married person

Married and maiden names

A maiden name is a term used in some cultures where a woman changes her family name as a result of marriage. The maiden name is the family name she had prior to the marriage ceremony, while the "married name" is the name she uses from the date of the marriage ceremony. Typically, the maiden name is the name used by the woman since her birth. The term is ambiguous for those who changed their birth name before any marriages, therefore some prefer the term "birth name", which can also be used in the case of a man changing his name upon marriage.

The maiden name is sometimes indicated using the word "née" (pronounced "nay", ), the feminine form of the French word for "born", e.g. "Margaret Hilda Thatcher née Roberts". In the case of a man, the word used is "né" (i.e. the masculine form of the French word). It is sometimes written without the diacritic, i.e. "nee". It can also be expressed parenthetically, e.g. "Margaret Hilda (Roberts) Thatcher".

Normally a name change requires a legal procedure, however in some jurisdictions anyone who either marries or divorces may change their name if they wish. Traditionally in the Anglophone West, only women do so, but more men are changing their last names after marriage as well.

Customs relating to maiden names in marriages

English-speaking world

Use husband's family name

Historically, a woman in England would assume her new husband's family name (or surname) after marriage to him, and this remains common practice in the United Kingdom today as well as in common law countries and countries where English is spoken, including Australia, New Zealand, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Ireland, the English-speaking provinces of Canada, and the United States. Sometimes, the women's maiden surname now becomes her middle name replacing any she had prior to marriage. Usually, the children of the marriage are then given their father's surname so that the mother's surname is not used by any of her descendants. Some families have a custom of using the mother's maiden name as a given name for one of the children.

This practice means that a woman inherits her surname from her father and changes it to match her husband's surname (which he inherited from his father). This name change custom has been criticized for a number of reasons. It can be construed as meaning the woman's father and then husband had control over her, and it means that lines of male descent (patrilinearity) are seen as primary—that a child has no inherited name tying him or her to female ancestors (matrilinearity).

However, some women choose to retain their own surnames after marriage, either using it alone or as part of their name in conjunction with their husbands' surnames. Some people also use their married names in certain aspects of their lives (e.g., their personal and social lives), while using their maiden name in other instances (e.g., professionally).

Use birth name

Persons who keep their own surname after marriage do so for a number of reasons. Objection to the inequality of the tradition is one such reason; another is that it may create an offensive or embarrassing name combination; others simply prefer their own surname to that of their spouse's family; and some people dislike undergoing the difficulties and expenses required in a legal name change. For many, the decision to keep or change their birth name is a difficult one. This process is expedited for newly married persons in that their marriage certificate in combination with identification using their birth name is usually accepted as evidence of the change, due to the widespread custom, but the process still requires approaching every contact who uses the old name and asking them to use the new. Unless the statutes where the marriage occurred specify that a name change may occur at marriage (in which case the marriage certificate indicates the new name), the courts have officially recognized that such a change is a result of the common law right of a person (man, woman, and sometimes child) to change their name. There were some early cases which held that under the common law, a woman was required to take her husband's name, but newer and better researched cases overturned those.

The American suffragist and abolitionist Lucy Stone (1818–1893), made a national issue of the right to keep one's own surname as part of her efforts for women's rights in the U.S. Women who choose not to use their husbands' surnames have been called "Lucy Stoners" ever since. A person retaining his or her surname after marriage may encounter difficulties with having people correctly use his or her name. Many people who know of the marriage will simply assume that he or she has the same surname as his or her spouse and will use that name to introduce and address him or her. Alternatively, people who are aware that a couple have different surnames may not realise that they are married.

Some people retain use of their own surname for particular situations, and use their spouse's surname in others. This is particularly common among people who have a professional career in which advancement depends on work associated with their name, such as an academic career. These people do not want to risk having their pre-marriage work no longer associated with them and may use their birth name as their surname in professional dealings but use their spouse's surname in social contexts. Many people, celebrities in particular, are so associated with their birth name in the public that they continue to use it professionally even if they have changed it legally. Many registered nurses go by their birth name professionally as it is the name they were registered with at a young age, prior to marriage.

On the other hand there are many countries where it is customary for people to keep their own names. In Civil Law countries people keep their own names for official purposes, but what name they use for social purposes vary. Muslim women traditionally do not change their last names. Also, genealogists keep track of people by their birth names.

Join both names

It is not uncommon for women, especially in the U.S. and Canada, to combine their spouse's name with their own birth name (and it is increasingly common for men in those countries to do so, although still a rarity). Which name is placed first reflects personal preference. For example, if "Jane Marie Wilson" marries "John Smith", she might become "Jane Marie Wilson-Smith" or "Jane Marie Smith-Wilson". Sometimes both spouses will adopt the joint surname. A hyphenated name would be ordered (in a phonebook or catalog, for instance) under the first letter of whichever name had been placed first.

In some cases, the combined last name is not hyphenated; however both names are considered to be part of the last name (as opposed to either one being a second middle name). In the above example, she might become "Jane Marie Wilson Smith", where "Wilson Smith" is the last name, and "Marie" is the only middle name.


Couples who have different surnames make different choices about their children's surname(s). Various alternatives are used:

  • Most commonly, children are given the surname of one parent, usually the father's.
  • Female children are given the mother's surname, and male children the father's.
  • Female children are given the father's surname, and male children the mother's.
  • Children are given the hyphenated surname consisting of their mother's and father's surname, in either order.

The hyphenated surname has the advantage of enabling the tracing back of both parental lines. However, it requires the next generation, who have the surnames of all four grandparents, to make a decision about the surname(s) for their own children. One solution some couples have used when both parents had hyphenated last names is for the mother to contribute her mother's name and the father his father's to form a new hyphenated last name for themselves and their children.

Birth name as middle name

In the United States, a recently married person who changes his or her last name to his or her spouse's last name, often also changes his or her middle name to his or her birth name or adds the birth name as a second middle name. However, in daily life, he or she may choose to use only the first name and new last name, or the first name, original middle name, and new last name. Of women who change their last name at marriage, 25% use their birth surname as a middle name.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, married women will remain registered under their birth name, but may choose to use their husband's last name socially or join both names. The latter option is most popular, usually in the format of his surname followed by her birth surname, with a hyphen in between.


In Belgium a woman must use her birth name for official purposes, and will use her birth name for most private purposes too.

Canada (Québec)

In all Canadian provinces except Québec, customs relating to maiden names in marriages are the same as in the rest of the English-speaking world. In Québec, however, the custom until 1981 was similar to that in France. Women would traditionally go by their husband's surname in daily life, but their maiden name remained their legal name. Since the passage of a 1981 provincial law, intended to promote gender equality as outlined in the Quebec Charter of Rights, no change may be made to a person's name without the authorization of the registrar of civil status or the authorization of the court. Newlyweds who wish to change their names upon marriage must therefore go through the same procedure as those changing their names for other reasons. The registrar of civil status may authorize a name change if: 1) the name the person generally uses does not correspond to the name on their birth certificate, 2) where the name is of foreign origin or too difficult to pronounce or write in its original form, or 3) where the name invites ridicule or has become infamous. This law does not allow a woman to immediately legally change her name upon marriage, as marriage is not listed among the reasons for a name change. However, she can use her husband's name socially and may eventually apply to change it under the "general use" clause.


Since the 1789 Revolution, the law stipulates that "no one may use another name than that given on their birth certificate ; furthermore, the 1946 revision to the Constitution guarantees that "women and men have equal rights", including in the use of their birth name. Upon getting married, a woman keeps her maiden name (nom de jeune fille). She may, under her maiden name, for examples, open a bank account, sign checks, obtain a passport, etc. However, marriage grants a married person the right to assume his or her spouse's last name. It is still a common practice for a woman to use her husband's name in this way, despite the fact that no official due process formalizes this usage. The majority of married women use their husband's name for all documents, official or not. The article 246 of the French penal code does however stipulate that "upon divorcing both spouses lose the right to use each other's name".

A married person who wishes to formally append a spouse's name to his or her birth name may do so through a simple administrative procedure. In recent years, this trend has gained popularity, especially among upper class women and among women who received a university diploma (MD, PhD) under their maiden name. For example, the president's new wife is called Madame Bruni Sarkozy in which "Bruni" is her birth name and "Sarkozy" her husband's name. Some husbands append their wife's last name to their birth name, although this remains rare.


In Germany, the name law is ruled by sexual equality since 1994: the woman can adopt her husband's name or the man may adopt his wife's surname. One of them—man or woman—may use a combined name of both surnames. The remaining single name is the "family name" (Ehename), which will be the surname of the children. If man and woman decide to keep and use their birth names after wedding as before (no combined name), they have to declare one of those names the "family name". A combined name is not possible as family name (exception: since 2005 it is possible to have a double name as family name if man or woman already had a double name and the partner adopts that name. All family members must use that double name). If someone wishes to indicate his birth name, he will append it with "geb." (short for "geboren" = "born"), e.g. "Anne Lübke geb. Schlüter".


Only since the beginning of the 1900s has it been common in Scandinavia for women to take their husband's last name. However, since the women's liberation movement in the 1970s, more women have chosen to keep their original name as had been the custom for centuries. Most of the women who change their name take their husband's name as a "middle name" and use their maiden name as their surname(citation needed). Since a person cannot have two surnames in the official registries, women often register the married name as a middle name. There is a perception that well educated women with a career do this more often. The most common Swedish surnames end with "-son", which means "son of" in English. Until recently, surnames ending with "-dottir" ("daughter of" in English) were not so common, but recent legislation allows any daughter to take her mother's or father's name and add "-dottir" as a surname. A daughter of Sven can thus take the name "Svensdottir" meaning "daughter of Sven". The same rules apply to sons that can take the name "Svensson" meaning "son of Sven" or, very uncommon so far but allowed, their mother's name ending with "-son", like "Mariason" if their mother's name is Maria. This is very similar to the system used in Iceland applied to a greater extent. However, very few people take surnames like this in Sweden. Most people use the traditional structure(citation needed). Icelandic names adhere to the old patronymic system (a child receives a parent's—–usually the father's––first name with -son or -dottir appended). An Icelandic woman customarily retains her maiden names upon marrying, because regardless of whom she marries she remains her parent's daughter.

Spanish-speaking world

In Spain and in most Spanish-speaking countries, the practice is for people to have two surnames, a paternal and a maternal surname (their father's surname followed by their mother's surname). For example, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's full name is "Pedro Almodóvar Caballero", Almodóvar being his father's surname and Caballero being his mother's surname.

In Spain and especially Catalonia the paternal and maternal surnames are often combined using y (Castilian) or i (in Catalan), see for example the economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin or Salvador Dalí i Domènech.

In Spain, a woman does not ever change her legal surnames when she marries. In some Spanish-speaking countries (those in Latin America), a woman marrying a man may drop her mother's surname and add her husband's surname to her father's surname using the "de" (of) preposition. For example, if "Clara Reyes Alba" were to marry "Alberto Gómez Rodriguez", the wife could use "Clara Reyes de Gómez" as her name (or "Clara Reyes Gómez", or, rarely, "Clara Gómez Reyes". She can be addressed as Sra. de Gómez corresponding to "Mrs Gómez"). In some countries, this form may be mainly social and not an official name change, i.e., legally, her name would still be her birth name. This custom of adding the husband's surname is slowly fading.

Any children a couple have together take both surnames, so if the couple above had two children named "Andrés" and "Ana", then their names would be "Andrés Gómez Reyes" and "Ana Gómez Reyes". In Spain, a 1995 reform in the law allows the parents to choose whether the father's or the mother's surname goes first, although this order must be the same for all their children. For instance, the son of the couple in the example above would be "Andrés Gómez Reyes" or "Andrés Reyes Gómez". Sometimes, for single mothers or when the father would or could not recognize the child, the mother's surname has been used twice: for example, "Ana Reyes Reyes". In Spain, however, children with just one parent receive both surnames of that parent, although the order may also be changed.

It should be noted that some Hispanic people, after leaving their country, drop their maternal surname (even if not formally), so as to better fit into the English-speaking or non-Hispanic society they live or work in. Dropping the paternal surname is not so unusual when it is a very common one. For instance, painter Pablo Ruiz Picasso and Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero are known by their maternal surnames as "Picasso" and "Zapatero".

A new trend in the United States for Hispanics is to hyphenate their father's and mother's last names. This is done because American born English-speakers are not aware of the Hispanic custom of using two last names and thus mistake the first last name of the individual for a middle name. In doing so they would, for example, mistakenly refer to Esteban Alvarez Cobos as Esteban A. Cobos. Such confusion can be particularly troublesome in official matters. To avoid such mistakes, Esteban Alvarez Cobos, would become Esteban Alvarez-Cobos, in order to clarify that both are last names.


In Argentina, women use their husband's last name after "de". There are some province offices where a married woman can use only her birth name, and some others where she has to use the complete name, for legal purposes. The Argentine Civilian Code states both uses are correct, but police offices and passports are expedited/emitted with the complete name.

When Eva Duarte married Juan Domingo Perón, she could be addressed as Eva Duarte de Perón, but the preferred style was Eva Perón, or the familiar and affectionate Evita (little Eva). Combined names come from old traditional families and are considered one last name, but are rare. This is due to the fact that although Argentina is a Spanish speaking country, it is composed of varied European influences, such as Italian, French, Russian, German, etc.

Children typically use their father's last name only. Some state offices have started to use both last names, in the traditional father then mother order, to reduce the risk of a person being mistaken for others using the same name combinations, e.g. if Eva Duarte and Juan Perón had a child named Juan, he might be misidentified if he were called Juan Perón, but not if he was known as Juan Perón Duarte.

(Warning: Since early 2008, some new law projects are in process related to Childrens last name. The idea is to place the mothers last name ahead the fathers last name, like it is done in most of the Portuguese countries)


In Chile marriage has no effect at all on either of the spouses' names, so people remain with their birth names for all their life, no matter how many times their marital status, or their parents', may change. Children will always bear the surname of the father followed by that of the mother, but if there's no known father and the mother is single, the Children can bear either both of her mother's surnames or the mothers' first surname followed by any of the surnames of the mothers' parents or grandparents.

Portuguese-speaking world

In general, the traditions followed in countries like Portugal, Brazil and Angola are similar to the ones of Spain. Differing from Spanish tradition, usually the mother's surname comes first, followed by the father's surname. A woman may adopt her husband's surname(s), but nevertheless she always keeps her birth names - since 1977, a husband can also adopt his wife's surname, and this is also becoming common. When this happens, usually both spouses change their name after marriage.

The custom of a woman changing her name upon marriage was not a Portuguese tradition. It spread in the late 19th century in the upper classes, under French influence, and in the 20th century, particularly during the Estado Novo, it became socially almost obligatory. Nowadays, fewer women adopt, even officially, their husbands' names, and among those who do so officially, it is quite common not to use it either in their professional or informal life.

Until the end of the nineteenth century it was common for women, especially those from a very poor background, not to have a surname and so to be known only by her first name. She would then adopt her husband's full surname after marriage. With the advent of republicanism in Brazil and Portugal, along with the institution of civil registries, all children have surnames so this situation no longer occurs.

For the children, it is common to hear only the last surnames of the parents. For example, Tomás da Silva Gonçalves and Liliana de Albuquerque Feier (Gonçalves) (in case she adopted her husbands name after marriage) would have a child named Jonas Feier Gonçalves. Again, the child may have any other combination of the parents' surnames.


In Italy from 1975 a woman keeps her birth name legally. Socially, she may add her husband's name to end of her name: for example, Maria Rossi marries Carlo Bianchi and therefore she can use the form Maria Rossi Bianchi. However it is also common to refer to a woman with just her husband's surname.

Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, & Macau

Chinese women do not change their surnames after marriage. During the imperial times, many women assumed the husband's surname, which replaced the woman's maiden name. However, most notable women of those times did not change surnames after marriage, for example, Cai Wenji (蔡文姬), Wu Zetian (Empress, 武則天), Yang Yuhuan (楊玉環), Li Qingzhao (Poet, 李清照). Some women, mostly poor, do not have personal names and are simply called by their family names suffixed with shi; in this case, the husband's surname is added before the maiden name after marriage. This tradition is no longer commonly practiced in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau, although on most pages of phone books in Taiwan and Hong Kong, one can still find a few women's names with their husband's surname prefixed.


Korean women do not change their names upon marriage. By name alone, a woman cannot be identified as someone's wife. Neither are they addressed in a fashion similar to 'Mrs. (Husband's family name)'. They are simply addressed by their family name; however, it is more specifically 'wife of (husband's family name)' when the relation has to be known. Women emigrating to cultures where it is customary to take on their husband's names may not choose to change, especially if they are professionals. However, they may let themselves be addressed as 'Mrs. (husband's family name)' in addition to, for example, 'Dr. (her maiden name)'.


Vietnamese women do not change their names upon marriage.


In some North Indian families, women have always used their birth surnames or some typical universal female surnames such as Devi, Kaur, Bano, etc., while in other families, a woman adopts her husband's surname after marriage. In most of south India (excluding Andhra Pradesh), a Hindu woman adopts her husband's first name instead of his family name after marriage. In Andhra Pradesh, a woman adopts her husband's surname as her own. In Maharashtra, a woman may adopt her husband's first name as her middle name, in addition to taking his surname. In some orthodox Brahmin families, a new bride might change her full name to one her in-laws prefer.

In Kerala amongst Muslims, the husband's name and surname are added to the wife's name. In example, if Jameela Khader Elongavan marries Habeeb Syed Pokakilath, she would change her name to Jameela Habeeb Pokakilath. One notable exception is the Tamil Muslim community where women continue to use their maiden names after marriage as the concept of surname is non-existent and also as a precaution against discrimination of converts based on their pre-Islamic caste identities.

Christians generally follow the Western custom. Hindu women normally keep their birth names, but in the new generation, adding the husband's name is also observed.

For many of an Indian woman's official documents, the husband's name or father's name has to be mentioned as a legal guardian (eg. applying for passport, applying for a bank account, etc.). This is irrespective of whether the woman is considered a minor or an adult.

In the state of Meghalaya, nobody changes any names ever. Everyone is known by the birth name for life. The birth first name is the the name the parents choose for their child e.g. Moonlight and the last name is, by default, the mother's last name.


In Japan, marriage law requires that married couples share a surname because they must belong to the same koseki (household). Although it is customary for the wife to join her husband's family and thus take his surname, the husband may instead join his wife's family and take her surname. The latter is customary if the wife is the last of her family, particularly if her lineage has some significance. Eldest sons are more likely to keep their family names than younger sons. Foreigner men who marry Japanese women usually join their wife's koseki. An example of this is Koizumi Yakumo, (born Lafcadio Hearn), a Greek-born Irishman who took his Japanese wife's name.

In the Japanese language it is common to avoid second and third person pronouns and instead refer to a person in conversation by their surname plus a title such as san which may indicate the relative rank, profession, or gender of the person but not his or her marriage status. Many women who have well established careers or circles of friends may wish to continue to be referred to by their maiden name after they marry in order to maintain continuity at work or among their acquaintances. However this is an informal practice not recognized by law, and a wife and husband may not use separate surnames in official settings. Although women's rights groups have attempted to introduce legislation that would allow married couples to maintain separate surnames, a practice which in Japanese is referred to as fūfu bessei (夫婦別姓, literally: 'husband-wife, different-surname'), such legislation has not yet been enacted.

The Philippines

Christians (as well as certain Muslims, Chinese Filipinos, and others) in the Philippines have traditionally followed naming patterns practiced throughout the Spanish-speaking world; i.e., the practice of having the father's surname followed by the mother's surname; the two being connected by the particle "y", which means "and" (ex. Juan Agbayani y Lopez). However, this practice changed when the Philippines became a United States colony in the early half of the 20th century. The order was reversed to the conventional American form "Given name-Middle name-Surname", which in this case is actually "Given name-Mother's maiden surname-Father's surname" (i.e. Juan Lopez Agbayani or simply Juan L. Agbayani). The particle "y" was also dropped.

Currently, the middle name is usually, though not always, the mother's maiden name followed by the father's surname. This is the opposite of what is done in Spanish-speaking countries and is similar to the way surnames are done in Portugal and Brazil.

When a woman marries, she usually adopts the surname of her husband and uses her father's surname (her maiden surname) as her middle name, dropping her mother's maiden name (her former middle name). When a woman whose full maiden name is Maria Santos Cojuangco (where her mother's maiden surname is "Santos", and her father's surname is "Cojuangco") marries a man by the name of Juan L. Agbayani, her full name would become Maria Cojuangco Agbayani. For the sake of brevity, she would be usually known at the very least as Maria Agbayani; her maiden name is usually not mentioned or it may simply be abbreviated as an initial (i.e. Maria C. Agbayani). In many cases, her maiden name may be mentioned. Consequently, her children will have Cojuangco as a middle name. (ex. their child, Rafael Dominic, will have a full name of Rafael Dominic Cojuangco Agbayani or Rafael Dominic C. Agbayani). Up until the middle of the 20th century, it was common for married Filipino women to insert the particle "de" ("of") in between the Maiden surname and Husband's surname (as in Maria Cojuangco de Agbayani or Maria C. de Agbayani), another common Spanish naming custom. However, this practice is no longer common.

Married Filipino women who are professionals may choose to hyphenate their surnames (i.e. Maria Cojuangco-Agbayani, instead of simply Maria Agbayani or Maria C. Agbayani) , at least in professional use, and use it socially even if legal documents follow the above naming pattern.

Hungarian married names

From Hungarian name#Married names

There is a wide range of selection of a married name. In the past (up to about the 18th century) noble women kept their names at marriage and children received their father's name. (Non-nobles usually did not have a last name at all; it became compulsory only under the reign of Joseph II.) When Hungary was under Habsburg rule and became influenced by Western European traditions, women became known by their husbands' names, e.g. Szendrey Júlia, marrying Petőfi Sándor, became Petőfi Sándorné (the -né suffix approximately means "wife of", this is the Hungarian equivalent of "Mrs. John Smith"). This was both the law and the tradition until the 1950s. During the Communist era of Hungary, great emphasis was put upon the equality of women and men, and from that time women could either choose to keep their birth names or took that of their husbands in the aforementioned form. Still, most women took their husbands' names; most of the exceptions were artists.

Currently, the alternatives for a woman when she marries are the following (using the example of Szendrey Júlia and Petőfi Sándor – Júlia and Sándor are their given names, respectively):

  • Júlia can keep her birth name Szendrey Júlia (now very popular, especially among more educated women)
  • Júlia gives up her name, adds the suffix -né to her husband's full name, and will be called Petőfi Sándorné (rare among young brides)
  • Júlia adds the suffix -né to her husband's family name, adds her full name and will be called Petőfiné Szendrey Júlia
  • Júlia adds the suffix -né to her husband's full name, adds her full name and will be called Petőfi Sándorné Szendrey Júlia (not very popular these days, because it is long to write it down)
  • Júlia takes her husband's family name, keeps her given name and will be called Petőfi Júlia (the Western custom – somewhat rare)

Since January 1, 2004 there is one more possibility: the hyphenation of names; also, now men can take their wives' surname too, since the law which gave this opportunity only to women was declared sexist and thus unconstitutional. (Men still have fewer alternatives to choose from, though.) Thus Júlia can become either Petőfi-Szendrey Júlia or Szendrey-Petőfi Júlia while Sándor either keeps his own name or hyphenates in either order. Sándor can also become Petőfi-Szendrey Sándor, Szendrey-Petőfi Sándor or Szendrey Sándor, while Júlia either keeps her name or hyphenates, but changing names to each other's names (e.g. Petőfi Sándor and Szendrey Júlia become Szendrey Sándor and Petőfi Júlia) is not allowed.

The law that one can have a maximum of two last names still applies, if one or both of the partners already have a hyphenated name, they have to choose a maximum of two names or keep their birth names.

Both the bride and the bridegroom has to declare before the wedding which name she and he will use; also, they have to declare which surname their children will get (this can be changed up until the birth of their first child). Children can get either parent's surname if that parent kept her or his surname in the marriage, but children born in the same marriage must have the same surname. Since 2004 they can also get a hyphenated name, but only if both parents kept their birth names at least as a part of their new name (e.g. if they kept their own names, or if one or both of them have hyphenated). Currently children usually get their father's surname; hyphenating names is a rising trend.

The marriage of same sex partners is not allowed in Hungary, so they cannot legally use each other's names, unless going through the formal name change process.

Arab Countries

Women keep their full birth and family names, and do not change their family names to their husbands'.


A less common, but growing, alternative is for the married couple to create a new non-hyphenated name. This name may be a combination of letters from both surnames, it may be a name found on distant branches of both family trees, or it may be a new name altogether. This allows any children to have the same name and is equal in that both parties must give up their original surnames. One example of this is Los Angeles, California, USA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Born Antonio Villar, upon marrying wife Corina Raigosa, fused their surnames into the present Villaraigosa. One possible criticism against this practice is that it makes families harder to trace via genealogy, though a counter-argument would be that it makes the mother's genealogical information easier to trace. In many countries a legal record must be filed in order to make this name change, which increases the level of complexity.

Same-sex marriages

The public and legal acceptance and acknowledgment of same-sex marriage is relatively recent. Trends in the nuptial naming practices associated with same-sex marriage have not yet been observed. LGBT people may make such decisions on an individual basis. In some civil law jurisdictions like the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, same-sex spouses or registered partners have the same legal options as heterosexual spouses to acquire, or - in the case of the Netherlands - use, the other partner's surname.

Legal status and criticisms

Laws respecting married names vary. In areas whose legal systems derive from the English common law—such as most parts of the USA, Canada, and the UK—a name change usually does not require much legal action, because a person can choose to be known by any name (except with intent to defraud). Married persons who take their spouse's name must get a new driver's license and National Insurance or Social Security card, etc., and inform the company they work for, etc. However, the legal process for a name change due to marriage is, in many jurisdictions, still simpler and faster than for other kinds of name change. In many jurisdictions whose legal systems derive from the civil law—such as France, Spain, Belgium, the Canadian province of Quebec, and the U.S. state of Louisiana—however, the default position is for a woman's "legal name" to remain the same throughout life: Citizens there who wish to change their names legally must usually apply to do so via a formal procedure.

In 2007, Michael Buday and Diana Bijon enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union and filed a discrimination lawsuit against the state of California. According to ACLU, the obstacles facing a husband who wishes to adopt his wife's last name violate the equal protection clause provided by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. At the time of the lawsuit, only states of Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota explicitly allow a man to change his name through marriage with the same ease as a woman. As a result of the lawsuit, a California state lawmaker introduced a bill to put a space on the marriage license for either spouse to change names.

The term "maiden name" itself has been criticized by many American feminists since the 1970s. Those who find the traditional term unacceptable and even offensive say it demeans women by labeling them according to their sexual status ("maiden" is a synonym for "virgin"), and see this as a further sign of a maiden name being used to label a woman as sexual property of a man. A more practical difficulty with the term is that it is not gender-neutral and thus cannot be used for men who change their names upon marriage. The term birth name is gender-neutral.


Most genealogists prefer to refer to a mother by her maiden name when they are constructing a pedigree, whether in chart form such as a family tree or in some written form. This convention is used because it is a concise way of presenting genealogical information. Thus they would write (or show on a pedigree chart) a child as e.g. the son of John Smith and Mary Brown.


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