Middle names: how to choose them

middle name troubleThere's nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you finally settle on a precious first name for your child. But it doesn't necessarily end there...

As much as they're not compulsory, middle names raise a whole new group of questions and concerns. How many (if any) will your child have? Are you obliged to carry on any traditions? Have you thought about initials? On the flip side, of course, middle names can be an opportunity to get creative or calm family frictions.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a second (or third and fourth...) name for your child.


First things first: why bother?

You can't let your child enter the world nameless, but whether or not they have a middle name is really up to you: plenty of people, after all, sail through life without one. In the words of one Mumsnetter: "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'?". Still, opting out can cause your child the odd problem down the line:

  • "I had to complete an official government form one day and the civil servant told me I had to make a name up as his computer would not accept people without middle names." ABetaDad
  • "Friends of ours didn't give their children middle names. When they went to school they felt put out that they had no middle names (unlike everyone else) so they invented their own." campion
  •  "[I have a] common first name with a common surname and there are two of us registered at our local hospital with the same DOB! My middle name is the only differentiator." Brettgirl2

There are plenty of benefits to middle names, too. If you can't decide between two first names, then opting to use one as the middle name can be a good compromise, and middle names can also be your chance to be more adventurous, if you're not brave enough to go all-out on the first name. Just try not to choose one that your child will grow up cringing at every time they have to fill in a form.


How many middle names is too many?

Multiple middle names are helpful for the indecisive among us - you can have the entire England squad in there if you want to. Just remember that your child will actually have to learn all these names, and eventually write them down.

  • "I have two middle names and as a result my children have none." Pochemuchka
  • "I have three middle names, and it's too many, especially on official forms that require your full name and don't give you enough space." TodaysAGoodDay
  • "Much nicer to have one really special middle name than 11 random ones for fun on the birth certificate!" [Yes, her friend had 11 middle names] Cezella


Keeping everyone happy

Many people choose to dedicate a middle name to a family member or loved one. This can be a great way to placate relatives/in-laws. It's certainly less complicated than duplicating first names and having to call your son Oliver Jr Jr or James III. 

  • "My kids have two middle names; one from each side of the family so they have a chosen name from parents, and a lifelong connection to their grandparents too." Teahouse
  • "My husband's family have a fairly recent 'tradition' of giving the first son the father's first name as his middle name." PlumpRumpSoggyBaps

  • "One family we know has a tradition of giving the first-born the mother's maiden name as a middle name (no way was I inflicting that on my daughter - it was bad enough as a surname!)" LittleMonkeysMummy


Write it out and say it aloud

It may seem like a long way off, but think about initialling your child's school uniform. Unintentional acronyms are an often overlooked hazard: always consider how the letters will look written out together. Charles Ramsay Archibald Pearce, beware.

  • "My DS1 has two middle names ... DH's family has a tradition of the first-born son having the name as given or middle name, but that name didn't work with my surname in initial form - it spelled CJD!" LackaDAISYcal
  • "Alex Samuel Benjamin Olivers sounds lovely, but ..." Compo

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?).

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

  • "I wanted Phoebe, but not good with our monosyllabic surname that starts with a 'Bee' sound. (Poor child would have ended up with a stutter.)" smartiejake
  • "My nephew's initials are F.I.R.M. However, his surname is Morgan so when older he will be writing FIR Morgan." Hotmama

If there are names you really like, but the initials would make an unfortunate acronym, adding another middle name can be a good way to break them up. Or you could always change the order.


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.



Last updated: almost 2 years ago