idea! If we have another child, I would definitely consider doing it again. However, I would personally not do more than 2 mns, just for complications’ sake. But to each his own! Love this post.

Strawberry36 Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Hi there! In Holland, people can give up to 5 names to their babies, mostly done only by royalty. One or no middle name is most common though. And giving more than one middle name also belong to a Catholic tradition in the South of the country (comparable to France) of adding a Saints name to the first and middle name. For example a friend of mine gave both daughters a first name, a middle name (honoring one of the grand mothers) and second middle name Maria. My husband has a first name (honoring his grandfather) middle name (honoring his father) and a Saints name. I only have a first name, but would love the chance of giving at least one middle name to a baby. When I was young I found the list of names read out to movie characters getting married very romantic. 🙂

ty13 Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I absolutely hate this trend. It seems inconvenient and obnoxious to me. It is true that you may not honor every person in your family or use every name crush, but that doesn’t mean you should burden a baby with an exceptionally long name here in the U.S. I grew up without a middle name and I can tell you it was a BIG pain for forms, I can’t even imagine how it would be with 2 middle names, stick with one.

Saracita00 Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 1:59 pm

In the U.S., giving multiple middles has nothing to do with “class,” other than people who think they are special telling everyone else that the practice is pretentious. Usually, multiple middles honor family or in some way add meaning to the name. In cases that 3 names are chosen for the sake of being pretty, I don’t see why that’s any more or less despicable than choosing 1 or 2 names for the sake of being pretty. If a parent’s goal is to give a pretty name, that’s just as legit as another parent’s goal of honoring family, regardless of the number of names figuring in on the birth certificate.

MorganaLeFaye Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I agree that having two middle names has never been a problem for me – in fact I actually really love it. Although I was originally only going to have one middle name (a family name), a relative died just before I was born so I was given her name as a second middle. I love the family connection and story behind my name. As I said, it’s never been a problem with forms or paperwork of any kind, my name usually just appears with the initial of my first middle but that doesn’t bother me at all. Both middles are official and both are equally important.

Also, I’m in the UK and I’ve never really noticed it being a particularly upper class thing. Traditionally, of course, it was very definitely associated with the upper classes, but nowadays I’ve known people from all backgrounds and classes with multiple middles.

SarahP Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 2:57 pm

My first son has only one middle name – he’s Cooper Scott.

When I was pregnant with the second one my husband suggested a name and I didn’t like it enough for a first name, but liked it for a middle. We had already agreed on a family name for middle names for all our kids so I suggested we do two middles, so my second son is Dexter John Eponymous. We decided to do the same for the 3rd so he’s Campbell Dominic Tennant (any Doctor Who fans out there?).

I differ from a lot of the other commentors because the 2 middle names don’t have the same significance for us; the first is the family name that’s more important and the second is a fun name we wanted to use. On forms and even birth announcements we only use the 1st middle name. I think it’ll be great for my kids because they can choose to use that name (or initial) or ignore it. I kind of regret not thinking of it for our first son & we’ve joked about adding a second middle to our first son’s name.

reginanoctis Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 3:07 pm

It is common here in Sweden too, and has been for a long time – in 1900, about 25% of the children got two middle names, now I would guess it’s at least 40%. I actually plan on giving my future children three middle names (none of them honouring). :3

GrecianErn Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 3:34 pm

My brother, sister and I all grew up with 2 middle names. I’m not a fan. I always hated having to drop one on scan tron test sheets and licenses and credit cards. And by a double tradition, I will pass both of mine onto my future daughter. But I will combine them into one.

Our first names are original, our middle names honor family-

Erin Mary Elizabeth (MN = grandmothers)
Nathan James Harold (MN = grandfathers)
Shannon Linda Marie (MN = aunt + grandma variation)

My son has my father’s FN as his middle.
Any future daughter will have the MN “Maryelizabeth”

It’s not that I don’t like two, it’s that here in America, it’s too hard to constantly drop one or be called by only the first one when you like #2 just as much.

milliejones Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I am a Brit with 2 middle names (Amelia Katherine Marie) and i’ve always loved having both names although most people I know have just the one. I also love that the extra name gives a bit more meaning and it also gave me more name options as if I didn’t like my first name, I not only had abbreviations, by my second name and it’s nick-names plus a third name to go by if I didn’t like any of those!! Everyone I know loves the fact I have two middle names and I honestly can’t imagine just having one – I definitely want to give my kids two mn’s

baileyann1105 Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I’m an American with two middle names (my parents couldn’t decide between the two, so i got them both!). I love it; my name is so unique and different, I definitely plan on giving my kids double middles. Its a great way to honor family and still slide in those names you really, really want to use and can’t decide between!

HerMajesty Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I like the idea of multiple middles, mostly so I can use more names, but also to give my kids a name that no one else has, exacally the same way. I do have a problem with overly no flow names, but hey, I’m American. The ones I really liked where:
Antigone Clementine Millicent
Ilona Dawn Jean
Indigo Rose Honor
and some I have come up with are:
Percy Alexandros Eugene
Clarence Nicholas Nathaniel
Eugene Fredrick Paris
Eugene Perseus Ashley Dres

Aurora Lavender Rosamund
Drucilla McKinzi Selene
Rose Evangelina Annabeth
Kelyn Hekate Yvaine

Mcdonak1 Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I’m in the U.S., but I love this trend. It just sounds so interesting. Discordant names of differing backgrounds all mashed together capture my attention and make me think that the person in question must be a bit of a character. It is just so devil-may-care to me to line up all of the names you love without much regard for how they all sound together. As a namelover, I absolutely understand what might compel people to do that, and I admire the results.

I chose two middle names for my daughter, but they’re similar in style and after both of my grandmothers. They’re lovely, but paired together, I don’t think that they are bold choices like some of the ones above.

lucy101 Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I, personally am not a fan of this trend. Don’t get me wrong, this fad can be very lovely, but I am a fan of flow. If I were to name a child with two middle names, it would have to be done with many hours of reserch so it will flow, as I’m finicky about that. The only thing with this trend that really bugs me is the rhyming-sylable thing. Having three names (maybe even the last name too) with the same number of sylables would bug me. My name is 2-1-3 and I am a fan of the flow, but three-four names having say two sylables each is too much. To me, I’d say Rose Annemarie Katelyn is better flow-wise as opposed to Pamela Charity Penelope as it gets to be a mouthful. Also the same endings really annoy me…
but don’t take my oppion to heart.

Anakiwa Says:

January 22nd, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I really enjoy some of these names…

For Girls:
Indigo Rose Honor and Ilona Dawn Jean are both create beautiful imagery with a hint of uniqueness. I was also intrigued by the name Antigone.

For Boys
I love the names Peregrine James Kingham and Macimilian Cassius Stenhouse but think they would be hard to wear. I also adore Kit Hallifax Charles and Otto Rupert Coleridge but both are very british sounding and may be to much for the U.S.

skizzo Says:

January 23rd, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Most of those names are hardly used on british babies, at least by looking at their SSA rankings. Names like Kai, Luca, Bailey or Harley are used a lot more, but no one thinks of them as very british sounding

UniqueNameLover Says:

January 25th, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Antigone is on my list! It thrills me to see it being used on another baby, makes it more wearable.

Ophelia Elizabeth Princess is also interesting to look at. Love Orlando Sebastian combo.

As for the issue of two middle names, all of my children will have two middle names.

UptownGirl Says:

February 20th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Having grown up in the Eastern US, having two middle names was always one of my fun facts in class. Antoinette was a family name, but my mom didn’t want it as my first. When I got to sixth grade, picking my confirmation name got a little complicated.
I don’t think it’s too bad as long as the first-middle name can flow with either side (in my case Lynn.)

Omviam Says:

February 20th, 2013 at 9:19 pm

With regard to the concern expressed about confusion with official forms, I have two middles names and I’ve never had a problem with any forms. If there is space, I write both middle names. If not, then either I make room on the form (no one has ever complained) or I just write my first middle name. No big deal. It’s a great way to honour family members. I have my grandmother’s first name and my mother’s surname as my two middle names.

texsun Says:

February 24th, 2013 at 3:09 am

I’ve known a few people with two middle names. But it was always the case that the second middle name was either the mother’s maiden name or was their Confirmation name which they began using as a second middle name later on.

ItzAshh Says:

April 7th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

My daughter has two middle names. I decided her first name and told her dad I’d let him choose whatever two names he wanted as long as I picked her first name. She’s Avila Ireland-Nicole. He is very Irish and my middle name is Nicole. I think we did very well!

Otherwise we had both decided on Benjamin for a boy and we each were going to pick a middle name (He had picked David and I picked Isaac). Anyway, it worked for us and my future children will have two middle names as well.

My brother’s children have multiple middle names too. The girls have 3 and the boys have 2.

SepphiriaJadeRaine Says:

April 17th, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I live in TX, USA and we gave our daughter two middle names.

Most people around here thought we were being excessive, but we love her name! We named her Sepphiria Jade Raine.

We both agreed on Sepphiria, then each chose a middle name. I chose Raine to honor my strong Native American heritage.

Nyx Says:

June 3rd, 2013 at 2:21 am

My favorites are Beatrice Beverley Kit, Humphrey Arthur Edward, and Peregrine James Kingham. Most of the rest just seemed to discordant when said, and I don’t know the background to know why they were special. However, there were a lot of awesome names listed (even if I didn’t like the combos)!

If you want to avoid baby-naming regret, think like a posh Brit and use more than one middle name — Quartz Says:

September 1st, 2016 at 8:38 am

[…] Brits may have a solution to this: give your kid a whole bunch of names. According to Anglophenia, there is a long list of posh Brits with a laundry list of names: […]

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