Middle name vs two first names

Daniel López

Senior Member
Spanish
Hello.

I have read carefully the threads on "middle name" ; however one of them is closed, and I still have a doubt:

In The US many people have two first names (Joana Louise, Norma Jean)
Others have a middle name, that may come from an originally surname (John. Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard Milhous Nixon)

Could you, please, tell me in the following cases if the underlined is a second Christian name or a middle name?

eg.

Johh Fitzgerald Kennedy - surname
Thomas Woodrow Wilson - surname
Norma Jean Mortenson- 2 first names
Barack Hussein Obama- 2 first names?

Also, from what I see, middle names are more common with men names and double fisrt names are more common in women. Right?


Thank you in advance.
 
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  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    John Fitzgerald Kennedy - 1 surname
    Thomas Woodrow Wilson - 1 surname
    Norma Jean Mortenson- 2 first names
    Barack Hussein Obama- 2 first names
    In all four cases, we call the first name a first name* or given name. We call the second the middle name (whether or not it was originally a surname). We call the third the last name or surname (it's usually, but not always or necessarily, the surname of the person's father).

    *In BE, I believe it's forename.
     

    Smauler

    Senior Member
    British English
    This is more an American phenomenon, so I'll let them answer it.

    Usually in the UK people are known by their first and last name only, and no one knows people's middle names. Middle names are mostly redundant, but some people choose to use them instead. My aunt, for example is known by her middle name by all the family, but all her friends use her first name.

    Hyphenated first names are considered one name. "Double barreled" surnames are hyphenated and indicate either being posh or hoping to be, usually.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    At the risk of hijacking this thread into a discussion of how naming practices vary from country to country, the practice in the UK has traditionally been for a "middle" name to be synonymous with a second Christian name, although some people do have a "family name" as their middle name. Not everyone has a middle name (I don't, in fact) and some people have more than one. It's largely a matter of personal preference over here which name you choose to use and we don't follow the American practice of saying "John Fitgerald Kennedy" unless specifically asked to give our name in full.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Some people - particular women - are commonly known and addressed by their first two names: they in effect form a two-word single name, and it might or might not be hyphenated. This is more common in the USA, with women called things like Bobbi Jo. The second element is often Jo, Jane, or Anne. Her friends say, 'Hi, Bobbi Jo.' But it is not exclusively US: the British conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner is addressed as John Eliot, and the Doctor Who companion Sarah Jane Smith was commonly known as Sarah Jane.

    Otherwise, the middle name is a middle name whether it's of the type used as a forename or a surname. Chelsea Clinton's middle name is Victoria, a forename, but she's not addressed as Chelsea Victoria.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    To add to the confusion, take a look at http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/851767/good-ole-southern-baby-names.

    In the American South, double given names (forenames) are often used. See the section at the above-referenced page called "Double Names of the South."

    The name of the former bureau manager of the UPI news service in Portland, Oregon was "Billy Joe." Whether it was listed as a double given name or a given- +middle name on his birth certificate, I have no idea. The birth certificate is the defining document in all cases, regardless of what a person is called.

    Another note is that he importance of using a middle name has grown substantially in the U.S. because of security considerations. A passport must match a birth certificate and many states now demand that a driver's license match a birth certificate and/or passport as well.

    And, some airlines are getting sticky about the name on a ticket matching that of the traveler's identification, including any and all middle names. The same is true for banks and bank accounts.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    In The US many people have two first names (Joana Louise, Norma Jean)
    Others have a middle name, that may come from an originally surname (John. Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard Milhous Nixon)
    This distinction that you're making between "real" first names and names that were originally surnames is somewhat mistaken as well. Many "first names" come from surnames - Nelson, Wyatt, etc.
    First names and middle names are just names.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    A first (given) name can have two parts. I have a friend whose first name is Jo Ann. The "Ann" is not her middle name; she has one of those too, and it's different. It is the second part of her first name. Her name is almost the same as JoAnn, but her parents chose to spell it with a space. That does not make it two names. In this case each of its parts could be a name by itself, but here they're not.

    This is similar to the situation with family names, where something like "St. Clair," "von Weisel" or "de la Torre" is not unusual. All these have a space, but that does not make them two names. They are each one name with two or three parts.
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    I agree with everything that has been said here. Sometimes a person will use three names and it is difficult to tell whether the second name is a middle name or part of a double, but unhyphenated, surname. For example, take the actor (who was a teen heart throb in the early '90s) Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Was Taylor his middle name? Or was Taylor Thomas his last name? (I think Taylor was his middle name but I don't really care.)

    To make matters even more complicated, a married woman will often use her maiden name as a middle name, like Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. And to make matters still more complex, when a woman is married to someone famous but later marries someone else, the media will tack her first married name in the middle, like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, even though this is not correct.
     

    funnyhat

    Senior Member
    American English
    Could you, please, tell me in the following cases if the underlined is a second Christian name or a middle name?

    Johh Fitzgerald Kennedy - surname
    Thomas Woodrow Wilson - surname
    Norma Jean Mortenson- 2 first names
    Barack Hussein Obama- 2 first names?
    .
    Woodrow is a first name - it's where the nickname "Woody" comes from. Hussein can be either a first or last name in Arabic, I believe.

    "Middle name" is just the term for this second given name - it doesn't necessarily refer to the type of name it is. Whether it's normally a first or last name, if it's the second part of your name, we call it a middle name.

    There are no real rules about what a middle name should be. Some families use the mother's maiden name as the middle name, so that both the maternal and paternal families are represented. But more often, parents choose a second first name. Some parents do this so that the child can choose to use it if he/she doesn't like the first name. Often, parents try to choose a middle name that "sounds good" when you say the person's full name (first, middle, last) out loud.

    Certain names seem to get picked specifically as middle names frequently. For example, I've known many girls/women whose middle name was Marie, whereas it's not all that common of a first name in the United States (as opposed to francophone countries, where it's obviously extremely common).
     
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