British Baby Names: Two middle names

British Baby 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 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, three-barreled British names are 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.

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.