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Namesake Confusion - Who's a Junior, Anyway?

My brother and his wife just had a baby boy (brother's second son)and named him after my brother which makes him a jr. My question is, is it ok to name your second son jr. and not your first son?

- JustAsking

If Richard Mark has a son named Richard Mark, Jr., does Richard Mark Jr.'s son become Richard Mark II or III?

- Not Richard Mark

In America, there are few rules to baby naming. You aren't required to name your first son after dad's father and your second after mom's father. You're free to name for family, friends, strangers or soap opera characters. You can make up a whole new name, or name the baby after the place she was conceived. (You've heard the old "baby Chevrolet" jokes, right?)

Maybe that's why, when we do come across a realm of naming rules, we freak out. Parents get nervous about using Junior, II and III, because it's one of the few kinds of baby naming you can actually get wrong. Not to fear, family-name fans. Here's the Name Lady's quick guide to namesakes.

What's the order? Richard, Richard Jr., Richard III, Richard IV.

Hey, what happened to II? If you're following a direct paternal line, you traditionally don't use the suffix II. A Richard II would be named after a living relative other than the father, such as an uncle or grandfather.

Do middle names count? Traditionally, a suffix is only used for exact namesakes, including identical middle names. That's why President George H. W. Bush's son George W. Bush wasn't a Jr. But some families -- like Ronald Reagan's -- like to tack on a Jr. even when the middle names don't match, to avoid confusion.

Which kids are eligible? A son does not have to be first-born to be named for his father. Many families honor other relatives such as grandparents first, then name later children after the parents.

What if one in the line has passed away? There's no consistent etiquette for this situation. Some suggest that the suffixes are only to be used to distinguish among living relatives, and that if the first Richard is deceased, all his namesakes should "move up" a number. Personally, I lean toward keeping the suffix you were given at birth. It exists to honor and remember your family, a function which continues even after the loved ones themselves are gone.

But I don't wanna do it that way! OK, suit yourself. Family preference is what really determines the suffix, especially nowadays. If you do choose a non-standard usage, don't feel the need to make excuses. Just explain the suffix to anybody who asks, with a smile and a kind word about the relatives you've chosen to honor.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

June 28, 2009 12:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

A very good friend of mine once had a student who was named after dad. The problem was -- so was his older brother! Dad had a son, named him John Doe Jr. Then, several years later, remarried and had another son. Mom wanted to name him John Doe Jr. also! So they did have different mothers and they didn't live together (although they did live in the same school district), but it was still very VERY odd. The second Jr. went by his middle name. I felt sorry for the third son though, who wasn't named after dad. Poor kid must have felt left out. :-(

July 31, 2009 7:41 PM
By Hutch (not verified)

I grew up thinking that my older brother's name was Robert because everyonr called him "BOB". I found out that his given name was Joseph.
The reason given for calling him Bob was to avoid confusion with our uncle Joe. However, he grows up, marries, and has kids. His first child was a boy who they Robert Jr. How can they do that?

August 16, 2009 9:32 AM
By Ram Chaturvedi (not verified)

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January 27, 2012 11:31 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

naming question please chime in

My grandfather was John C, My Dad Was John D, I am John D Jr. My wife and I are now expecting our first male child and we are going to name him John D. Now the question do we name him John D III or John D IV?

I am Jr. so the Next in Line would be the III. However as you can see from above this will be the fourth John in a row so the IV would also be correct. Note that my Grandfather's middle name was Different.

What do you think?

March 27, 2012 6:03 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

John D III would be the traditional way to do it, since it's the third "John D".

April 30, 2013 10:44 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My grandfather is named Charles Albert Jr. My father is John Loius, I am John Ryan, but I want to name my son Charles Albert after his still living great grandfather. Can I call him Charles Albert III? Can it skip generations?

May 28, 2014 9:37 PM
By S Holmes (not verified)

To those of us who are not in the USA, especially if we live in monarchies, giving children names like John Smith 3rd or Cornelius Knatchbull IV seems somewhat ridiculous / pretentious.
It appears like the parents are pretending to be royals without being royals.
In the UK, a person bearing such a name would easily be adressed with a sarcastic 'Your Highness' or 'Your Lordship'.

Alternatively, this type of naming seems to indicate that the parents do not have enough imagination to come up With an individual name for their child.
Giving a son the same name as his father, grandfather etc. reminds me of the Monty Python sketch from the Australian University of Woolamaloo, where all the philosophy professors are called Bruce, until they get an English visiting professor:

* Enter fourth Bruce with English person, Michael *
Fourth Bruce: Goodday, Bruce, Hello Bruce, How are you, Bruce? Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce a chap from pommie land... who'll be joining us this year here in the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolamaloo.
All: Goodday.
Fourth Bruce: Michael Baldwin - this is Bruce. Michael Baldwin - this is Bruce. Michael Baldwin - this is Bruce.
First Bruce: Is your name not Bruce, then?
Michael: No, it's Michael.
Second Bruce: That's going to cause a little confusion.
Third Bruce: Mind if we call you 'Bruce' to keep it clear?

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