20 Things to Think About When Picking a Middle Name for Your Baby

Madeline Holler | Aug 26, 2019 Pregnancy
20 Things to Think About When Picking a Middle Name for Your Baby
Image: iStock

20 Things to Think About When Picking a Middle Name for Your Baby
iStock

Let's face it, naming a baby is fun. But most of the brainstorming, research, hand-wringing, and opinion-gathering focuses on first names. Middle names, while also important, are often more difficult to select because we don't always pay as much attention to them. But they can be extremely critical in the baby-naming process -- especially when you consider the three initials that will be involved. The wrong middle name can turn the otherwise lovely Alyssa Simpson into an elementary classroom laughing stock (just think if her parents gave her "Sabrina" as a middle name). It can also make the otherwise perfectly happy Brian Richard Anderson shy away from gym class or from ever getting anything monogrammed with his initials. And then there are other aspects of middle names that can be considered: Is this a great opportunity to honor some family heritage or honor a loved one? We rounded up some things to keep in mind before making a final decision. 

  • Meaning

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    Meaning
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    What does the middle name actually mean, or what does it translate to in English? A little research into names can help new parents find options to discover names whose meanings might feel important to the family.

  • Family Connection

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    Family Connection
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    Are there recurring names in either family? Or special last names that would work well as a middle name? Look through old family photo albums, or talk to relatives. Middle names can break some of the other baby-naming rules, so don't worry about sounding too old-fashioned or too obscure.

  • Family Tradition

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    Family Tradition
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    Is there a middle name designated for all firstborn children in either family? Or perhaps the family traditionally gives special middle names to kids born in winter or certain days of the week. Or perhaps there's a traditional name that wouldn't work as a first name, but would be perfect as a middle name.

  • Honoring Someone

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    Honoring Someone
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    When deciding on middle names, we might make a list of people -- relatives, friends, mentors --  we might like to honor. Children will love the connection they have to someone so special to their parents, and the honoree will be moved by such a tribute.

  • Initials

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    Initials
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    Of course, before making a final decision, write out the initials and make sure the three (or more) letters fit together nicely. You might want to avoid laughable initials. (Think: Three-letter swear words and bodily functions.)

  • Flow

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    Flow
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    Make sure the full name flows when it's said aloud. While middle names are a fine place for difficult-to-pronounce (or spell) names, make sure everything sounds clean and elegant together when said aloud. Everyone will be saying it a lot in the beginning.

  • Is It Available?

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    Is It Available?
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    Sharing middle names with friends' or other family members' kids is less fraught than first names, but it's still a bit of a minefield. It's always best to go with names not yet claimed in the immediate circle.

  • Spelling

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    Spelling
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    Nontraditional spellings of middle names are less of a pain than unconventional spellings of first names. But still, think about how the middle name is spelled and consider multiple spelling variations, then go with the one that feels right. 

  • Fits With the First Name

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    Fits With the First Name
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    Well-chosen middle names fit with the first names they follow. The two names sound nice together and have a kind of flow. Though not an ironclad rule, consider (or reconsider) first and middle names that rhyme, start with the same first letter, contain three or more syllables each, or when strung together sound potentially obnoxious or comical. (Think: Amanda Love and Ben Dover.)

  • Fits With the Last Name

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    Fits With the Last Name
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    Equally, make sure the middle name and last name flow together, without any inadvertent secondary meanings or misinterpretations. Depending on last names, double-check how they fit with middle names.

  • Better as a First Name

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    Better as a First Name
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    Would you secretly like the middle name to be a first name? When putting everything together, would honoring others, the initials, flow and general daily use of the proposed middle name work a lot better as a first name?

  • Birth Story

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    Birth Story
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    Middle names can be extremely traditional or they can be where parents go off-script and bring in unusual elements specific to their child's life. Valentine for a child born on Valentine's Day? Perry for the guy who introduced the parents? Paris, honoring the location of the child's conception? (...a story they can hear when they're much, much older).

  • Distinctive 

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    Distinctive
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    If your partner prefers more traditional first names, middle names are where we can go to have some fun. Why not pick something that's as distinctive as this amazing child? Names can be like mullets -- business in the front, party in the back.

  • Balance Out the First

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    Balance Out The First
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    Pair an unconventional first name with a middle name that feels more staid to set the child up for adult life. Supernova Morgan Starr becomes S. Morgan Starr in the professional world.

  • More Than One?

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    More Than One?
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    There's no rule that says we can only have one middle name. For anyone with two mothers-in-law to honor, go for it. For anyone who wants different middle names as well as their mother's last name, go for that, too. But for future forms and databases, it's best to skip hyphens.

  • Are Middle Names Necessary?

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    Are Middle Names Necessary?
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    Children don't necessarily need to have a middle name at all. If middle names are not in the family's culture, or if the parents simply don't desire a middle name because the first and last sound perfect together, that's OK, too.

  • Settle a Name Fight

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    Settle A Name Fight
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    For partners who are fighting over favorite first names, consider designating one as the middle name. Equally, for anyone who has two favorite names or two people who would be nice to honor with the birth of a child, play with the order and see which has the nicest flow.

  • Let the Child Decide

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    Let Your Child Decide
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    Why not let a child pick his own middle name? Skip the middle name at birth, and when the child turns 10 or 13 or 18 (or any significant age), let him make the choice. Be the wacky, cool parents!

  • Honor the Family's Culture

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    Honor The Family's Culture
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    Middle names are a great place to honor family culture, whether we were raised in it or not. Look to naming conventions and trends in a culture of origin or partner's culture of origin. Giving the next generation a connection to a heritage is a great gift.

  • Twins With Matching Names

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    Twins With Matching Names
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    Twins with matching or rhyming names isn't much of a trend anymore. But middle names are a great place to honor your twins' twinness. Chloe and Zoe, Madeline and Adeline, Aiden and Cayden, or Daniel and Nathaniel.

  • Pin It!

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    Things to Consider When Picking a Middle Name for Baby Pinterest Image

    Add this graphic to your Pinterest boards as a useful reference for considering upon picking a middle name for your beloved baby.

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