Question of the Week: Middles getting too extreme?

In the past few months we’ve seen some pretty eye-popping and conversation-stopping celebrity middle name choices–Saint, Seven, Bunny, Bear, for starters—which leads us to the Question of the Week:

Would you pick a middle name that’s far more extreme than one you’d use as a first?

Have you noticed this phenomenon happening more in the real world as well as in the celebrisphere?  Any examples you’d care to share?

Do you think it’s ‘anything goes’ for middles because it’s less visible than the first name?  Or do you think this choice should bear equal weight?

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47 Responses to “Question of the Week: Middles getting too extreme?”

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agirlinred Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 12:29 am

I say just about anything goes as a middle name.

Sierra Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 1:01 am

My girlfriend and I plan on giving all of our kids two middle names, the first being a more “traditional” name, most likely honoring a family member or some other sentiment, and the second being a word that we like or that means something to us. We’re thinking about Charlie James Bear and Lucy Mae Story. :]

Malk Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 1:29 am

Most people I know are still pretty conservative with middle names, usually honouring people.

My boys have quite plain middle names (named before I became a name nerd). But my daughter has two middle names, both of which mean something to us and hopefully her. One is connected with our home country that we recently left, and one is a Finnish name which connects with her birth country. Her Finnish name can also be used as her first if we stay as people are struggling a bit with her real first name.

If I have more children the girls will have 2 middle names and the boys one for balance, but I will give them more interesting middle names that mean something.

cassie Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 2:30 am

I probable would care wht the middle name is as much as the first name but I don’t think i would actually have the courage to give a very crazy middle name like seven or saint

Lauren Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 2:31 am

I think anything goes for the middle name. My husband and I have a ‘formula’ for coming up with names for our future children, based on our interests. Our son’s middle name is Arkham, which is a Batman reference. We figure that no one ever has to know what his middle name is if he’s uncomfortable with it. But growing up in this geeky household, that’s unlikely. It’s really good for finding friends…if a person’s reaction is ‘oh, from Batman! Awesome!’ then they are probably going to be a great friend!

Pam Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 2:42 am

To me, middle names are for family names, so our children have traditional middle names (as well as traditional first names). I might have gone for something a little more quirky for their middle names, but it wasn’t really considered and first names were chosen partly based on what their middle names would be. I can’t break a 300 year old tradition!

Mary Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 2:47 am

I am actually planning on using for the middle names I consider too extreme or too weird for the first. I am hoping to use names that mean something to me or are names I like, but am too afraid to use (I’m especially afraid of the raised eyebrow and the “how do you spell that” coupled with the smirk look some people get).

Also, @Lauren, Arkham is great! It made me laugh! Yay nerds! 🙂

Nyx Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 2:51 am

Personally, I saw anything goes, so long as the name has a special meaning or connection associated with it. However, there also needs to be a balance between the connection and the fact that a totally different individual will have to live with this at least until they can change it.

Little ‘Bethany Macaroni Stuart’ just because you really loved macaroni while you were pregnant or because it’s what you ate on your first date might not be the best choice. Little ‘Bethany Roni Stuart’ would give you the same smile and fond memories, plus be an awesome story for the little girl, while not being quite so strange and maybe burdensome to the adult. Also, little ‘Arthur Mach-10 Jamison’ might have a hard time with forms later on in life. Whereas little “Arthur Mach Jamison’ or little ‘Arthur Mach Ten Jamison’ would have an easier time, and you can still honor dad’s being a pilot or grandma’s work in the field of aerodynamics.

Nyx Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 2:57 am

@Lauren: I recently met a mom on a message board who named her daughter “Caemlyn”. I instantly thought that this was a bold choice and an awesome name (from a city in the Wheel of Time series). For me, there was an instant connection… a “Hey, I know where they got that. That is so cool!” sort of response. I think that using Arkham is a great idea. It allows a passion to be passed on and shared. Plus it allows other’s to experience the same sort of instant connection 🙂

Tara Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 7:15 am

I tend to think anything goes with middle names, however that does not mean I am a fan of Seven or Blue or Bear. I have had my first name picked out for so long, the middle names ( yes i will use 2) are where I am having fun discovering new names I love and exploring more with name flow, origins, family ties etc. I know people that have used a conservative middle name to balance out a more exotic first name, but I don’t really like this either; have the courage to use what you love and want to use in every spot on the birth certificate.

Lola Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 7:29 am

Anything goes. Not for me, I use double middles: one honors a relative we hold dear (some we don’t!) and one is a family surname of some importance. But Bear, Boo, Saint & Seven absolutely belong in the middle, not up front. Yeah, whatever works, middle spot. Along with something a tiny bit traditional up front.:D

CanaLyn Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 8:35 am

I think middles should be given the same amount of thought and consideration as firsts, because you might want to use them. My brother goes by his middle, for example, but none of us girls have that capability.

When (if) I have kids, their middles are already determined. I just have to find a husband who will let me name my kids after beaches. 🙂

auburn Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 8:40 am

The middle is definitely the place to use quirky choices which could potentially be difficult in the first place spot. Middles are so easily hidden – except for on official documents, there’s nothing to stop a shyer child claiming they have no middle name. But if they’re more comfortable with the name, then they are ready-equipped with a quirky conversation starter – perfect! As long as the whole combination has one grounding element – a ‘normal’ name or nickname – then I think it will serve the child (and adult) perfectly well.

chelseamae Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 8:53 am

For me it all depends on the flow of the names. With the celeb examples given like Bear Blu and Harper Seven, I just don’t think that they flow well together. (Plus Bear Blue just sounds so sad to me)

Another thing is that I plan on calling my daughters by their first and middle name often. I babysit a little girl named @nne Simm0ns and no one ever calls her @nne, it’s always both names. I think in this case her middle name is a bit out there, and at first it might seem strange but I think it flows perfectly.

Jenna H Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 9:26 am

We plan to use the middle to honor family, and will use more traditional choices, with less common first names. Right now we’re thinking about: Jasper David, Rufus William, Luna Margaret, and Imogen Amelia.

Lindsey Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 9:45 am

They say those names at graduation people! My brother’s middle name is an old Southern name that has been firmly taken over by the ladies, and he has been frantic to hide it at graduations/other honors all his life. If it’s going to embarrass your kid, I would think the reasonable thing would be to just not use it.

Genevie Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 9:59 am

I think anything goes with middle names, but personally I would probably go for something more “normal” as I prefer my normal favourites to my more unusual favourites. I’m not one for honouring (except with my first daughter, her middle name will be after my closest friend) so I just go for names I love.

But really, as long as there is something “normal” somewhere in the combo and the names sound nice together (not necessarily that the have good cadence, but that they fit) then it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like you have to share your middle name if you don’t want to! 🙂

katybug Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 10:15 am

@Lindsey, my brother didn’t like his middle name and requested that they only announce his middle initial at graduation. And they were ok with that. It’s funny, now he likes it. But you do make a good point–if it’s truly “out there” or potentially embarrassing you can’t hide it in every situation.

Jenny Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 10:24 am

I *love* a weirdo middle name, but everyone one needs to stop thinking they can hide them right now. School teachers blurt them out, libraries use them to verify which FirstName LastName you are, and it’s a fairly common icebreaker. Especially at baby showers.

Penn (Fraser) Jillette was on NPR once talking about why he and his wife named their daughter Moxie Crimefighter. Apparently he rarely uses his middle name and his wife doesn’t even have one so they just picked something pleasantly out there because they thought she’d never have to admit to it if she didn’t like it. Uh, Penn, you are telling this story on a national radio program. Weird middle names get questions.

Jen Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 11:11 am

If and when I have children, I love the idea of using ‘hero’ middle names. Literary names (Sherlock, Blyton, Bronte, Austen) really appeal. Greek names are also very special to me – think Calypso, Calliope, Andromeda, Thalia.

I agree with most posters – anything goes! As far as embarrassment, it really is only a middle-name and if it is unusual, what a fantastic convo starter!

klcalder2 Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’m kind of in the middle on this. I think that there are loads of unique names out there that still sound useable without being “macaroni” (nod to Nyx for making me laugh to the point of earning a confused look from my daughter). Using the mn spot as a nod to a relative with a very unique name or your maiden name or perhaps a beloved character is a great idea. Even if the name isn’t common and will sound strange to others, it still means something to you.

However, using any kind of favorite item can be ridiculous. Seven is a number, Saint is a title, Macaroni is a food. Let’s just leave it at that. Then again, loads of kids get embarrassed when their mn is Henrietta or Hubert. I suppose that’s one upside to having a common (i.e. boring) mn.

Olivia Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I know a girl with the middle name Celery! I wouldn’t go that far, but middle names for me are a chance to use something I love but would never use in the first spot. Also, they’re a great way to honour people.

jlht Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Unique names are great but keep in mind what’s special to you may not be special to your children. My father was dead serious when he suggested “Randy Motley Crue” to my mother, and I’m so thankful she won that battle and picked something else.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone, but just a heads up to parents planning on giving their kids more than one middle name, its a little tough on the kids. I have 2 middle names, and I’ve always been told to “pick one initial” to put on forms and hyphenate it on my driver’s license (even though its not hyphenated on my birth certificate) because they can’t accommodate more than one middle name. I like my name now, but it was very annoying to be different as a kid.

Lisa Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Anything goes in the middle moreso than for the first name. However, we tried to give our kids middle names that 1) they could default to if they end up hating their first names, 2) could act as last names if they ever decide to change their name. We tried to use middle names that flowed with the first names, but were a different style to give them more options, since we both hate our own first names…but our middle names are definitely worse.

Leslie Owen Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Seems odd that people would be worried about weird middles when I’ve taught kids named Chandelier.

On the other hand, kids (I teach high school) have plenty of opportunities to find out complete names, and, whereas today’s kids are much more tolerant of odd names than we were when I went to school, if a child is already being bullied, then it’s just one more thing.

With my daughter’s mn, Louisa, plenty of people — she tells me — have asked her why she doesn’t use Louisa instead of her first name. (She hates Louisa. Everyone else — including her family — loves it.) With my son’s mn, Caleb, he only got a bad response once. We invited an Israeli voice student of my husband’s over for Chanukah. We proudly introduced our children by their Hebrew names — Leah and Kalev — and she fell over laughing because “kalev” is the Hebrew word for “dog”. As with most young Sabras, she had no knowledge of the Torah at all, and didn’t know who we were honouring with the name Kalev. Still, it bothers my son that “dog” (as opposed to loyal, faithful) is what Caleb “means”.

Sraesc Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I know a little boy whose first name is Seven and a baby boy whose first name is Saint. I definitely agree that if people want to use wild names, they should use them for middle names and not first names! Even still, for me middle names are to honor family members and to give my kids a fall-back name if they decide they don’t like their first name.

Marginamia Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Use those puppies right up front! If it’s meaningful, beautiful and you love it, or if it honors a loved one, then why worry about convention? I just wrote about these worries and why we should maybe look the other way in my “about” on my blog.Marginamia

I appreciate all sides of this debate, but I’d love to see even *more* bold choices out there. If they’re in the middle slot, then heck, what’s the worry at all? Definitely go for it!

Kristen Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I think middle names can be whatever the parents want. Unique middle names are fun, especially if they carry a special meaning. We plan on using Cotton as a middle name if we have a second son. My grandfather has gone by Cotton all his life.

auburn Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 4:08 pm

@jlht – Here in the UK, two middles is perfectly normal and forms etc. are set up for it (last time I opened a bank account the woman automatically said “First middle? … Second middle?”). It certainly seems like it’s getting popular among Americans on Nameberry, and while that’s probably not representative of your average namer, I feel like it might be a trend people start to offer more wiggle room for, form-wise.

Linnie Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Anything goes! There’s a reason that the ’embarrassing middle name’ trope exist in our movies, book, media, etc. I remember in grade school we would trade our middle names with each other like it was a secret between best friends. Those who were privy to your middle name wore the badge of honor! So, maybe embarrassing middles names aren’t in the realm of Ulysses,Eugene, Mortimer, Sigmund, Wilbur, Hortense, Myrtle, Ursula… I mean, isn’t that where we’ve always put the less appealing family names? Where they’re less often seen? So if you don’t have an ugly family name to stick on in there, you get to let your imagination roll. Maybe you’ve always loved the idea of naming your kid Rugby or Thunder but just can’t fathom doing that to your child. Stick it in the middle and you get to have your cake and eat it to. William Rugby Smith. You have your sweet little baby Rugby, and someday he and his friends will have a great little friendship trading card.

Names4real Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 5:43 pm

I love unexpected middles, and I think anything goes for the middle name.

Here’s a post I did on them a few months ago. My favorites are Annabel Apple and Zara Reef. Check out the others at


Ashleigh Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 7:36 pm

With middle names, anything goes! It’s a place to express something important and meaningful to you, like a hobby, a memory, and most common, a place. Celebrity middle names are always interesting and random, but I’ve heard some pretty “out-there” names in real life too. When I was sitting in the pediatrician’s office one day, I heard a lady saying her daughter’s middle name was “Bopalopashamadamadingdong” or something strange like that. I was like, what the ****? I would never use a name like that, but I myself are a fan of unique names 🙂

Brighton *Bree* Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I wouldn’t. My sister’s name is Irie Mae and my dad once told me that her name was originally going to be Stephanie *after my aunt Steffanie* Love. It made me laugh so hard, I could never imagine my sister as Stephanie Love. I once met a girl on the playground once and she said her name was Amanda Princess Dear. I’m not joking. I thought she just thinks her middle name was Princess when her mother was looking for her and screamed “Amanda Princess Lee I have been looking for you everywhere!!”

Sanders Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 10:18 pm

I have a friend with several middle names – two of them are Sunshine and Velvet. I think it’s pretty. I probably wouldn’t use those as first names, but why not use them as middle names? She loves them too and her nickname is Sunshine 🙂

Christina Fonseca Says:

August 3rd, 2011 at 10:30 pm

The middle name slot is ideal for using names you’re not brave enough to use as a first name. I know a lot of bilingual people that use “mainstream” first names but save difficult-to-pronounce-in-English names for the middle name spot.

Jessica Says:

August 4th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I think if you’re using an out-there first name it’s a good idea to go for a more conventional middle, and vice versa. That way the child always has a fallback if their first name turns out to be too wild or too boring for their taste.

Hannah Says:

August 6th, 2011 at 4:12 am

I remember hearing about a celebrity who named his daughter Moxie Crimefighter. I personally think it’s a fantastic name, however, some others are a bit out there.

Valkyrie Says:

August 6th, 2011 at 10:07 pm

I don’t agree with the “anything goes” rule regarding middle names. Sure, a person may not use their middle name much, but imagine what their college degree will look like. Would you want your child to go through life with a diploma reading “Elizabeth Snuggle” or “Julian Alpha”? I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I would be ashamed more for myself than my child, in this case.

bethsbestfriend Says:

August 8th, 2011 at 10:57 am

My daughter’s middle name is Pepper -yes it’s a tasty vegetable but it also invokes her lil naughty spirit. We’ve only HEARD compliments. Who knows what others have said, while “Who cares” is more of our stance.

tct1219 Says:

August 17th, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Maybe I’m boring but I really can’t take the weird middle names. It really annoys me when people act like middle names don’t matter or that kids won’t know each others’ middle names, which is not the case with anyone I know. Personally, I like family surnames in the middle. I have a few names on my list that would seem “odd” to some but they’re all legitimate names with a long history of use. I wouldn’t use them anywhere other than up front.

IzzyQ Says:

August 24th, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I think that extreme middle names like Aphrodite have a LOT more substance and are more interesting than say, Ann or Lynn. I say yes to over-the-top middles!:)

steph869 Says:

August 25th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

If a parent feels so strongly about a particular non-name word, then he or she could always change his/her own middle name. As others have pointed out, the middle name will definitely come up in all kinds of settings – particularly in school, where a kid would least want to be embarrassed. I think it’s important for parents to have some compassion for their kids, and save the extreme “self expression” for some other venue.

emilymaryjane Says:

December 26th, 2011 at 2:58 am

My fave names all have middles of family significance the stranger ones are: Green (for my Aunt its her maiden name), Smith (my other aunts maiden names, Jamesie (Nana’s name) and Lake (for Nana’s birth place Lake Mildred

Queenbee13 Says:

April 21st, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I have two middles, a tradition I plan to use for my girls. The first is very traditional and a family name, the second is another family name but more ‘out there’ and quirky. I’m a big fan of middles that aren’t very traditional, or the dual pairing of traditional-not traditional.

arunciblespoon Says:

April 29th, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I wouldn’t say anything goes, but the middle name does give an opportunity to use a name you love that is a little bit out there and unusual. I’m not saying i’d pick something weird like Bananna Hammock, but names like Clementine and Calisto, Thisbe, Peregrine and Ignatius make interesting choices but aren’t necessarily something i’d go for as first names.

I’d also consider using a family name. To be honest i’ve never used my middle name, nor did it ever come up at school, it doesn’t even always go on official documents, so I can’t see it being a big deal if your child hates it, perhaps though when they grow up they’ll like the fact that their name is interesting and unusual.

cilla Says:

July 18th, 2012 at 1:36 am

I normally wish my name was the other way round and be Jessica Priscilla instead of Priscilla Jessica. My friend is Dayna Alexis and she hates her middle name

nlane825 Says:

February 8th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Ok here is my opinion. You cannot hide middle names. Think of every time you have had to fill out documents and it asked for your middle name. At your kid’s graduation, they will most likely announce the name unless you specifically request not to. You may think that they name is great and has all this meaning to you, or you just think it sounds cool, but the truth is, your kid probably is not going to care where you picked out their weird middle name. All they are going to care about is whether other kids will laugh at them or not if they say it out loud. Pleeease think about your kids when the naming process starts. There is no guarantee that they will be into the same hobbies, movies, or sports as you so I personally wouldn’t take that chance. There are names that I like but I would never name my child that because they only have special meaning to my interests and wouldn’t have anything to do with the baby. I have heard a lot of names as someone who is in schools a lot that were clearly chosen by parents who were only thinking of themselves and not how their child would feel (or if they could even spell it).

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