How To Master Middle Names: Why Middle Names Matter

The middle spot is center stage.

The middle spot is center stage.

Why Middle Names Matter

Middle names are like supporting roles. Actors in supporting roles may not get top billing, but if they do their job well, they add depth to the entire production, and often enjoy a long career. Like supporting actors, middle names play their part.

Some parents recognize the potential in the middle and carefully ponder the middle name slot. Other parents, exhausted from mulling over the first name, quickly settle on a name picked from a handful of old-standby middle names.

While the second approach may seem like a missed opportunity to those who love names, glossing over the middle name isn’t completely irrational. Consider that most middle names  usually fade into the background, only to make their appearance on a few occasions: birth announcement, graduation announcement, wedding, and lastly obituary.

Think about your family and friends. How many middle names do you know? Of course you know your spouse’s, parent’s, and best friend’s middle names. What about your colleagues? Do you know your bosses’ middle name? What about your child’s teacher’s middle name? Or the middle names of every high school and college friend?

Chances are you struggle to remember many people’s middle names (if you even knew them in the first place). In my case, there are some unknown family names. On my side of the family, the middle names of my great-grandparents have escaped memory. On my husband’s side, my grandparent-in-law’s middle names are mostly a mystery, except for one because she told me.

This isn’t my fault. My husband doesn’t know any of his grandparent’s middle names. This made searching for honoring middle names from his side very difficult when we were thinking of names for our children. He simply never thought about his grandparent’s middle names. Has anyone else had this experience or is it just me?

Does this mean middle names are meaningless, pointless, disposable? There might be some unfortunate truth to the disposable aspect. When my grandmother got married she dropped her birth middle name, and replaced it with her maiden name, and so did her sister.

Regardless, middle names are not meaningless or pointless. Often the middle spot is the perfect place for a meaningful name that doesn’t fit your style, and middle names can serve some practical purposes. One of the most practical purposes is when a child has inherited the same name from older generations, and needs to go by his middle name to differentiate himself from his relatives.

Besides the meaningful and practical aspects of middle names, middle names can be fun. The fun aspect of middle names comes from their low profile. Since they only come out on a few occasions, the middle spot is a great opportunity to be bold.

Middle names are like parmesan cheese on spaghetti. Sure you could leave them out and still have something good enough, but they add something special. They make a good thing great. Which reminds me, I have to make a trip to the grocery store.

During the next few weeks, we are going to discuss in detail what makes middle names great, and how to become a middle name master—you have it in you. I hope you’ll join me.

Photo credit


  1. I think middle names are really important. I want to use a traditional, family oriented middle name for my future daughter, but I want to use a fun, whimsical word (like my favorite flower, Lilac, or Sapphire, for my fav jewel, etc) for a middle name and make the name more personal and unique.

    I, personally, know all of my family members middles names as well as anyone in my life that let me know their middle names and as a name lover, I think they add extra importance. I also love to look at my customers’ drivers licenses so I can read their middle names too (I work at a bank). I find them very fascinating!

    I have done extensive family research on both my family and my husband’s family on and I’ll tell you that middle names really help to be sure you’re choosing the right person. They also tell the popular and well used names of a certain time period, which is a nice window into my ancestors’ current culture.

    I hate the commonly used middle names too. I especially hate Marie, Ann and Lynn. They’re way overused and feel really cliche. I can’t believe so many parents over so many years can’t be more creative than ______ Marie. Then they pass it along to their children, who pass it to their children, etc. It’s such a great opportunity to use more than one favorite name and it’s a wasted chance!!

    • I also love to look at my customers’ drivers licenses so I can read their middle names too (I work at a bank). I find them very fascinating!

      Hi Sarah,

      Just so you know, you’re not alone in this! The other day I went into a bank and the cashier was a woman I’d known at school. She asked to see my driving licence and when I showed it to her she grinned at me and said “Oh – your middle name is —– I wondered what it was when we were at school!”.


      Paula Ahh!

  2. I hate it when people use clique middle names. The following are the most clique, boring, ugly and unoriginal middle names.
    – Elizabeth
    Unfortuntely, my middle name is Rose and I absolutely dislike it. My kids are going to have awesome middle names.

  3. Jessamine Rue says:

    I think sometimes folks use middle names to honor family members. My friend gave her daughter the middle name Rose to honor her mother in law who passed away. I think when it honors a person it isn’t “boring” or “ugly” or “unoriginal”

  4. My mother, me and my aunt have Ann as a middle name. My niece has Elizabeth as her middle name and I don’t think using a Biblical name as a middle name is ugly in any way!

  5. I don’t fully understand the importance of middle names because I don’t have one! I don’t really understand what you are feeling, so I can’t connect on that level.

Speak Your Mind