Using maiden name as middle name?

How do people feel about using the mother's maiden name as a baby's middle name?

Here's my situation: I have my mother's maiden name as my middle name. I've always liked the family connection, but as a kid I was a bit disappointed I didn't have another option I could use instead of my first name.

Now I'm married, but I kept my name.  We've agreed that the baby will get my husband's last name, since it's really important to him.

But we're kicking around the idea of using my last name as a middle.  Or maybe even my mother's maiden name as a middle - if one name is patriarchal, maybe the other should be matriarchal?

How do people feel about this tradition?  Does it matter if the name is something that a kid could go by, like Mason, or if it's something that wouldn't work as a first name, like Schlesinger?

Just in the early stages of consideration - all thoughts appreciated!


July 12, 2012 4:58 PM

Well, I'm from Scandinavia where First Surname-as-Middle Last is a totally normal construction so I wouldn't blink an eye. I think it's actually more common than having a first-name-like middle name. Typically the Surname-as-Middle name would be from the mother's side if the child carries the father's surname, however the opposite order (Middle from father, Last from mother) is far from unusual.  If the parents themselves have a surname-like middle name (plus a Last), they'll typically choose the one they have strongest connection to or the less ordinary one. 

July 12, 2012 6:12 PM

I wouldn't blink an eye if I met someone with their mother's maiden name as their middle name, especially if the mother didn't change her name when she married. I don't think it matters if the name doesn't translate well as a first name.

Using your mother's maiden name is also a nice idea.  Though, I wouldn't consider it really matriarchal if it is your maternal grandfather's surname (which I assume is probably the case).  Using your mom's surname as a middle for a girl is especially nice, since you would then share middle names with your daughter.

If you want your child to have more options, you could always pick a middle name that you like, then use your maiden (or you mom's) as a second middle.  

July 12, 2012 8:04 PM

Given name-family surname usually from the mother's side-last name (usually the father's) is a common pattern in the South and in more well-to-do upper-class families in the Northeast.  Typically in the south the first name is a "Christian" name which shrinks down to an initial, and the individual goes by the family middle name, even if it is not a very "name-y" surname.  An example is Samuel Dashiell Hammett.  In the northeast I think it is more common than in the south to go by the Chrisitan name.  Obvious examples of this naming pattern outside the south include John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Richard Milhous Nixon (the middles are all the mothers' maiden names).  Lyndon Baines Johnson was from the South, and Baines was his mother's maiden name.  This naming pattern is nothing out of the ordinary at all and will raise no eyebrows no matter what family name is used in the middle and whether that family name is used as the call name.

July 12, 2012 8:22 PM

I think it's fine to use a surname as a middle name. Of my friends and family, very few have actually done it, and those that have tend to do FN - MN - Surname 1 - Surname 2.  So, the mother's maiden name is effectively a second middle (or the Father's, some have used Mother's surname as the surname).

I think if you are worried about the child not having the option of a 'namey' type middle name you could give 2 middles. However, in most cases children/adults only go by their first name. Plus, there is always the option of changing your name to another if you really don't like it.  I have a 'namey' middle name but I don't like it so wouldn't consider using it instead of my first name, even if I didn't want to use my first name any more. I guess my point is, you don't know how your child is going to feel about their name as they grow up so I wouldn't over think it too much at this point. They might love the fact that you have given them your maiden name as a middle name. If not, they can always drop it or change it.

July 12, 2012 11:39 PM

I grew up without a middle name, and my unmarried sister still doesn't have one, and we manage just fine without the option of something else to go by.

As others have noted, the pattern of /Given Mother's Father's/ is very standard -- presidential, even.

Also, if you didn't change your surname, having it as your child's middle name will help connect you, not only emotionally, but also bureaucratically: I've heard stories about schools and hospitals wanting proof of motherhood when the surnames don't match.

July 13, 2012 12:45 PM

That's interesting about the bureaucratic matching.

Bureaucratic hassle was part of the reason that I'm okay with the baby having my husband's last name: I assumed people would be much more suspicious of a man whose name didn't match the kid than of a woman.  It didn't occur to me that a middle name matching my last name could be useful.

July 13, 2012 12:48 PM

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful feedback.

Two middle names is not for us.  The last names in question, despite being Anglo, are already hard to spell, with a bunch of extra letters. It would just feel fussy.

But I do very much appreciate the assurance that a middle name needn't be usable as a first name.  It sounds like not very many people go by their middle names, so I shouldn't worry about leaving that as an option. Thanks!

By Guest (not verified)
July 13, 2012 3:23 PM

Lots of people do this, in fact I know at least three fmailies where all the kids have mom's maiden name as their middle name. And lots of people use the middle name position for names they don't think usable as a first name.

I wouldn't think anything of it.


July 14, 2012 1:57 AM

I generally approve of this practice.  I feel like the middle name slot is kind of a place to honor people and families that you hope are important in the child's life or in their history.  Who better to honor than his own mother? I especially like it when it is done when the mother has a recognizable maiden name, like she's related to a major family in the area or has a unique surname that needs to be passed down.  I didn't do that with my own children because my maiden name is totally lame, but I like the idea. It's old-fashioned and feminist all at once.

July 30, 2012 2:33 PM

It is traditional here in Brazil to give the mother's maiden name and then the father's surname. Since I kept my surname when I married, it made even more sense to follow this custom. We gave both children, born in the USA, my surname as a MIDDLE NAME. But when we had their Brazilian birth certificates issued, the Brazilian authorities moved my surname into the surname position, so now the kids' Brazilian passports show two surnames, but the American passports show just my husband's surname, with mine as a second name. I think it's weird that it's different. We did not intend for the children to have multiple surnames, only my husband's. Brazil also added an accent mark that is absent on one child's American birth certificate.

This may explain why Brazilians often end up having multiple surnames. It's a cultural thing. It also might help explain another naming difference that has really surprised me. In almost every setting, Brazilians alphabetize people by their first names rather than surnames. Lists of classmates, doctors on the insurance websites, everywhere, are all organized this way. I am used to the practice in the US of alphabetizing by last-name-first.

By Guest (not verified)
July 30, 2012 3:29 PM

Using a mother's last name as a middle name is very common. Who knows, your child may respect and value the your choice and the lineage more than having a middle name that his/her parents just pulled out of thin air because it was trendy or sounded good linguistically (which also is common).