What’s in a middle name? More than you think!

Middle names… Perhaps you have one. Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you have several. Perhaps you have one so weird and embarrassing that you’ll only reveal it on pain of death.

Once considered an afterthought, people are increasingly paying attention to what middle names they bestow upon their children. If you are in the process of choosing a middle name for your baby, or whether they’ll even have one at all, then read on!


This wouldn’t be a true Crew Captain blog without a short history lesson.

Middle names were thought to originate with aristocratic Romans, who were given three names – a personal name, a family name, and another name to indicate which branch of the family they were from. The more names they had, the more esteemed their position (case in point – women tended to have only two names; slaves had one).

During the Middle Ages, Europeans started naming their children with a given name first, baptismal name second, and then the family name. This tradition spread through emigration to the Americas and other countries.

Today, people use middle names for reasons other than religion, such as to add individuality or to honour a family member.


Whether or not you give your child a middle name is a personal decision and there are no rights and wrongs. Or are there?

Here is a list of the advantages of having a middle name versus not having one.

The benefits of having a middle name

  • It provides a point of differentiation for people who have a common first name and/or surname.
  • It’s a great way to compromise if you and your partner can’t agree on your baby’s name, or if you like more than one name..
  • It gives your child an easy alternative name option when they are older.
  • You can uphold family naming traditions without saddling your kid with a first name like Morag.
  • Making cool words out of the initials is a lot easier with more than two letters.
  • It will improve your child’s future job prospects – yes, really! A recent study showed that the presence of a middle name increased the perceived status and intelligence of that person.

The benefits of having NO middle name

  • It gives you one less decision to grapple with.
  • It’s one less name for your child to hate.
  • The fewer initials a name has, the lower the likelihood that it will spell a dirty word.
  • It shows you have conviction over the chosen name – no need to dilly-dally around with piddly runner-up names.
  • On average, it’ll take you (and later, your child) less time to fill out forms.
  • If you work in the Irish public service, having no middle name means you will automatically be given an X as your middle initial. Not X for Xavier or X for Xylophia. Just X.  Sounds totally bad-ass, right?

Middle name - form

A middle name will make this form longer to fill out. But it will also increase the probability of being hired.


Here is a list of popular middle names for Australian babies born in 2017.


1. Rose
2. Grace
3. May
4. Jane
5. Anne
6. Marie
7. Elizabeth
8. Louise
9. Jade
10. Lee


1. James
2. John
3. William
4. Thomas
5. Robert
6. Alexander
7. Michael
8. David
9. George
10. Peter

Looking at these lists, it’s interesting to note that:

1) Many of the most popular middle names are not commonly used as first names – this is particularly true for female names; and

2) Middle name trends move far more slowly than first name trends, with many middle names remaining popular decade after decade.

So what makes some names more ‘middle name-y’ than others?

For girls, the most likely reason is rhythm. Names with one syllable (e.g. Jade, Ann) fit easily with just about every first name. This is also the case with names where the emphasis on the second syllable (e.g. Louise, Marie) or names with four syllables (e.g. Elizabeth).

For boys, cadence seems to be less important than honouring a relative, as can be seen by names like David and Michael (which were popular boys’ first names 40 or more years ago).

Middle name - Wilbur


Even the rich and famous aren’t immune to a dodgy middle name. Check out the examples below for laughs/inspiration.

Kate Garry Hudson

Richard Tiffany Gere

Elton Hercules John

Rain Joan of Arc Phoenix (nee Bottom)

Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland

Embed from Getty Images

I can’t believe you called me Garry.


What middle names do you and your children have?