We rarely use middle names in our everyday lives so why do we have middle names? Sure, your middle name is on your driver’s license and your middle initial might be on a credit card or two, but what purpose do middle names really serve. You might have thought your middle name was given to you so your parent could say all three of your names to let you know you’re in the deepest of deep trouble. But, there’s more to it than that!
To answer why we do we have middle names, we will have to take a walk back in time to ancient Rome. The Romans had a complex naming system for men which included a personal name or praenomen, a family name called a nomen, and a cognomen which indicated hierarchy within the family structure. The more names a person obtained, the more distinguished they were considered.
Why Do We Have Middle Names? A Look at Ancient Rome
The most famous example of this can be found in Gaius Julius Caesar’s moniker which included a whole lot of name. The naming culture of the Ancient Romans was enjoyed almost exclusively by Roman men as women could only have two names and slaves a single appellation.
Why Do We Have Middle Names? They Spread from Rome Across Europe and Into Asia
The practice spread across Europe and eventually to the Middle East. It became fashionable for aristocrats to shoulder their children with long, complicated names. A single child could accumulate dozens of names!
The trend spread throughout the Spanish and Arab worlds in a slightly different fashion with parents using a family name from previous generations in the middle spot to honor the family tree.
Why Do We Have Middle Names? A Look at Medieval Practices That Evolved to Today’s Naming Cultures
This practice continued but it was not until the Middle Ages that we find a practice that informs how we use middle names today. With the rise of Christianity and the Roman Catholic church, parents were torn between giving their child a family name or the name of a saint. Many decided the best solution was to put a given name first, a baptismal name second, and a surname third.
Coming to America
The practice established in the Middle Ages really took hold. This was true among Puritans and others who would go on to colonize the Americas.
Over time, American society became more secular and less religious and as parents became less tethered to religious tradition, our middle names began to transform entirely.
Why Do We Have Middle Names Today? Our Parents Couldn’t Kick the Habit
The next big development in our middle names saw new parents choosing a mother’s maiden to go in the middle spot as a way to keep the name within the family, not too dissimilar from what the Spanish and Arabic speakers were doing before the middle ages.
Why Do We Have Middle Names?
At least we’re not saddling children with dozens of names any longer but not much has changed for centuries when it comes to middle names today. You might be wondering what names parents are choosing today for that middle spot. Below you will find a list of some of the most popular middle names in America today!
The Most Popular Middle Names for Girls Today
- Victoria – From Latin, meaning “victory”
- Kate – From English, meaning “pure”
More Popular Middle Names for Girls
- Catherine – Another form of Katherine, meaning “pure”
- Amy – From French, meaning “beloved”
More Trending Middle Names for Girls
- Mary – From Hebrew and Egyptian, meaning “drop of the sea,” “bitter,” and “beloved”
- Marie – Marie is a French form of Mary, it has the exact same meaning
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More Popular Middle Names Today
- May – A seasonal appellation, considered a diminutive form of Margaret and Mary, sharing the same meaning as Mary
- Mae – A sophisticated alternative to May, also a diminutive of Mary and Margaret, sharing the same meaning
Check Out These Hot Names
- Ann – Ann is the English translation of a Hebrew name that gives us Hannah, meaning “grace”
- Anne – Anne with an “E” comes from the French tradition and is an alternative form of Ann or Hannah it also means “grace”
Even More Middle Names
- Elizabeth – Elizabeth is an English name with Hebrew origins, meaning “pledged to God”
- Jane – Jane is a most friendly name that plays very well with just about any first name, which is why it is so popular today, the name has English origins and means “God is gracious”
More Middle Names
- Grace – Grace is an English virtue name, beloved by religious parents for its holy meaning
- Rose – Rose is an English flower name
More Middle Names for Girls
- Jean – Jean is a much more popular choice than Jane in the US, the name means “God is gracious”
- Louise – The most popular middle name for girls in the UK today, Louis has French origins and means “renowned warrior”
What Are the Most Popular Middle Names for Boys?
- Anthony – From Latin, meaning “priceless one,” not venturing too far from what the Ancient Romans were doing!
- Scott – An English name, meaning “from Scotland”
Why Do We Have Middle Names? So Parents Can Use These Popular Appellations!
- George – A name with Greek origins that means “farmer”
- Ray – A German name for boys, coming from Raymond, which used to be the most popular form of the name that means “wise protector”
More Common Middle Names for Boys
- Charles – Charles is an appellation from French origins by way of German, meaning “free man”
- Matthew – From Hebrew origins, meaning “gift of God”
More Middle Names
- Daniel – A Hebrew name, meaning “God is my judge”
- Henry – From German origins, meaning “estate ruler”
Even More Middle Names
- Joseph – A Hebrew name that means “God is my judge”
- Michael – Another name from Hebrew, meaning “who is like God?”
More Middle Names for Boys
- Christopher – From Latin, originally Greek, meaning “bearer of Christ”
- Alexander – Also from Greek, meaning “defending men”
Why Do We Have Middle Names? People Still Like Choosing the Names of Saints
- Andrew – A name from Greek origins, meaning “strong, manly”
- Peter – A Greek name originally, meaning “rock”
More Popular Middle Names for Boys
- Robert – An English name from German, meaning “bright fame”
- Edward – Another English name, Edward means “wealthy guardian”
More Popular Middle Names
- David – A Hebrew name, meaning “beloved”
- Lee – An English name, meaning “meadow”
Trending Middle Names Today
- William – An English name from German, meaning “resolute protector”
- Thomas – An ancient Aramaic name, meaning “twin”
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Wrapping the Most Popular Middle Names Up!
- John – A Hebrew name, meaning “God is gracious”
- Wayne – Only popular as a middle name choice after 1950, Wayne has English origins and means “maker of wagons”
Now you know the most popular middle names in the U.S. today and the answer to the question: Why do we have middle names? Can you believe this tradition started with the ancient Romans and still continues to this day? We suppose there are stranger things that we have been doing for longer like piercing our ears! But, the real answer to the question: Why do we have middle names? Can be attributed to our parents. They keep making that choice. Will you?
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 Why Do We Have Middle Names? A Look at Ancient Rome
- 2 Why Do We Have Middle Names? They Spread from Rome Across Europe and Into Asia
- 3 Why Do We Have Middle Names? A Look at Medieval Practices That Evolved to Today’s Naming Cultures
- 4 Coming to America
- 5 Why Do We Have Middle Names Today? Our Parents Couldn’t Kick the Habit
- 6 Why Do We Have Middle Names?
- 7 The Most Popular Middle Names for Girls Today
- 8 More Popular Middle Names for Girls
- 9 More Trending Middle Names for Girls
- 10 More Popular Middle Names Today
- 11 Check Out These Hot Names
- 12 Even More Middle Names
- 13 More Middle Names
- 14 More Middle Names for Girls
- 15 What Are the Most Popular Middle Names for Boys?
- 16 Why Do We Have Middle Names? So Parents Can Use These Popular Appellations!
- 17 More Common Middle Names for Boys
- 18 More Middle Names
- 19 Even More Middle Names
- 20 More Middle Names for Boys
- 21 Why Do We Have Middle Names? People Still Like Choosing the Names of Saints
- 22 More Popular Middle Names for Boys
- 23 More Popular Middle Names
- 24 Trending Middle Names Today
- 25 Wrapping the Most Popular Middle Names Up!
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