When One Middle Name Won’t Do

eggs-in-nestThis is the next installment of our “How To Master Middle Names” series. In case you missed them, you can find the other posts in this series here.

Way back in 2008 when I became a name blog junkie, I stumbled upon an amazing discovery: multi-middle names. This practice was completely new to me. I knew more people without middle names than people with two or more middle names.

Admittedly, I was turned off. This is a bold admission for a name-person as name-people normally embrace this trend. But to me it seemed like a fad. However, as I met more adults with multiple middle names, I began to suspect this wasn’t just a passing fad, but rather a little-known practice. And being open-minded, I began to see how multiple middle names might make sense in certain situations.

Let’s review some pros and cons of multiple middle names:


  • If you love names, but don’t want more than one or two children, multiple middle names allow you to use more of the names you love.
  • If you have many important people you wish to honor, but don’t want a lot of children, multiple middle names allow you to honor more people.
  • If you can’t decide whether you prefer honoring or imaginative middle names, multiple middle names allow you to do both.
  • If the parents have different last names, one of the last names could be a second middle name, allowing the parents to put both surnames and another honoring or imaginative middle name on the birth certificate.
  • In some families, multiple middle names are a tradition going back a couple of generations that some parents wish to continue.


  • The U.S. is mostly a one middle name per person culture, and some people might find multiple middle names pretentious, a practice reserved mostly for royalty.
  • Our one middle name culture also means many forms don’t allow for more than one middle name or multiple middle initials, and as a result the second middle name often gets dropped by the bearer.
  • If the last name is long, especially if it’s hyphenated, multiple middle names can become cumbersome.
  • Getting the right flow with multiple middle names adds another layer of complexity to the baby naming process.

And this complexity in getting the right flow makes muli-middle names both intriguing and infuriating. This is the perfect segue into next week’s middle name topic: mastering first/middle (possibly second middle)/last name flow.

Readers: Would you consider giving your child multiple middle names?

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  1. I understand why people do it, but I wouldn’t give my kids two middle names for many of the reasons you listed. Also, when I got married, I moved my maiden name to the second middle spot. I would like to give my kids the option to do that when they get married, and if they already have two middles, adding a third seems like overkill.

  2. Having two middles is kind of a pain, BTW. In Colorado, you can only have fourteen characters in the middle name spot on your driver’s license. Do you know how I know this? Elizabeth Calder is fifteen characters, including the space! I ended up putting just Elizabeth on my license, and Elizabeth Calder on my social security card. Fun fact, my full name is so long (28 letters, and 31 characters with spaces) it’s two lines! I’ve never seen that before. It’s a pain in the butt when filling out forms online, and I can’t put EC for my middle initials on many computer forms.

  3. As a non-American I think it’s remarkable that the vast majority of people in the US have two given names. In other countries there’s much more variation.

    In my country, the Netherlands, about 50 % of children born in the last couple of years have only one given name (so no middle name).30 % have two names, 17 % have three and 2.5 % have four. (I my self have three, my girlfriend has two, my daughter has four.)

    52.9% of German children born in 2012 have one given name, 41.4 % have two, 5.2 % have three and 0.5 % have more than three.

  4. For European catholics it’s common to have more than one middle name.
    I have 4 names. The first one is after my maternal grandmother, the second and third are after my godparents, the fourth is after a local saint

  5. In theory, I’m a one middle name person. When I actually sit down, play with my list, and string together possible combos, I always end up with two middle names. One middle name seems perfect in my head, but in reality I find it too brief.

  6. I think with multiple middle names, this is the perfect time for those “boring” middle names to come to the party.

    Clio Lavender is a bit sticky, Clio Grace is a bit ho-hum, but Clio Lavender Grace hits the right note, in my opinion.

  7. Lydia Rose says:

    my whole name (minus the last name) is Lydia Rose Marianna For the flower Lydia-Rose and my grandmothers name Marianna

  8. We are adopting a child and keeping her given names, but adding an extra middle name to honor one of my favorite aunts. So she goes from Sophia Grace to Sophia Elizabeth Grace. It seemed a good option to let her maintain ties to her birth family while still helping her become a part of ours. Considering some of the wackadoodle names in use today, having two middle names seems like a quaint problem to have. 🙂

  9. I gave my daughter two middle names, but they flow as one. Shylee Rose Lynne Williams. Her name came from many aspects actually. Her father’s name is Charlee, thus the “Lee”, her Aunts name is Cheyanne, but Cheylee just didn’t look right so I went with “Shy”. My Grandmother’s middle name is Rose, and my mother’s middle name is Lynne. Also, being that her father has two middle names we wanted to make it a “thing”. I was also delighted to find just months after she was born that there is a jewelry company also named Shylee Rose Jewelry. I can see how two middle names can become quite cumbersome, though, so I really wanted them to flow almost as one. Roselyn has always been such a pretty name to me so we broke them in two: Rose Lynne.

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