Why we need a middle name – and how to choose a good one

Posted in Baby Names.

My middle name is Jean. I’m named after my dad’s mum, who I always adored, but that didn’t stop me from telling people that my middle name was Jane!

The middle name game

Don’t ask me why, but as young kid I thought Jean was a strange name. Jane seemed much more ‘normal’ and ‘normal’ was currency at my primary school.

Now I’m a grown-up, I love the name Jean. I like how it sounds after my first name, and that it forever connects me to such a beautiful person in my life. 

Why I am telling you this? Because my story pretty much ticks all the possible boxes of why middle names are fun, and how to choose one. And also: things to consider in terms of your child actually admitting to theirs!

So where did middle names even spring from? Apparently the first ever recording of the term ‘middle name’ appeared in a Harvard University publication in 1835. But the tradition is much older than that.

In Roman times the more names a person had, the higher their social status, while people of Spanish or Arabic background use middle names to connect the generations to one another, like a real life family tree. For instance they will name their child’s middle name after a grandfather, grandmother, aunt or uncle.

So why choose a middle name? 

There are no hard and fast rules of course, and you don’t actually need one. But there are some good reasons to consider whacking something between first name and last.

  • Keeping it nice: It can be a handy tool in the quest for family diplomacy. A friend of mine married someone with a long family heritage of naming a first born boy a particular name she really didn’t like. But because she didn’t want to be the first one to break ranks on an ancient family tradition – she suggested they make it their son’s middle name. Crisis averted.
  • Can’t decide: Or maybe you’re debating between two names for your baby that you just don’t know how to reconcile or agree on. Easy peasy, just stick them together!
  • A bit of a mouthful? Perhaps you like a more outlandish name but can’t imagine that being screamed out across the playground? Stick it in the middle!
  • Quite fancy: Or maybe you go with the out-there first name, but keep a more conservative middle name as back-up.

Go easy, tiger

Of course, there is such a thing as too many names. Isn’t there?!

I mean, as lovely as mulling over all the names can be,  you also have to remember that your child will actually be living with them. And probably need to write them down. And even say them sometimes.

Which brings me to one final important point, before committing anything to paper – say the names together and out loud before you settle on your final choice. 

Your baby will thank you!

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