Middle Names: Are two better than one?
It’s no longer just foreign royals who are using multiple middle names for their babies. More and more parents–both celebrity and civilian– are doubling or even tripling up, seeing it as an opportunity to widen their naming options, both in terms of honoring a namesake, or just for the sheer pleasure of choosing and bestowing an extra name or two.
One appealing possibility is that of honoring both maternal or paternal grandparents, as Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin did using all fourof their parents’ names for their children– Apple Blythe Alison and Moses Bruce Anthony. It’s also an opportunity for a Mom to use her maiden name –a venerable tradition–along with another, hand-picked one. This is among the positive points brought up by posters on our message boards—the fact that it allows you to use one of your favorite names along with either your maiden name or that of some other family member you might want to honor.
There are some minor downsides including possible future bureaucratic snafus down the road. Smitty wrote in a while back to say that she works in the medical field and that “When women marry and hyphenate their names or keep their maiden and middle names and add their married names, the computer system we have can freak out.” –and forms like Social Security limit you to one middle only, in effect depriving a person of recording her full name (so you might want to consider the order of the middle names quite carefully.)
Another slight but possibly annoying problem someone mentioned is the difficulty of getting anything monogrammed with four intials. All in all, though, most people who have grown up with two middles seem to have found that the positives outweigh the negatives, and plan on carrying on the tradition with their own children.
I do know from personal experience (two nieces) that kids with no middle name at all can definitely feel cheated. This can happen too with the uneven distribution among siblings–especially twins. If one has fewer than the other (Are you listening, Sarah Jessica?), he or she could feel slighted. (In fact, I really like what Sachito wrote in, quoting a Hungarian proverb that says that the more names a child has, the more loved he is.)
Which brings us to the question of triple middles. In this case, I think it very much has to do with the length and flow of the names themselves. Anna Livia Morgan May, fine; Archibald Barnaby Emerson McSweeney, maybe not. And beyond three is beyond the pale: we certainly wouldn’t advise going the Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland route.
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on September 23rd, 2009 at 1:51 am
I have one but I know someone with three. It doesn’t seem to cause her any trouble that I know of. I don’t know why all the names have to flow either. Are you saying them all the time? Do people actually do this? =/
I guess I don’t care but at least give one to ALL children. I know of a person that got no middle while his other siblings got one. It may be minor but it was the subject of much complaint on his behalf. He really didn’t like it.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 2:43 am
When I got married I moved my maiden name to be an additional middle name and had no trouble at all with Social Security.
Charlotte Vera Said
on September 23rd, 2009 at 2:58 am
Great post! I personally think that three given names — one first and two middle — is the perfect number. That is why my own daughter is Roseanna Ruth Adeline and not just Roseanna Ruth or Roseanna Adeline (or, for that matter, Roseanna Ruth Adeline Margaret, etc., etc.).
I love that with Roseanna’s name we were able to both choose names in honour of people (Roseanna Ruth) and simply go with a name we liked (Adeline).
on September 23rd, 2009 at 3:11 am
My name is a slightly different variation of the mother’s-maiden-name thing. My name is Rose Alexandra Brady Hudson. Brady is my dad’s last name, Hudson is my mom’s name. Alexandra is both after my grandpa Alec and a name that my mom really liked.
My mom has told me numerous times that she regrets not getting Veronica in there somewhere. It’s a family name that’s been passed down in the MN slot for a couple of generations. My grandma is Vicki (short for Hilda Veronica) and my mom’s middle name is Veronica. I like my name the way it is though.
ailsa Gray Said
on September 23rd, 2009 at 6:24 am
DEFINITELY three names – certainly for girls! Boys are simpler souls who don’t like much fuss, in my experience, and might not thank you for it later if you over-burden them with monikers. (I have three sons and three daughters, all between 13 and 20, so feel I can say that with some confidence).
Laura is LAURA KATHATHARINE FRANCESCA
Heather is HEATHER ELISABETH ROSE
Catherine is CATHERINE JULIA FELICITY
The boys just have two names apiece. I would have probably gone down the road of madness where some people name their children after all the names in the alphabet, or give them the names of all the players in the favourite soccer team, were it not for my (ex) husband, a conservative soul, who reckoned “two is enough!” for the boys. I bow to his wisdom and am grateful I let him have some say in the matter.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 8:33 am
I’m a standard one-middle type. It’s fine to go in with two, especially if you are into honoring, but as that’s not my inclination, one middle is enough for my kids. As much as I love names, part of the deal is picking just so many to use for my kids. A middle for my daughter was no problem (we had several candidates and chose the one we liked best and fit best). Naming our son-to-be has proven more difficult in middle-naming. Our candidate first-names seem to repel middles we like! Still, the right combo is out there, I’m sure… and that will help us decide on which of our firsts is just right, too. We did toss around using just an initial, but as it was mentioned, it seems like we’d be ‘cheating’ our child, so we are definitely going to get an actual name in there!
Two middles are lovely much of the time (occasionally I see two middles and think it’s a lot of name, but then one middle can seem like too much name if it’s not managed well!).
on September 23rd, 2009 at 8:34 am
My daughter has three names and my sons have two each. The funny thing is that it never occurred to me before now that there was anything off about this. With girls’ names, it seemed hard to limit the choices to only three, whereas with boys’, it was a challenge to come up with even two desirable choices. Plus three names seems to add an extra ruffle that boys can do without.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 8:47 am
I think I would have appreciated another middle name since I never connected with the one my mother chose (“Ashley”). Hearing the other names my parents were considering was frustrating since I like most of those names better “Montserrat” “Mercedes” “Samantha.” I wish they hadn’t chosen just one!
on September 23rd, 2009 at 9:05 am
One middle name should be sufficient unless you’re royal and more than one can look pretty pretentious and be a nuisance. As you noted, there’s room on most forms for only one middle name, which isn’t used much except for official purposes anyway. My confirmation name is basically a second middle name, but one I have never used.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 9:15 am
When we chose our daughter’s first name, we were deconstructing my mother’s name. Clarina became Claire Caroline. Adding another middle name didn’t feel like overkill – in fact, Claire Caroline felt incomplete.
I hear the argument about database headaches – I’ve managed lists in my day job, and it can be a hassle. But it seems crazy to choose something as important as a name because it *might* not work with our existing technology.
By the time little Alexandrina Leocadia Wilhemline Humphrey-Hilliard-Smith is old enough to worry about how her name appears on a credit card, won’t we all be driving flying cars and beaming our info from smart phones anyhow?
on September 23rd, 2009 at 9:25 am
For name lovers faced with the joy of naming another human being (what could be cooler than that, for a name lover?) I can absolutely understand the desire to bestow two middle names. Who can resist Wendy Moira Angela Darling of J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter Pan? But — and I’m speaking strictly as an anagrammatist — that extra middle name sure makes it difficult to anagram names! Hahaha!
on September 23rd, 2009 at 12:13 pm
Ditto what Smith said above. My SS card has my maiden name slotted in as a second middle and there was absolutely no problem doing that. Now my driver’s license is different and in fact the DMV used my maiden name instead of my given middle name, and that has caused a few problems because sometimes my name is Jennifer J. Maselli on forms and sometimes it is Jennifer B. Maselli, and I always have to fill out multiple AKA’s on mortgage papers and such.
I do love the idea of 2 middle names and may give our new baby two middles, but I also wish I had given my other girls two middles.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 12:15 pm
I wish I had thought of two middle names when my daughter was born as I had had a dream about a daughter named Iona. My husband thought it was a good name and that the dream was important but I didn’t like it enough to actually use it–I definitely would have put it as a second middle!!
On a side note, does anyone know how you do monogram with 4 names?
on September 23rd, 2009 at 12:35 pm
I initially thought I would use 2 middles for my upcoming son, so that I may include my maiden name. That thought was quickly smashed when I realized his full initials would spell BETH. One middle name it is!
on September 23rd, 2009 at 12:44 pm
I tried the maiden-name-as-second-middle thing and it did not go as planned. It’s been three years and I have yet to correct it because it’s an annoying chore that would correct something that (so far) is not much of an inconvenience. I carefully explained to the social security lady behind the counter what I wanted done with my name, and it wasn’t even crowded, but she ended up replacing my original middle name with my maiden name. The DMV, however, evened this out by keeping my middle name and telling me that they prefer to not put the maiden name in there. I now have a different middle name depending on which official document you look at; thankfully they begin with the same letter so I have taken to using the middle initial when I want to be official.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 1:00 pm
My mom’s family has had a tradition of using the mother’s maiden name as a middle name that goes back to just after New Amsterdam became New York. However, when she married my dad, with his odd German name, she skipped the tradition and used the first names of a couple of family members instead.
And of course I, with my odd German surname, really didn’t want to use it as a first name or middle name, either. Instead, I used family surnames, giving my kids two middle names (my son’s first and third names are family surnames). And my youngest, because of an argument with my husband, ended up with three middle names.
So I have:
Alexander Jasper Davis x (Alec)
Arabella Sydonie Foster x (Bella)
Gemelliana Arwen Eressea Ashley x (Gemma)
on September 23rd, 2009 at 1:02 pm
Growing up I didn’t consider that I had two middle names as my parents hyphenated them — so the two became one to me. My SS card has always had both my middle names, just without the hyphen. Now that I am married I have a hyphenated middle as well as last name, and again, my SS card reflects this, just without the hyphens. My driver’s license too has all my names, with hyphens: I am fortunate that none of my names is particularly long, as space is the bigger issue on the driver’s license. As for monogramming, again, since my names are hyphenated I consider the first of each pair the initial to use; I think that if any of my children have two middle names I’ll use this same logic, hyphens or not. I consider a double middle name a good way to include (or compromise) family names from both sides, a way to include a family name a parent feels obliged to pass down while also putting his/her own style/interest in, a way to please a name-happy parent who just can’t choose only one middle name, a way to distinguish one namesake from another, a way to create an original name without having to use a non-standard spelling or make one up! Lately I’m considering the practicality and usefulness of a double FIRST name… thoughts on that?
Sarah Rose Said
on September 23rd, 2009 at 2:07 pm
I really love two middle names. I think it is lovely and elegant. However, I am not sure that I would use 2 middle names for future children. Will cross that bridge when we come to it!
I guess the Southern girl in me goes “oh my gosh,how would you monogram?!” haha. I guess you would just use the first middle name in the monogram slot? My other concern is professional use. Would it be Susie N.D. Smith? Or just Susie N. Smith?
@peach again the Southern thing, but I love double first names. I think they are lovely and distinct. I would love to name a little girl Katherine Jay and call her Katie Jay. One of my good friends has a little girl named Mary Charlotte, which I think is really gorgeous. I was doublenamed for a short while until it was too hard to yell “Sarah Rose NOOO” when I got in trouble as a toddler 🙂
on September 23rd, 2009 at 2:45 pm
If you choose to have a double middle for one child, should you always do this?
on September 23rd, 2009 at 3:40 pm
I have one middle name, and it’s my mother’s maiden name. I actually kind of liked having only one, but my husband has his mother’s maiden name along with a middle name. I think both are good, and we’ll probably give our kids a double middle name, since I didn’t change my name and we want our kids to have some name connection to me.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 4:39 pm
I plan on using two middle names vs one.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 5:02 pm
What do you mean monogram exactly?
Ignorant Welsh woman.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 5:33 pm
All of my kids have two middle names. No problem having two middle names on the SS card. However, there is a length limit! My poor Crimson Alexandria Eleanor got the ‘or’ knocked off of the end of her second middle leaving the name reminiscent of an online weight loss program (Doesn’t ‘elean’ make you think of that??) Other than that, there has never been any issues. My children love their names so far.
I chose to use two middles because my grandmother and her sisters had it that way. I also thought it would be a nice option for my children. For instance, Crimson Alexandria Eleanor combines a very unique name, a pretty trendy name and an eternal classic. She has a name to suit her personality, no matter what that personality is. I wanted that flexibility since you can’t tell what they will be like as adults when they are born.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 5:34 pm
redriding, monogramming is having your initials stitched onto something like a blanket or handbag, usually in fancy lettering.
It’s huge in the South – people have monogram stickers on their cars, stitching on handbags, bookbags, pillowcases, etched into silverware… you can monogram almost anything!
on September 23rd, 2009 at 5:41 pm
I only have one, but I would have loved to have two. My middle name is Rose, which I used to absolutely love – it was a family name, and went so well. But now it’s getting overuse 😛 It would be nice to have one to “replace” it. Though once you get to three, I think they can lose some of their importance.
on September 23rd, 2009 at 10:01 pm
I have no middle names, and my husband has three. 🙂
When it came time to name our first child we weren’t thinking about the number of names we would give him, but the family members we would chose to name him after. It was a tough decision, as we have a LARGE family. We decided to give him two – one from my family, and one from my husband’s. At the last minute we decided to add a surname from my family as a third middle name because of his striking resemblance to that side. The two middle names plus a surname is a tradition we have carried on with our second son and will do the same with our third child.
on September 24th, 2009 at 12:59 am
I have two middle names and have always loved it. The first is my grandmother’s maiden name, the second my fathers last name, while my last name is my mothers. My sister has the same formation, with our other grandmother’s maiden name.
When it came time for us to name our son, we chose to hyphenate our last names and give him one middle, but lately I have been thinking it will be easier in the future if we change it now and move my last name to a second middle.
I’ve always believed that middle names should be related to family in some way, that first names are where you choose what you love.
on September 24th, 2009 at 12:42 pm
Sarah Rose thank you for reminding me that double first names are most often a Southern thing. I tend to forget this as a native Northern Californian with no personal connection to the South. I didn’t realize that monogramming is such a Southern thing either: I never had anything monogrammed until I was married and then, using our first initials only, since my last name is hyphenated and my husband’s is not.
on September 24th, 2009 at 12:55 pm
Since I started reading name blogs and noticing the interest in two middle names, my thought has always been “what about monogramming?” Also a Southern girl here, but my daughter’s baby book, baby announcements, christening cup, and many of her baby blankets were monogrammed. Now, she has countless outfits with the 3 initial monogram. The idea of just leaving an initial out runs sort of counter to the whole idea of personalization by monogramming. So to me, not a “slight” problem. =)
Amy Sue Said
on September 24th, 2009 at 3:12 pm
My boyfriend is from Spain and his mother is english; he and his brother have 2 middle names and a hyphenated last name which is Spanish tradition (hyphenated last name that is). So he’s Isaac Arthur Guillermo M**** M*****. What a mouthful! Especially compared to my white bread Amy Suzanne! His daughter though, doesn’t have a middle name, which I find amusing, she just has two last names his and his ex wifes. He gets so much junk mail addressed to any combination of his name you can think of.
on September 25th, 2009 at 2:53 pm
I think one middle name is plenty. Two is okay in certain circumstances. Yes, monagramming is a kind of a big deal in the South. Some girls, super preppy ones mainly, even have monograms on the back of their cars.
on September 25th, 2009 at 4:59 pm
I have two middle names and so do both of my sisters. It’s no big deal — all of my names are on my drivers license. But when I got married I decided that three middle names were just too many, so I dropped one of my middle names in favor of my maiden name. I had no problem at social security modifying my middle names and adding on a new last name. So I still have two middle names, but on official forms I use my maiden name as my middle name. You get used to using your first middle initial as your “official” middle name.
I’m planning on giving my son two middle names, one to honor my grandfather, as well as adding my maiden name. It’s easier to deal with than a hyphenated name, I figure.
on September 25th, 2009 at 7:14 pm
Another two-middle namer here! When the time comes to have kids, they’ll get two middle names too – long family tradition. For those concerned about practicalities:
– All of my names are on all of my official documents. My second middle doesn’t fit on those departure/arrival cards you have to fill out at airports, though.
– Middle initials aren’t used where I live, it’s either your first name or your full name. It’s not that much of a stretch, anyway, to have John A.B. Surname on a resume, anyway (I have to say, I don’t understand the use of initials at all – why not just use either your full name or a first name?)
– Perhaps it’s just the circles I move in, but two middles isn’t at all uncommon – distinctive, yes, but not surprising.
– As far as maiden names go, it’s really just personal preference. I won’t be taking on my maiden name as a middle, I’ll most likely keep it because I imagine having to change all of the documents to a new name would be a right pain in the you-know-what.
– I guess it would make a good compromise if you can’t work out whose surname the child gets – for instance, I know of several families (myself included) where the kid gets Dad’s surname, and both middles from Mum’s side of the family, or vice versa.
Overall, I would recommend using two middles. What I really like about having two is that although I’m not the only Julia Surname in the world, and definitely not the only Julia Rose Surname, I’m definitely the only Julia Rose 2ndMiddle Surname. So that’s another thing to bear in mind – instead using criaytiff spellings so little Ashleei is yewneek, how about using two middle names – actually disctinctive, but subtle at the same time 🙂
on January 30th, 2010 at 5:15 pm
I also have 2 middle names. My father’s family has this really elaborate naming system for children, which guarantees 2 middle names.
Typically it’s the middle name of the father for a boy as a first name, and for a girl it’s the mother’s middle name.
Then as the first middle name it’s the first name of the father’s father for a boy or the mother’s mother for a girl.
Then the mother’s maiden name, and the father’s last name.
Well, my parents never married, and were essentially broken up by the time my mother found out she was pregnant. So, she decided I would have her last name as a last name. (Which I am quite thankful for now, because I never see my biological father, and my mother’s longterm partner adopted me forever ago.) And, my mother’s middle name and my grandmother’s first name are the same. (Ann).
So, she decided she would just use her middle name Elizabeth as my first middle name. Well, my grandmother said there were too many Ann Elizabeths running around, and suggested using a diminutive of Elizabeth. My mom always wanted to use Eliza as a first name, but because of my father’s crazy naming rules… she couldn’t.
Then, because I was already using my mother’s last name, my mom chose a family surname as my second middle name.
So, I became Ann Eliza Leigh S———-.
My mom still calls me Eli sometimes. And she really regrets not making it my first name. But, Annie fits me just as well.
on April 24th, 2010 at 12:48 am
i only have one middle name, ann. boring but, i’d rather have one classic middle name than a dozen. i used to know a girl whose name was holly olivia meridith and then on top of that went by olivia instead of her first name, holly. talk about confusing.
on July 11th, 2010 at 11:22 am
2 middle name MAXIMUM with or without the hypen! After things seem to become a BLUR!
on August 19th, 2010 at 7:54 am
So, what do you think…
If siblings 1,2, and 3 have one middle name, can baby #4 get two?
on December 28th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
I too have double the mns, but only because Ma coukdn’t decide, so I am Helen McKinzi Dawn, though Dawn is only on the birth certifucute, I do not use it unless ita a legal something or other. The only reason I would ever use two mns is if I had twins, but unless I just wanted too I wouldn’t for any others.
on August 12th, 2014 at 11:43 am
I think it’s adorable when a baby gets two middle names, I believe it packs even more character into a name. Also, I totally think it’s fine if parents give only one middle name to kids 1, 2, and 3, and then give baby # 4 a double middle! For example, right now I’m loving the names Calliope Faye, Juniper Raine, Marigold Atlas, and Isobel Mary Josephine.
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