Baby Naming Issue: Is it Okay To Use a Difficult Maiden Name as the Baby’s Middle Name?

Hi Swistle,

Sorry, there is no real baby in question here. But I have a dilemma in future baby naming that I think might interest you, regarding family surnames as middle names.

Typically, I am all for this tradition. In fact, my middle name is my mother’s maiden name – although her maiden name also happens to be a fairly common unisex first name. I love it and will definitely be passing it on to a future child – boy or girl – as a middle name.

But what about my own maiden name? When I married, I changed my last name to my husband’s name and actually dropped my maiden name completely, rather than moving it to the middle name slot as seems to be traditional in the American South. I did this for two reasons: first, my maiden name is extremely unusual and hard to spell and pronounce and I was tired 20+ years of dealing with it, and second, as I said above, my middle name is my mother’s maiden name. She has only sisters so the family name stopped in their generation, whereas I have a brother to carry on my father’s name.

That being said, I still love my maiden name and identify with it. Because it is so unusual, and my first name is common, I was always known as Firstnamelastname growing up, even by friends. My brother went by a nickname of our last name. My friends had contests to see who could learn how to spell it correctly. Having such a complicated name was a big part of my childhood and young adult identity, and I’d love to honor my family history by passing on this name as well.

Given that I didn’t even want to inflict my maiden name as a middle name on MYSELF, is this cruel to do to a child? I don’t want to share the actual name due to its uniqueness, but it is Slavic and along the lines of Tsyplakov in that it contains a letter combination that don’t occur in English. Additionally, my family pronounces the name with emphasis on the first syllable, which is traditional in the name’s country of origin but not how most Americans pronounce the name based on English phonetics.

My married name is a common, easy to pronounce German-derived surname… think Wagner.

My husband and I like extremely traditional, fairly common first names. To give you an idea our lists look like:

boys – Alan, David, Charles, Nathan, Walter, Henry, Joseph, Adam, George, William, John/Jack, Robert

girls – June, Anne, Claire, Margaret, Caroline, Julia, Ruth

We plan on using several family surnames as middle names for either gender – my middle name/mother’s maiden name, which is a unisex first name like Avery; my mother in law’s maiden name which is an animal name like Fox; my grandmother’s maiden name which is a familiar surname but not really first-namey… think Thompson. But I feel strange leaving out my own maiden name! These sound so dignified –

Anne Thompson Wagner
David Fox Wagner
June Avery Wagner

But then what about

John Tsyplakov Wagner

??? Can I do this? Do people do this? People in the South are all about surnames-as-first-names in the vein of Hudson, Hunter, Taylor, or even Smith or Anderson. And I know tons of people with western-European surnames as middle names (like Pace, Whitmore, Watson, Newman, and many of our past presidents). But what about when the maiden name is a hard-to-spell, hard-to-pronounce, clunky sounding Eastern European (or otherwise) name?

I would love to hear from you and readers. Apologies for my verbosity.



Okay! I think I am following this! Your parents gave you your father’s surname, and used your mother’s maiden name as your middle name. You would like to do the same for your child, because you still love your maiden name and have strong feelings about it. This sounds great to me! I say do it!

Your concern is that you dropped that surname when you got married, because it was too much trouble, so you wonder if maybe it’s cruel to give it to a child. But that was as a surname that it gave you so much trouble; as a middle name, it will hardly ever come up. And you dropped it in the extremely normal and typical way many women do when they get married. You kept your own mother’s maiden name as your middle name, rather than bumping it for your father’s surname as if your mom’s family name is less important, and I for one am glad you did. But I don’t think this AT ALL means that you can’t now pass down your maiden name.

My own maiden name is a hard-to-spell, hard-to-pronounce name including a letter combination not used in American English. I gave it to all the kids as their second middle name. That would be another option here:

Anne Thompson Tsyplakov Wagner
David Fox Tsyplakov Wagner
June Avery Tsyplakov Wagner
John Avery Tsyplakov Wagner

I know those seem like a lot of name written out—but my daughter has a name that is 30 letters long, which is longer than any of those names I just typed, and in her daily life she’s just Elizabeth Thistle and it doesn’t seem like too much name at all. The middle names all but vanish, brought out for special occasions such as new-patient paperwork.

I’ll add this: when my eldest graduated high school this past summer, and the man calling out names called out my son’s name, and one of those names was my maiden name (AND HE PRONOUNCED IT CORRECTLY), I felt so happy we’d used it, and I immediately started looking forward to that happening at all the other kids’ graduation ceremonies. If anything, I wished we’d given the kids a double surname instead of letting my family name drift into second-middle-name position.

I seem to have lost track of answering the question here. In short, I don’t see the situation AT ALL as you not wanting to take the name upon yourself and now inflicting it on a child. You just kept your own middle name, that’s all, which was your mom’s maiden name. Now you want to do the same naming pattern your parents used for you: your maiden name as the child’s middle name, your husband’s surname as the child’s surname. Your maiden name was difficult as a surname, but wouldn’t be in daily use as a middle name. There is no problem here. Do it. In fact, maybe do MORE of it. MAIDEN-NAME MIDDLE NAMES FOR EVERYONE!

14 thoughts on “Baby Naming Issue: Is it Okay To Use a Difficult Maiden Name as the Baby’s Middle Name?

  1. TheFirstA

    ITA with everything Swistle said.

    I also don’t think you should consider dropping your maiden as this big Non Traditional Thing. Yes, in the Southern US, it is considered traditional by some families (not all) for women to bump their maiden to the middle position when they get married. However, I do not know anyone who has ever gotten side-eye because she chose not to do this. What to do with your maiden name when you get married is really a totally separate decision from what middle name to give your child.

  2. Nessie

    I agree with Swistle: middle names aren’t used nearly as much as first/last names, so practical issues like pronunciation and spelling shouldn’t prevent you from choosing your maiden name as your child’s middle.

  3. Stephanie

    Agreed! Middle name spot is perfect for these types of cases. I did move my maiden name to the middle name spot when I got married, and it’s a long Slavic last name. No one ever has to say it out loud or spell it in normal, everyday life. And I like it there.

  4. Hope

    I was in an opposite situation. I married someone with a long, Polish last name. My maiden name was easy to spell and pronounce, but not super common (think Hendricks), and I identified strongly with my maiden name (my brother also had a nickname based on our last name), and I always wanted to give it to a son as a middle name. My 2 daughters have simple, easy to pronunce and spell firsts and middles, and when we found out we were having a boy I grappled with it being “too much” middle name with our last name. But I went with it, and I’m so glad I did. I LOVE seeing it in writing. I love that he’s carrying on both surnames.

    To answer your question wondering if it’s weird to have a two or three kids with easy to spell and pronounce middles names and then one with a complicated middle: you will rarely, if ever, list out all of your children’s full names all together. And if it ever does come into question you simply answer, “They’re all family surnames.” No one will think that’s strange.

  5. Martha

    I have a long Germanic maiden name, and I hyphenated it with my husband’s short and easy two syllable Welsh surname (thus my name sounds a lot like ‘Buckminster-Fuller’ but not quite as elegant) and my husband and kids are all just ‘Fuller’. It was super important to me to pass along my Mennonite family tradition of using maiden name as a middle for one of our kids. I love Love LOVE it, it gives me a thrill to say ‘Thaddeus Buckminster Fuller’ . The other kids have family honor middle names. My sister did like Swistle – maiden name as second middle. So her daughters are ‘Mary Wren Buckminster George’ and ‘Eva Bronwyn Buckminster George’ (not exactly those names, but you get the idea).
    All this is say that they are both LOVELY options and please do not hesitate to do it. You will be so happy you did.

  6. Christina Fonseca

    Anything goes in the middle name slot. Especially because the first and last names will not be difficult, I encourage you to pass the name along.

  7. Tori

    Just chiming in to say, Yes, Yes, YES to everything Swistle said and all the other comments. I’ve commented before, but it applies here, so I’ll say it again. I have deep, lingering (7 years to be exact) regrets over not giving our only (also a regret, but that’s for another day) child my maiden name as a middle name (or in the very least, a family middle name). My dad is the only boy (out of 6 kids) who had only girls and my maiden name is Beverly, so it would have made a perfect middle name on So many levels (my daughter & I would have shares middle & last names! It honors my dad! It’s a great story! If she doesn’t want to, it’s also a “real” name, so no explanation necessary! I said I’d use it as a middle way back in high school if I ever had a girl! blah, blah, blah). Anyway, if it’s important enough to you now (when you don’t have hormones making you crazy) to even pose the question, it will be important & make you smile & give you the warm fuzzies, etc. when attached to a real human. So, file all these wonderful comments away and read them again when the time comes and those doubts come back :)

  8. Dances with diapers

    Another vote to use your maiden name. And I’m in agreement that just because you “gave it up” doesn’t mean it’s a bad name to inflict on someone else. I gave up my maiden name because my middle name is also very meaningful, but I’m still considering using it for a child. It’s still my name and my identity and still honors my entire family, it’s just not on my driver’s license anymore.

  9. Phancymama

    Yes, use your maiden name as a middle, it is the perfect spot. And I bet it will create some fun nicknames from that spot too. FWIW, I’m from the south, and a majority of my friends who changed their names kept their original middle and simply dropped their last, so it doesn’t seem unusual that you did.
    My middle is my mom’s maiden, and I gave that to both my kids instead of my maiden, in large part because using my maiden would have been an awkward rhyming name: like Sarah Anderson Schmanderson. Some days I still feel sad I didn’t use my maiden.

  10. The Mrs.

    I’m going to very quietly be a voice for the other side of this debate.

    Your gut is saying, “I didn’t like this name. Why would my child?” And that’s an honest question! What if your child asked why you got rid of it? Then what?

    There are many ways to honor family. Don’t feel guilty if you choose not to pass this name down.

    1. Christine

      If her kid has questions down the line, she can always say she wanted to pass down her maiden name as a middle name the same way her mother did with her and how despite dropping it from her name when she was married she still continued to identify with it.

      I feel like that’s a reasonable response. And I really like the idea of creating a tradition of passing down the mother’s maiden name as a middle.

  11. Christine

    USE IT. I’m still kind of bummed I did not give my kids my maiden name as a second middle. I used my parents’ names as their middle names, but I wish I had given them my name. And cosign on all the statements above that a middle name isn’t like a last name – your kid won’t have to spell it out for people for the rest of days, most people if they use their middle at all just use an initial.

  12. Emily

    Do it! I was THIS close to using my maiden name as my third son’s middle name, but I changed my mind as I was filling out the birth certificate. I felt like my maiden name isn’t very attractive–kind of clunky and easily misspelled, like you–and I didn’t know if it was weird to give my third son the maiden name when I hadn’t done that for my first or second son. I don’t know. In the end, I went with sort of a filler middle name–although connected to my mom and grandma, and my grandma died a couple weeks after my son was born–so I am okay with it. But. I still kind of regret not using it with at least one of my kids…I am very proud of my family and my name, and it is a nice way to stay connected to that.

    (Plus my MIL likes to acts surprised and disappointed that we didn’t give any of our boys my husband’s first name as a middle…i would have liked to not only *not* give my husbands name, but use my maiden name instead. Oh well. I chose all the middles and they are connected to my family, which is good enough…we all have her last name, so she can deal with it!)


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