Middle Names


I’m thinking about baby names lately. I’ve kept an ever-increasing, ever-changing list of baby names on my phone for the past year, despite no plans of conceiving any time soon. I’m particularly in love with my current baby name trend — English surnames as first names and British schoolboy names. Also, tangent: I recently heard of a couple who named their beautiful son Aeneas.

Be still, my beating heart.

But I’m afraid Erich and I could never produce a child who fits such a name, so I’m not adding it to the list just yet.

First names come easily for me, but middle names, I’m lost. What are middle names for? Mine is Elizabeth, and while I like my middle name, I don’t use it or attach any significance to it. But a first name without a middle name seems sad and economical to a fault.

I’ve been thinking of alternative reasons for middle names besides just adding a second pretty name. Right now, I like the idea of First Name / Baptismal Name / My Maiden Name / Last Name — Aeneas Michael Bergmann Steger, for instance. It’s such a mouthful, but I particularly love the practice of giving my maiden name as my children’s middle names.

I never seriously considered hyphenating our last names, because if my daughter wanted to hyphenate her last name with her husband’s, it’d end up Bergmann-Steger-Smith, etc. — and that’s ridiculous. But as I’ve expressed elsewhere, I’m deeply connected to my maiden name. Maybe I’m still unused to married life, but I still see myself as a “Bergmann girl.” Bergmann is my last name, Steger is Erich’s, despite what my legal identification says. I’m hoping to at least come to see Steger as “ours” if not “mine.”

In any case, giving my children my maiden name connects them with my side of the family, the people I’ve loved the longest and deepest. It unites them to an important part of my identity.

It’s a common practice in the American south, in Spanish-influenced countries, and even Scandinavia, I hear. Many of our presidents have their mother’s maiden name as their middle name. I’m attending the wedding of a friend whose middle name is hyphenated between a “normal” middle name and what appears to be her mother’s maiden name. Her invitation gave me this idea in the first place. It would be a bold move in my corner of the world, but the idea’s growing on me.

What do you think? Would you give your child your maiden name? What’s your philosophy on middle names, either your own or your children’s?

11 thoughts on “Middle Names

  1. korie

    I have a complicated name. I go by my middle name exclusively, and have since I was born. My name, Korie, is difficult to spell, and I’ve often gotten mistaken for a guy. Once, in middle school, my friend told her mom that “Korie, Alex, and Sam are coming over.” Her mom flipped because she thought we were all boys, haha. My husband wanted to name our son Green, but I declined.

    So, I wanted to give my son a simple name that was short, to the point, and easy to spell. I’ve always liked the idea of using middle names to honor family members, so I think using the maiden name is a good way to do that. We ended up naming our son Abel Alexander. My husband’s name is Alexander. We have had people attempt to spell his name “Able” (which bugs me a little) and have had people pronounce it “Ah-bell” (which doesn’t bug me at all).

    I like virtue names, but the ones for girls are overdone and the ones for boys are obscure. I liked Abel because it sounds like the word Able. I tell him every day, “You are Abel/Able!” And it makes me happy to say that about him every time.


  2. Lauren

    Haha! This is great; I think whenever you two produce some offspring, you’ll be able to find a perfect name.

    My middle name is Elizabeth as well; I’ve always liked it, but middle names always seemed secondary, you know? Then I met my husband and his family (he’s the sixth of nine), and just about all of them have at least two middle names. So I’m pretty sure our kids will get two middle names as well. :) Personally, I was never attached to my maiden name, so it’s not really a consideration for us, but that’s part of what makes families unique– what works for you will probably be different.

    I’m 21 weeks pregnant right now, and the only names we’ve tossed around are “Charles Mackenzie Dalyrymple” and “Twinkie Buns.” (We’re not big planners, apparently.)


  3. Adele

    Interesting post. Choosing a name for your child is so significant and there are so many factors. But, focusing on middle names. I am one of those people in the “sad and economical to a fault” situation of having no middle name. ;-) I have seldom felt it to be a lack, but that may be because my mother was very intentional in not giving me a middle name and she explained her reasoning to me. First, my first name, Adele, is a name from my mother’s side of the family – it is actually her middle name and her grandmother’s first name – so the aspect you mention of honoring the mother’s side of the family is taken care of with my first name. Second, my last name, my father’s last name, is French, as is Adele, and my mother wanted my entire name to flow well together. Anything she could think of to put between Adele and Villemez interrupted the flow in her opinion. I always think of her telling me about the neighbor who felt I must have a middle name and suggested “Leigh” and the look on my mother’s face as if Adele Leigh Villemez would be the worst name ever. Finally, and perhaps most important, my mother totally agreed with your observation about hyphens and so she planned for me to make Villemez my middle name when I got married so I could “keep” my maiden name. By the time I grew up the option of keeping my last name for real was much more apparent and that is what I did condemning myself to a lifetime without a middle name. Ah well. I still appreciate my mother’s thoughtfulness in naming me. :-)

    I strongly feel the middle name is about honoring family and roots. The first name you can pick because you think it’s pretty and/or you like the image it provides and/or it’s trendy or whatever. I think the middle name should have significance beyond that, and because it is not what you call your child day-to-day you have more leeway in choosing a name that is way out of fashion or a surname, etc. I think your idea of giving your child your maiden name as a middle name is a good one. Here is the way my daughter’s name was chosen and I am 100% happy with her name: I knew I did not want to give my daughter a hyphenate last name (for much the same reasons as you). I did want my side of the family and my roots reflected in her name so I knew I wanted to name a daughter after my mother and great-grandmother and myself. However, I also wanted her name to be her own and not “shared” with me. I didn’t want a female junior, even with a different last name. Finally, like my mother, I wanted my daughter’s whole name to fit and flow with her last name, which is English. So, after much searching and research, I found Adelia – a form of Adele but different, an English form, and in sound and spelling much more current and modern than “Adele” while still being uncommon – perfect! After settling on a first name, the middle name was easy – my mother’s first name was Jane, so in giving my daughter Jane as a middle name, I honor my mother while not burdening my daughter with a first name that I honestly felt was out of fashion and kind of plain. But does her whole name pass my personal sound/flow test? Adelia Jane Brown – yep!


    • Bailey Steger

      Thank you so much for sharing the reasoning behind your and your daughter’s names! I am blown away by the thought, creativity, and meaning behind them. This was so fascinating for me to read!!


  4. Jasmine Ruigrok

    I wouldn’t have minded having my Mum’s maiden name in my name somewhere (I mean, Cope vs. Ruigrok… no competition). But what I REALLY would have liked, would have been to have part of my grandma’s name. My grandma had three names, one of which was Euphemia. How beautiful is that?? I would’ve loved to carry her name.


  5. Chloe K.

    Ah, baby names! I am nowhere near having children myself, and I still find them fascinating. Greek and Irish names have always been my favorite, but they are mouthfuls, and I hesitate to burden any child of mine with something so intimidating as Aikaterine or Saoirse, though they’re lovely to look at. I like the idea of incorporating your maiden name into your child’s name, especially since that was what my parents chose to do. My younger brother’s first name is my mom’s maiden name, and his middle name, Stoddard, is my father’s grandmother’s maiden name, which both my grandfather and my father also have for a middle name. This leaves my brother with three surnames for his full name, and in it he carries the heritage of three branches of our family tree. I think it’s beautiful, and I’d like to do something similar with my children’s names in the future.


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