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Should We Use Two Middle Names to Keep the Peace?

What are your thoughts on using two middle names? I have two boys who would both like to select the middle name for their new brother. Of course, they can't agree! - Compromising Mom

This is a new twist on an extra middle name. Most parents who choose to double up are making some nod to tradition. In some cases, the family has always used two middle names: say, the grandfathers on both sides of the family. Other families want to honor prominent ancestors or proud lineages.

Because of the the latter tradition, a multi-part name can come across as a throwback to a blueblood society where a child's name had to reflect all of his eminent connections. You see that style at work in names from George Herbert Walker Bush to Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. That brings up yet another group of double-namers: parents who just want to sound like the kind of people who do have such family traditions.

I'm inclined to be respectful of the real family traditions, less so of the imitations. That's not a matter of snobbery. It's simply that the extra name is a practical bother, so I wouldn't choose it without a genuine meaningful reason.

A meaningful reason doesn't have to date back to the Mayflower, though. It just has to be special to your family, and deliver something beyond style that a single middle name can't. Yours is a new reason I can get on board with. Choosing middle names could be a great way to help your boys bond with their new baby brother. The naming process brings the idea of the child to life for parents, and it should work its magic on siblings, too. You might just have a brand new tradition-in-waiting, no eminent connections required.


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September 13, 2010 10:44 AM
By Kristina (not verified)

Our oldest child has 2 middle names. We only added the second middle name when my dad asked us if we would honour his grandmother, who raised him. I think letting the siblings pick the middle names is a sweet tradition to start. I also don't think 2 middle names is pretentious at all.

September 13, 2010 2:10 PM
By lothelena (not verified)

Our three boys all have 2 middle names. My husband's family already had a middle name tradition which goes back for generations and my husband has always wanted to name his kid after a theologian from the Middle Ages. That was fine with me, but I figured might not be fine for them during their teenage years! So, to keep the original tradition and let my husband have his wish we put Anselm, (followed by Irenaeus and Athanasius for our other boys) in the 2nd middle spot, for first names and 1st middle names they each have a Bible name and a family name. We said we'd give any girls virtue names instead of theologian names in the 2nd middle spot if we had any, but we haven't.

September 13, 2010 2:28 PM
By Caitlyn (not verified)

having siblings pick middle names is adorable! I do wonder about what happens when you have five kids though.....but in my experience there's ways around everything, even that.

September 13, 2010 2:37 PM
By Libby (not verified)

My brother has two middle names and he turned out all right. It wasn't done to sound fancy but so his initials would spell his nickname.

September 14, 2010 12:11 AM
By PlainJane (not verified)

i may be biased but i think multiple names are fantastic!

i have two middle names, one a family name honoring my mother's mother who died before i was born, and the other a hawaiian name in honor of my birthplace. (it's noelani meaning heavenly mist).

my sister's kids each have three middle names; with each middle name honoring a family member or close friend. my brother's son has two middle names as well to honor both grandfathers.

if you're happy with both names go for it. especially since the way this child was named will always have a sweet story to go with it. :)

September 14, 2010 6:42 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a friend who has 2 middle names and they are Ann Margaret. Her parents were inspired by the actress (my friend was born in the 60's, like myself) and Ann and Margaret were both for relatives. It does not seem to have been a problem for her.

On another note - many women use their maiden name as a middle name after marriage, thus giving themselves a second middle name.

September 14, 2010 12:43 PM
By Ellie (not verified)

When I got married, I kept my old middle name and added my maiden name to it, thereby giving myself two middle names. It does complicate things when forms for insurance, employment, etc. ask for a middle initial because I have TWO of them! For simplicity's sake, I use the middle inital from my maiden name.

Overall, I'm happy with my decision to give myself two middle names. I didn't want to just dump the middle name that my parents had given me when I was born by replacing it with my maiden name when I got married.

I have a friend who gave her son two middle names because that's the tradition in her family. Although it made for a very blue-blooded, WASPy sounding name, she did not do it to sound pretentious. His name actually means something to him and to his family, and that is what matters.

I think it's an adorable idea to have the older children name their new sibling. Go for it!

September 14, 2010 12:44 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Both my girls have 2 middle names. Started by honoring my mother and mother-in law.My girls names are Samantha Elizabeth Rose & Lily Ava Grace. So I loved giving them 2 middle names.

September 14, 2010 12:45 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When my divorce went through and I "got" my maiden name back, I swore I'd never give it up again. My second husband felt strongly about me taking his last name, so I added my maiden name as a second middle name and did the same for my 2 children from my first marriage. My daughter from my second marriage also has my maiden name as a second middle name. Incidentally, my husband also took my maiden name as HIS second middle name - if I get a new name, so does he. What a guy :)

September 14, 2010 12:45 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When my divorce went through and I "got" my maiden name back, I swore I'd never give it up again. My second husband felt strongly about me taking his last name, so I added my maiden name as a second middle name and did the same for my 2 children from my first marriage. My daughter from my second marriage also has my maiden name as a second middle name. Incidentally, my husband also took my maiden name as HIS second middle name - if I get a new name, so does he. What a guy :)

September 14, 2010 12:49 PM
By AnonymousMe (not verified)

Personally, I don't mind two middle names when it's done for a specific reason, like the name lady talks about in her last paragraph. Our son has only one middle name, but we gave our daughter two. Both of her grandmothers were battling cancer while I was pregnant with her, and my husband and I wanted to honour both of our strong, beautiful mothers and yet still give her the first name we had chosen for her.

I love the idea of letting your two sons each pick a name for the new baby. (As another responder mentioned, it may get awkward if you have more children down the road, but I suspect then you may have to create limits!)

Having said that, I think that you and your husband should have the final say on the names. I know someone who allowed her older child to choose his sibling's middle name. The child was a big fan of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin ... so the younger sib's middle name is Crocodile. Honest! If I had been the parent, I would have allowed the older sib the opportunity to choose the middle name, but the choices would have been limited to Steve, Hunter, or Irwin.

September 14, 2010 12:53 PM
By A Kentucky Belle (not verified)

I have two middle names, as do each of my siblings. My Father has 2 middle names as well. The tradition is that your first name is uniquely yours and the 2 middle names are 1 from each side of the family. My daughter also has 2 middle names and I am pregnant now. We plan to give this child their own special family names (2) to carry on their family with them.

I LOVE the idea of having the siblings each give a middle name. It will be special to them and to the baby eventually. The only inconvenience is having to pick 1 middle initial for paper work.. but we usually just use the first one Best of Luck!

September 14, 2010 1:30 PM
By Allison Noelle Wells (not verified)

My daughter has 2 first name and 1 middle name.
My son is _NAME_, the Fourth (IV), so it's a lot of name.
We hope to continue the double first names with future daughters and maybe 2 middles with future sons.

September 14, 2010 1:45 PM
By Angela (not verified)

I have two middle names, and each of my brothers has three. All our names honor people in the family, or who were important in my parents' lives. I love my middle names.

September 14, 2010 1:59 PM
By Jennifer (not verified)

I was accidentally given my first name (Jennifer), leading me to have two middle names (Rachel Ellen, with Rachel meaning to be my original forename and what my family all call me). And when I say accident I mean literally. My dad made a joke, and my mum followed through on it and wrote it on the birth certificate. I know, she's crazy.
But I like having two middle names, and it gives me this good ice breaker story. Both my grandmothers have 2 middle names and I plan to give my kids 2 middle names.

September 14, 2010 2:05 PM
By 4boymomma (not verified)

I have 4 boys - #1 and #3 have 2 middle names. #1 named for his great-grandfathers and neither my husband and I would compromise as we were only have 1 boy (well mother nature got a kick out of that one!). #3 has my maiden name as well as a regular name. Also if on forms, if needed, I just use their first of the 2 middle initials. For sons #2 and #4, their middle names are very strong family names with a lot of history so it balances out, I think.

September 14, 2010 2:19 PM
By Anya (not verified)

I like multiple middle names (although each of my 3 sons has just one, because I'm running out of names that I like and that fit our family as it is:)). I don't like the idea of letting the older siblings name the baby though. Especially if the siblings are very young. They just might come up with Crocodile:) Anyway, I think naming the baby is the adults' responsibility. Children change their minds and tastes all the time and if they like a certain name today doesn't mean they're not going to hate it tomorrow. I myself as a kid loved a lot of different names that now make me laugh... When my 3d son was born, my older ones simply asked what his name was. They didn't even seem to realize that there had been a name picking process, for them the baby was already born with a name:)

September 14, 2010 2:23 PM
By shadelit (not verified)

I don't find 2 middle names pretentious at all, but then I had to be talked out of it by my husband because we had already given our son a double-barreled last name. My son's middle name is also his father's middle name, and I was sorely tempted to give him a second middle name that closely reflected a nickname I had for him while he was still in-utero. My family has no tradition of multiple names, but names are important to me and left solely to my own devices I would probably not have chosen to scale back. For myself I kept my last name but took my husband's surname as a 2nd middle name, as a romantic and familial gesture.

September 14, 2010 2:27 PM
By shadelit (not verified)

My stepdaughter wanted desperately to name my son. Some of the memorable names she came up with were: Cuddly Brain, Poop Jr. and Dumbledore. I told her she could name our next pet, but NOT the baby ;-). I think letting the older sibs pick middle names could be a sweet tradition, but I do hope they're giving them a pre-approved list to choose from!

September 14, 2010 3:41 PM
By NAR (not verified)

At age eight I was allowed to choose my newborn brother's middle name. I picked Christopher, my favorite boys' name -- because it was the name of a boy I had had a crush on when I was four!

Anyway, I felt very powerful and included by being allowed to choose the name, although I realize now my parents would have vetoed any name they didn't like.

September 14, 2010 5:28 PM
By Flaca (not verified)

Two middle names are just fine & this tradition you are starting with your sons is fine as well. My two daughters both have two middle names - 1) is for a saint & 2) is my maiden name. The first honors our faith & the second honors the Latin@ tradition of including the mothers last name. IMO if its important enough to name a child for a father - why not honor the lineage of the mother? My in laws (who are not Latino) thought it was weird but they aren't terribly worldly and DH & I don't really care about "bucking tradition." Good for you - its your family, your reasoning & your decision.

September 14, 2010 7:06 PM
By Mary (not verified)

my friend gave his daughter THREE middle names. Its like he was trying to fit all his names into this one child in case he doesn't have any more. He included both grandmothers' names and his best female friend as middle names.

I know quite a few people who have two middle names, so i don't think its all that uncommon

I plan on including my surname as the second middle name of each of my children, so they will technically have two middle names.

September 14, 2010 10:38 PM
By Brandy (not verified)

I have 2 middle names.. It was annoying as a kid, but I love it now!
My mother's family has a tradition of passing a certain name to the eldest daughter of the family.. My parent's didn't like it to go with my first name, so she also used her mother's name as well.. Which of course was partially the same family name I received.

So I love my middle name.. When we have a daughter, I plan on doing that same thing, but implementing my husband's grandmother's name with my family's traditional name.. Since she passed away before we were married, we both think it would be a great way to honor her. I am even considering doing it if we have more boys in the future as well.

September 15, 2010 9:15 AM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

I think that's an adorable idea! Although, as previous commenters have said, I would certainly be careful to coach the kids toward "real" names and not end up with, say, Peter Goldfish Pikachu Smith. Another important consideration is deciding now which initial is going to go on the inevitable First Name, Middle Initial, Last Name forms. Voice of experience here: It can cause SERIOUS problems to have some of your paperwork under Peter G. Smith and some under Peter P. Smith.

September 15, 2010 11:05 AM
By Mau (not verified)

My parents let my sister and I whittle down the names for our younger sister. We were given a list of ten potential middle names, and the two of us got to bring it down to three. One of each of our favorites, and a third that we had to agree on. The third agreed on name won, and my little sister's middle name ended up Susan!

September 15, 2010 12:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My son has two middle names. He has my last name, so we decided his second middle name would be my husband's last name. It was the only compromise we both agreed on, not wanting to hyphenate his last name. He's only 10 mo old now, but so far it seems to have worked out fine.

September 15, 2010 11:10 PM
By A British Laura (not verified)

I only have one middle name myself, Elizabeth, as my mother's grandmothers were Doris Elizabeth and Ivy Elizabeth.
I don't have children myself yet, but am very interested in names.
Because my names both have a story I want to name my first daughter Elizabeth Lauran but would be wiling if the man I marry wanted a certain name to include it as a second middle name. Likewise with the name I will not compromise on for my first son, Martin David, after my brother David Martin who died at two weeks old.
I don't object to second middle names and I guess as I am British I wouldn't even think it pretentious.

September 16, 2010 9:24 AM
By Yana725 (not verified)

I think two MNs are awesome. My DD has two MN but only b/c my mom wanted to add a name b/c my DD is her 1st grandchild. At first I didn't like the idea but now I'm fine with it cause it has grown on me and her name describes her (her second MN is N'Talya-born on christmas day-she was due dec22 and born dec15 i didnt know this at the time. Now I am biased to give my second LO two MNs!!!

September 18, 2010 8:09 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My sister's first husband was from Scotland. Their two oldest have two middle names, the daughter for each of the grandmothers and the son for each of the grandfathers. I think this is a European tradition.

September 19, 2010 7:53 PM
By elleireland (not verified)

My sons have just one middle name each, but my daughters have two, because their first names are somewhat common. By adding the second MN, there are few if any other people in the world with their exact name. They love their names, and their friends are always pretending to have two middle names, as well.

September 20, 2010 8:28 AM
By AllieP (not verified)

I don't find it pretentious at all. I'm surprised that the name lady, who is usually so egalitarian when it comes to naming preferences, would! My husband has two middle names, one that follows his father's family tradition and one that is his mother's surname.

With our new baby, we're following the family tradition with the first name, and then the middle name is a name from our family. Since all three names are 3 syllables apiece, we decided to just stick to three.

October 1, 2010 9:24 AM
By Karma (not verified)

I have 2 MNs, as do my 3 brothers, and while I have to admit to disliking both of mine intensly (Violet Heather when I have the least green thumb on the face of the planet!), I don't see anything wrong with a child having 2 middle names. It's obviously more common than you were worried about!

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