How to Choose a Great Middle Name

Filed under: Baby Names, Expert Advice: Pregnancy

No sooner had we declared the death of such old-style middle names as Ann, John and Marie -- mere connective tissue between the first name and the last -- than we started seeing the rise of a whole new generation of undistinguished middle names.

There are now officially enough little girls with the middle name Rose, thank you very much, and so, too, have we heard an awful lot of Grace, James, Claire, Lee and Rae for girls and Ray for boys.

Granted, middle names are not as important as first names, and may be rarely used after the birth announcements are printed. But that's no reason to default to whatever's easiest. In fact, the middle can be the perfect place to use a name that's more meaningful and distinctive than one you dare put in first place.


Here, some places to find distinctive middle names:

  • Honor thy mother, thy father and thy great uncle. If your family is barging into the baby-naming act, make peace by using a family name in the middle. We used both our's and our husband's grandmothers' names as middle names for our daughter, for instance, and revived a great-great-grandpa's distinguished but eccentric name as our older son's middle name.
  • Put a last name in the middle. Putting Mom's maiden name in the middle can be one good solution to the surname debates and a way to create family unity if both parents keep their original surnames. You can also revive a nearly-forgotten family surname as a middle name. Don't overlook ethnic choices such as O'Brien or DiMatteo that can make distinctive and meaningful middle names.
  • Make the middle name a place name. Did you honeymoon in Tahiti? Harbor a lifelong love of London? A place with family meaning, that you visited or where your baby was conceived can make a good middle name.
  • Pick a word, (almost) any word. Word names can make distinctive middle names. Obvious choices are True, Blue and Love, but other word name possibilities include nature names such as Lake and Pine, animal names like Fox or Lark, color names such as Crimson and Indigo, day names such as Winter or Midnight (both used by Nicole Richie) or spiritual names such as Answer or Peace.
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The Name Babes are Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, founders of Nameberry.com, innovators of baby-name content on the Web. Got a name craving? Learn more about baby names at Nameberry.com.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.
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