Multiple middle names?

Multiple middle names - yeah or nay?

My family (German) is littered with havers of multiple middle names on all sides - three given names is totally norm, but four is also not unheard of. However, I get the impression that in the US the multiple middle names are regarded as a bit more pretentious... like Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Busson, called Luna, though that is an extreme example. 

Now that we're cautiously expecting a girl, and likely to be using the perhaps-already-pretentious name of Hermione, do you think we could do this?

The primary reason is that there's a really fantastic family namesake that I've always wanted to honor, my great-aunt Adele. However, Hermione Adele, though lovely, gives us dealbreaker-level unusable initials of HAG... and it seems a bit backwards to be deciding the first name based on the middle name.

Elizabeth is a family middle name on everyone's sides - my grandmother's name, the Spouse's late grandmother's middle name, one of the two middle names I was born with, one of the two middle names of my mother,  and so that's sort of the default expected middle-name choice.

We could do Hermione Elizabeth Adele, but it's perhaps a lot of name and up there with Uma Thurman's daughter. (Our last name is three syllables, too, if it matters.)


We are planning on one more child after this one, so it's possible we could have another daughter, but it's also very possible that we wouldn't. While we don't have a clear runner up for a second daughter's name yet, _AG is frequently problematic, and we're pretty likely to end up with a name that ends in -a, so -a Adele can make for awkward flow.


February 4, 2013 2:41 PM

I think Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Busson is a bit much, but I've known several people with 2 middle names and I don't think of it as being pretentious.  It is unusual enough that I might ask about it (depending how well I know the person). Otherwise, I usually just assume that at least one of the names is a family honor name.  In your case, the explanation of "my family has a tradition of multiple middle names" should be sufficient.

FWIW, I really like Hermione Elizabeth Adele.

By hyz
February 4, 2013 2:50 PM

I like Hermione Elizabeth Adele!  It is too bad about the HAG initials, because Hermione Adele would be great, too, but I think Hermione Elizabeth Adele solves the initial problem nicely and still sounds perfect.  I am honestly not generally a fan of multiple middles--to me they can sometimes sound like a roster rather than a name (particularly so when the surname is also frequently used as a given name, like Thomas/Stanley/Carter, etc.), and can sometimes feel pretentious and/or just plain cumbersome--but in this case they all flow together so well, and have such a nice balance of unexpected and traditional and pretty, that I think it's a winner.  It sounds attractive and meaningful--not like you just picked three names of a particular style you like (e.g. Hermione Rosalind Persephone), nor like you were stuck with family names that don't make sense now/together (e.g. Hermione Kathryn Diane).  I think both of those situations contribute to the "roster" problem imho, which your suggested combination does not have.  I can't remember your surname offhand, but for the sake of testing flow, I've assigned you Gutenb3rg (l33ted in case I randomly stumbled upon the right name, lol), and I think even with a long and weighty surname the combination still sounds lovely.   

February 4, 2013 6:40 PM

Gutenberg is a PERFECT standin for our first name. Same straightforward pronunciation, many of the right letters and sounds!

Thanks for the encouragement!

February 5, 2013 8:38 PM

And,YES, it's too bad about the HAG initials because I would find Hermione Adele to be a very pleasing combination all by itself, too.

We have a lot of really good A-starting honoring prospective middle names, and our surname is TERRIBLE for that. I sometimes jokingly lament that it would have been better if we'd taken the Spouse's middle name, but with Hermione that would have yielded HAM, which, while marginally less terrible, is also not something we would do.

By EVie
February 6, 2013 6:06 PM

I have the same issue with liking a lot of A names that don't work in the middle with our R surname—BAR, JAR, TAR, EAR, among others. There are just too many 3-letter words with A in the middle!

February 4, 2013 5:24 PM

I like Hermione Elizabeth Adele a lot, and I don't think two middle names is too much -- but then, three of my five siblings have two middle names, so it's a practice I grew up thinking was totally normal. I definitely vote for it!

February 4, 2013 5:40 PM


Elizabeth is one of those names that you can use anywhere and put anywhere and it ALWAYS works and doesn't just sound like a filler name.  If all three given names were statement names like Hermione Esmeralda Alphonsine then that would definitely be pretentious.  Adele and Elizabeth are both distinguished names, but simple and familiar enough to let Hermione shine.

I realize that this may sound like heresy among NEs, but if your fourth is also a girl, you could use Elizabeth as a second middle name for her too.  It would give your girls a special connection, honor family all around, and you would be able to avoide the -AG issues you mentioned.  Since it's a second middle name, it's not like you'd be pulling a George Foreman.

February 4, 2013 6:29 PM

I actually think I would totally reuse the Elizabeth part, no heresy required. Maybe we would use the with-an-s spelling (the one on my side of the family) for this baby, and the other with-a-z spelling for a future daughter? Or maybe the order switched, so it's the second middle rather than the first middle. I think there's a lot of precedent for it, and it would be a fun connection with one shared middle name and one individual one.

Hermione Esmerelda Alphonsine cracks me up, by the way. 

And I wouldn't feel bad about only one middle name for our boys, because that was what happened with me and my brothers - I got two middle names, they each got one - so we can claim family tradition there, too.

By EVie
February 4, 2013 5:56 PM

I don't see a problem with two middle names, particularly when you can point to a family/cultural tradition as precedent for it. My family is part German as well, and I've got lots of them in my family tree from my grandmother on back (some choice examples, mostly from the 19th century: Carolina Friederike Johanne, Martin Friedrick David, Carl Johann Friederick, Louise Maria Henrietta, Johannes Frederich Carl Walter, Flora Anna Henrietta, Hilda Agnes Auguste, Gustave Carl Wilhelm, Johanne Wilhelmine Marie, Johann Friedrich Ferdinand...)

Hermione Elizabeth Adele sounds perfectly useable to me. I wouldn't stress too much about what people in the U.S. consider pretentious... honestly (being a dual citizen myself and occasionally having to deal with conflicts between the European side of my culture and living in the States), I have found that what Americans consider "pretentious" in terms of European traditions are often things that are unfamiliar to them or that they don't completely understand. I wouldn't let a judgmental, provincial attitude held by others restrict you from naming your daughter the way you want.

February 4, 2013 6:38 PM

Those are some awesome family tree names! Many of those are also kicking around my 19-century family trees in abundance.

Karl Julius Richard! Amelia Frederica Regina! Maria Carolina Theresia Margarete! E_____ Maria Frederika Henrietta! August Adolar Wilhelm! You look at these sorts of things long enough and you become very desensitized to long names.

What I find interesting is that sometimes the repetition is more daring than I would opt for, too: Karl Erich Heinrich! Elise Louise Karoline!

February 13, 2013 1:18 PM

The reason for the "daring" repetition of names like Karl Erich Heinrich and Elise Louise Karoline is probably because in the old days, tradition required children to take the first names of their godparents as their middle names.  So if you had godparents with similar-sounding names, you had to use them anyway.  We have some startling juxtapositions in my family too -- one woman is ____ Heidi Heike!

February 4, 2013 8:53 PM

I largely agree with previous posters. I am generally fond of a second middle provided it doen't have a 'law firm' or 'class roster' feel. I almost did 2 middle names for my daughter but we didn't have a good reason to do it so we decided not to.

In your case Hermione Adele is a lovely combo but the HAG initals are unworkable so I do really like the Hermione Elizabeth Adele combo. Lovely flow and it doesn't sound like you threw extra names in for the fun of it. Even with a long surname I think it works well. I don't mind long names and I don't find your proposed combo either particularly long or cumbersome.

BTW congratulations on the pregnancy and the (probable) girl. I'm very excited to see if you do use Hermione as I know you've love it for ages.  Did you end up coming up with a boys shortlist? There were great suggestions in the thread of yours from a couple of months back!

February 5, 2013 8:39 PM

We have an awesome boy list for next time, thanks to that very helpful post!

I think the shorter list of names that we both agree we like includes:

Tarquin and Oswin, too, though we'd prefer to avoid repeating endings.

But there were also a lot of other great suggestions in that thread that we're still talking about!

February 5, 2013 9:22 PM

That is a very cool boys list! That was a great thread,  should go back and have a look as there might be some options for my boy list in there. Our styles aren't exactly the same but there is some overlap!

By mk
February 6, 2013 8:19 PM

I don't think people in the US think it's pretentious. Problematic maybe, because most forms etc don't allow for more than 3 names. And it's not common, so people may ask you if you have a particular reason for choosing two middle names instead of one. Your example is seen as pretentious because a)she's a celebrity and b)she uses a bunch of unrecognizable names (to those in the US). A name like Hermione Elizabeth Adele won't be seen as pretentious or overly long.


February 6, 2013 8:24 PM

I think I've mentioned this before but I knew a girl growing up who had eight given names (three English, five Hebrew/Yiddish), all of which were two syllables, all of which ended in A. That is excessive. Two middle names is not. And even with that mouthful of a name, it never felt pretentious, because the family could simply never be seen in that light. The image of pretension has a lot to do with the person doing the act. If you and your spouse are not people who would typically be called pretentious, then anyone who knows you will not see the slightly longer name as being such either - and they're really the people who matter, aren't they?

By hyz
February 7, 2013 12:28 PM

I agree with the comment that the multiple middle name choice probably only seems pretentious when it reinforces a preexisting feeling about the family.  My first association with multiple middle names (and I mean a lot of middles, not "just" two) is royalty and a drive to honor all the illustrious ancestors, so if I see a very wealthy/privileged family giving their kid multiple middles, I might think it was something in that vein.  The Luna example you noted is pretty much over the top, and does have a faux royalty/wacky celeb parent feel to it.  I honestly don't have any particular association with "normal" people giving their kids two middle names, so my reaction to it hinges almost entirely on flow and whether it seems like it might be a burden for the kid (admistratively, etc.). 

February 7, 2013 3:31 PM

Personally, I would try to avoid two middle names for a daughter.  Chances are that someday she will pick a partner and start a family of her own.  When she does that, she will have to deal with the whole yours-mine-ours last name issue.  If she already has two middle names, keeping her maiden name as a middle name or hyphenating her last name really gets awkward.  But HAG is awkward, too, so maybe two middle names ultimately is the right way to go.

By EVie
February 7, 2013 7:08 PM

Lots of women don't change their names upon marriage these days, and plenty don't get married at all, so I don't think that's a good basis for making a decision about a daughter's name—it makes a rather sexist assumption about the choices she'll make before she's even born. If she ever has to make that decision, at least it will be *her* decision, and she can keep her name, drop her maiden name, drop one or both of the middle names or hyphenate/not hyphenate however she chooses. I would see the ability to make that choice as more a gift than a burden.

(And some men change their names, too. My sister and her fiancé are going to hyphenate both their names when they get married this summer). 

February 9, 2013 10:45 AM

I did ditch my prior middle names upon marriage, but I still strongly identify with them, even though they aren't currently in circulation anymore... and I think I would have dropped my middle name even if I had only one of them, since it was important to me to change my name (the Spouse took my surname on marriage, so I took hers in the middle slot - sort of like both hyphenating, without actually requiring us to use a behemoth surname at all times).

Anyway, I agree it's not necessarily a good assumption that marriage = surname change, although I know this varies greatly by circle. I made a vow not to be offended if my children chose to drop middle names, change surnames, or otherwise alter their birth names in any way they see fit, and let them know that I'll support any changes that they see fit, for whatever reason.

Good for your sister and future-brother-in-law, EVie! I really love it when men are willing to deviate from their "bachelor names" on occasion!

By mk
February 10, 2013 1:14 AM

I agree, don't pick a name based on the assumption your daughter will marry and change her name. I know many families today where spouses have kept their own last names.

Give her the names you want. Once she is an adult, she can do what she wants with her name, regardless of whether she even marries.

February 10, 2013 8:37 AM

DId you all read about this case?

A year and a half after this man got married and changed his name to his wife's (including getting a new passport), the DMV revoked his licence because they said he obtained it fraudulently.  Apparently it's only legal in 9 states for a man to change his name upon marriage.

My husband considered changing his name when we got married, until we read about the ridiculous things our state required of a man, including announcing his name change in the newspaper for 2 weeks.

These archaic laws really need to change!

February 11, 2013 1:24 AM

EmeraldBee, I had not heard about that case.

When we had our wedding it was accompanied by a civil union that was not recognized in our home state, so we had to go through the court ordered name chance process - instead of just waving our civil union certificate at people as validation. Happily, in our home state the court ordered name change does not involve nearly as many steps as it does elsewhere. We did need to pay money and have an appearance in court, but it was fairly straightforward. That process produced a court-order that we could show where other people would show their marriage license in order to get a new SS number, passport and driver's license (and then everywhere else). I know in other states the court-ordered name-change process involves posting in a newspaper, but I had NO IDEA that this process was required for men who changed their name upon marriage -- I had assumed that heterosexual marrying men would be able to use the same "here's my marriage license" shortcut that their wives can use!

Those are very archaic laws, and I second you in hoping they change quickly.

February 11, 2013 3:06 PM

I absolutely agree that the name-change-because-of-a-relationship-as-an-adult issue is sexist.  I didn't want to give up any part of the gift of a name that my parents gave me, and I also wanted to match the name of my new family.  My spouse didn't give the issue a second thought.  Just because this is sexist, I don't think that it is clear that the right thing to do is ignore the issue for a daughter.  I mean, *maybe* it is.  But *maybe*, we do her a favor by doing what we can to help her have as many options as possible. 

February 12, 2013 2:32 PM

Using multiple middle names is a very old tradition.  Both of my mother's parents had two middle names. My grandfather was John Thomas McKinney S_____ (he went by Mac) and my grandmother was Thelma Lillian Donna F______.  I think it is wonderful that folks are reviving that tradition.  I do agree, however, that it is awkward to use a name that ends in the same letter that the next name begins with.   Look for other names in your family that you can use with Adele that don't end with -a, just ask around!

February 12, 2013 3:12 PM

love Hermione Elizabeth Adele!

i am so happy to see you are finally using hermione because, as someone else said, i know how long you've liked it.  you're shaping up to have a pretty nicely named set of children.  :]

i definitely do not think it's pretentious and second everything that hyz said.  the flow is excellent.

men can't take their wives' names in every state?  that is bizarre.


February 13, 2013 2:33 AM

As I understand it, it is possible for a man to take his wife's name in all states, but in the majority of them he would not be able to do it the same way that a wife changing her name to her husband's name would. Namely, he would need to get a court ordered name change, a process which varies greatly from state to state in how much of a pain it is. A wife changing her name to her husband can just use the marriage certificate to change her name with the government, and can skip going to court to have a name change document issued.

I suppose it is always possible that in getting a court-ordered name change you hit upon an unsympathetic judge who will not grant the name change... we were a little nervous about that and went to a court that was not the closest to us because we'd heard that the judge was more liberal.

February 13, 2013 1:13 PM

I come from a German family with the same tradition of many middle names (I have three).  When I named my daughters, for simplicity, I went with the American tradition of only one middle name.  They are now older, and wish that I HAD given them several middle names.  Both for the family tradition, and so that they could choose themselves which one they wanted to use on forms.  I think your daughter will like having two middle names, and the ones you have in mind go perfectly with Hermione.

February 14, 2013 11:01 AM

I don't think 2 middle names is pretentious. My friend has 2 (one of them being Elizabeth! :P)