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How to choose a middle name for your baby

Choosing a middle name

There's nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you finally settle on a first name for your baby boy or girl. Going through the process again to find a suitable middle name (or names) can feel like self-inflicted torture. However, there are good reasons for taking the time to choose wisely – and not just to give you something to shout when your child's in Really Big Trouble.

Should you give your child a middle name?

Middle names are not compulsory, but they do have a whole host of uses. If you can't decide between two first names, then opting to use one as the second name can be a good compromise. Many people also use middle names to tick off family traditions or placate in-laws who are set on a certain moniker.

You might feel you can be more adventurous with a middle name, if you're not quite brave enough to go all-out with the first. Just remember, although your child won’t be using it for every introduction, they will still have to use their full name for formal paperwork and the like, so best not to go too obscure and have them forever cringing when filling out a passport application.

Equally, if you've decided to opt for an unusual first name but have a niggling fear they might grow up to hate it, they will always have this other name to fall back on. Just remember, there are a helluva lot of rules when it comes to names – and these apply to second (and third and fourth) names too…

How many middle names is too many?

It's not like it gets used very often, or has a purpose – after the birth it's announced to friends and relatives, but do you ever meet new mums at baby and toddler groups and introduce your child as 'Thomas Marmaduke'?

Multiple middle names are helpful for the indecisive among us, and there isn't a set limit – you can have the entire England squad in there if you really want to.

Do remember, though, that your child will actually have to learn all these names at some point. And you will have to fit them all on their birth certificate. For these reasons, we'd suggest sticking to two or three extra names at most (unless you have shares in a name label company).

Yawning newborn

Great uses for middle names

When trying to avoid family frictions, using names which please both your parents and in-laws, without outright deciding that one trumps the other, might well win you some brownie points. Choose whether to include a nod to you or your partner's heritage, or the names of special relatives.

If you're from a family who traditionally pass names down the generations, then using these in the middle spots is undoubtedly a lot less complicated than duplicating first names and having a baby Oliver Jr Jr or James III.

Equally, if you and your partner can't come to a total agreement on names, then this is the point where you can make a compromise. Now, we don't like to take sides but surely the right of veto is stacked in the corner of the one who's spent nine months dealing with morning sickness and the other joys of pregnancy. Just saying.

Things to consider when choosing your baby's middle name

As with any given name, there are a few key rules to bear in mind.

For starters, think about writing out initials on your child's school uniform. It may seem like a long way off but unintentional acronyms are an often overlooked hazard. Always consider how the first letters of your child's full name will look written out together – Charles Ramsay Archibald Pearce, beware.

Alex Samuel Benjamin Oliver sounds lovely, but …

Think about how the first and last name work either side of the middle initial, too. (Chris P Bacon – not quite as cool as Samuel L Jackson, is it?)

You might also become more aware of syllables at this point. If your first name or surname are particularly lengthy or brief, try the opposite in the middle to balance things out. Choosing multiple names with three or four syllables when you've also got a double-barreled surname could become quite the tongue twister for a toddler trying to learn how to say their name.

Also remember to say all the names together out loud and check the flow. Polly and Esther are both lovely girls' names, but together? Time to revisit your shortlist.

If there are two names you really like, but they just don't fit together, try changing the order or adding another middle name to split them up.

If you feel like you're all out of ideas by this stage, try our Baby Name Finder for some fresh suggestions. Here are a few to get you started:

Great middle names for girls

  • Rose
  • Louise
  • Frances
  • Elizabeth
  • Florence
  • Elisa
  • Juliet
  • Niamh
  • Seren
  • Grace

Great middle names for boys

  • Alexander
  • James
  • Robert
  • William
  • George
  • Miles
  • Henry
  • Patrick
  • John
  • Oliver

Decision time

When making a final decision on a middle name, it's a good idea to go through the same steps as you did when choosing a first name. Remember, you can always join our baby names discussions to put your potential moniker to the Mumsnet jury. We're sure your child will thank you for it.