The use of multiple middle names has been somewhat impeded recently by the increased use of computer databases that allow for only a single middle name or more commonly a middle initial in strong personal records, effectively depriving persons with multiple middle names of the ability to be listed in such databases under their full name. Especially in the case of government records and other databases that are used for legal purposes, this phenomenon has sometimes been criticized as a form of discrimination against people who carry multiple middle names for cultural or religious reasons. However, it should be noted that this phenomenon is largely limited to English speaking countries since the different tradition in other western countries generally resulted in the development of databases which are able to handle more than one middle name.
In the United States, the middle initial is sometimes used in place of the middle name on identity documents, passports, driver licenses, social security cards, university diplomas, and other official documents. Examples of this form include George W. Bush and John D. Rockefeller. The abbreviation "NMN" (no middle name) or "NMI" (no middle initial) is sometimes used in formal documents where a middle initial or name is expected when the person does not have one.
Many people are not known by their first forename. This is often referred to as "being known by the middle name". In this case, wherever an additional initial is called for, the initial of the first name is used and the middle name is spelled fully. Examples of this form include G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt. Some people don't even include the initial, such as Sir Paul McCartney, whose first name is actually James.
In movies, a character who is about to enter a dangerous situation on purpose might say, "Danger is my middle name." This has been used so much that it has come to be regarded as a cliché.
Middle names are often chosen by parents at the same time as the first name. Names that are popular as first names are also popular as middle names. However, some parents may use the middle spot to honor a relative or to use an unusual name that might have been a burden to the child as a first name. Surnames are also sometimes given as middle names, usually to honor a relative. It is quite popular to use the mother's maiden name as the middle name.
In the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, a child is sometimes given a middle name that is the first or middle name of one of his or her parents. In the United States, it's not uncommon for a baby boy to be given the same full name as his father, in which case the middle name may be used as if a first name so as to distinguish him from his father.
A woman with the first name Mary (or Marie or Maria) is often called by her middle name, because of the strong and enduring popularity of the name. American Southerners are sometimes referred to familiarly by both their first and middle names, such as Billy Bob and Betty Barb.
Middle names are usually not used in everyday life. People who are known primarily by their middle name usually abbreviate their first name to an initial (e.g. F. Scott Fitzgerald, John A. Macdonald, W. Somerset Maugham). Sometimes the first name is unmentioned (e.g., Paul McCartney whose first name is James). Rarely, individuals are given only initials as middle names, with the initial(s) not explicitly standing for anything (e.g., Harry S. Truman). This practice is common among the Amish, who commonly use the first letter of the mother's maiden name as a solitary initial for the sons and daughters. Thus, the children of Sarah Miller would use the middle initial M.
Examples of multiple middle names: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary (Queen Elizabeth II), J. R. R. Tolkien, George H.W. Bush and V. V. S. Laxman. The British upper classes are traditionally fond of giving multiple middle names; for example, William Arthur Philip Louis, Henry Charles Albert David, or Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise. In even more extreme examples, British musician Brian Eno's full name is Brian Peter George St. Jean le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, and Canadian actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas named their son Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland. Often, middle names are names of famous and influential people throughout history, such as well-known baseball pitcher Cal McLish, whose infamous full name is Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.
It is also possible for a person to have no middle name. In case a person has no middle name, or has only a middle initial, forms requiring a middle name may have "NMI" (No Middle Initial) or the remark "Initial Only" filled in instead.
Particularly in parts of Europe, such as Italy, Scandinavia and the German speaking countries it's common for a person to have a given name and a surname, only. Nevertheless, some people in these countries do have middle names, and those who do relatively often have more than one, especially in Austria, Italy and southern Germany. In German, the first middle name is called zweiter Vorname, which literally means second forename, while the German term Zwischenname, literally middle name, actually is an umbrella term for middle names, patronyms and metronyms. Most middle names in the German speaking world are given or middle names from ancestors or names of famous and influential historic figures. Middle initials, however, are rarely used. One exception is German TV personality Johannes B. Kerner. In some countries, such as Sweden, the distinction is made differently; almost 90 percent of people have more than one given or first name, of which one is designated the "usual" or "calling" name (tilltalsnamn), whereas the term "middle name" (mellannamn) is formally reserved for e.g. a maiden name or mother's maiden name. The "usual name" is not necessarily the first in the enumeration; a person with the full name Sven Erik Anders Svensson (of which Svensson is the surname) may well be called Anders Svensson or Erik Svensson.
Arabs of the persian gulf states do not use middle names. Usually, the name of an Arab in the gulf states will be in the form of a given name followed by Ibn or Bint (son of/daughter of) and the father's given name.
Arabs in other parts of the Middle East will generally have two middle names: their father's given name, followed by their grandfather's given name. Occasionally, Arabs living in Western countries or people of Arab ancestry will continue this practice.
Some Arabs, partically Syrians, customarily place another name before the given name. While not appearing in the middle of the full name, this prefixed name serves the same function as western middle names. This name is often given as a blessing, and is frequently the name "Mohammad". For example, such a person might be named Mohammad Hadi, or Mohammed Basheer, where Hadi and Basheer are the given names by which the person would be normally addressed.
For Catholics, during preparation for the Confirmation sacrament, the candidate for Confirmation usually chooses a saint to research and eventually makes that saint's name part of his/her name. The saint's name is put after his/her middle name, if indeed a middle name was given. Males in some predominantly Catholic communities (mostly Bavarian — but almost never other German — Belgian, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish Catholics) are sometimes given what would otherwise be considered a female given name, especially the name Marie or Maria (famous examples being Rainer Maria Rilke and Erich Maria Remarque). In France, the most common case is to give a compound first name, such as Jean-Marie or, more rarely, André-Marie or Bernard-Marie; more rarely, Marie is used as third or subsequent given name. Females, too, are often given compound names which feature male given names, i.e. Marie-Pierre, or Marie-Georges. See French names for more details on naming practices in France.
Hispanic females, conversely, sometimes have the middle name José. This is particularly common in Roman Catholic families. Therefore, the name "María José" is a common female name, while "José María" is a common male name, such as with PGA Tour golfer José María Olazábal.
The use of such names is primarily a cultural issue, rather than a religious issue. There is no Church teaching regarding such names.
In many English-speaking countries and in German-speaking lands it is customary for a person being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church to adopt a Confirmation name, that may be used as a second middle name, and is without effect in civil law, unless, of course, the confirmand pursues the appropriate legal avenues.
In Malta, a person is given a first name, which is used in official documents. This name would be also the name given on Baptism. Custom has it that that one has two godparents, and these choose a name each. These names are generally not officialised, but are recognised by the Church. These are then used as middle names. For example if the parents choose Noel as a first name, and the god parents choose David and Luke, surname being Dimech, the child is therefore named Noel David Luke Dimech. A common choice for godparent names used to be the name of an important person such as an ancestor, great grandparents, etc. However, most of the times these names are not even remembered by their holders and are referred to only if another person has the same first and last name, eg.: Noel D. Dimech.Chinese have only one syllable in their given name (e.g. Wong Kit); they have no middle position in their full name and thus no middle name. (See also Chinese name, Korean name, Japanese name)
Most Chinese Americans move their Chinese given name (transliterated into the Latin alphabet) to the middle name position, and use an English first name, e.g. James Chu-yu Soong, Jerry Chih-Yuan Yang, and Michelle Wingshan Kwan. The Chinese given name usually has two characters and it is usually combined into "one" middle name for better organizational purposes, especially with Cantonese names, such as Bruce Lee's middle name, Junfan. There are also some new immigrants whose Chinese given names are their first names, and have English middle names.
The practice of taking English and Chinese given names is also common in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, rather than placing the Chinese given name between the English given name and the family name, it is commonly placed after the family name. Under such a system, Bruce Junfan Lee would have been Bruce Lee Junfan. This practice is consistent with both the Western convention of putting the given name before the family name and the Chinese convention of putting the given name after the family name.Vietnam, the middle names sometimes distinguish between the sexes. Vietnamese middle names are often not used, especially among men. In a 1988 study, 22% of Vietnamese males had no middle name.
In the Philippines, the middle name is used exclusively to refer to the mother's maiden surname. For example, Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralín Marcos, in which Edralín, his mother's last name, is the middle name. Almost no one uses middle name to refer to the second given name.
In Thailand, middle names are not common. Thai people usually give a child a long first name, which usually has a beautiful meaning. Additionally, most Thai children are also given nick names, which are usually one or two syllables.
Sikh men, who, for religious reasons are supposed to be named Singh as their surname, sometimes instead take Singh as their middle name. Sikh women, who for similar reasons normally take the surname Kaur, may instead take it as a middle name; a notable example is Parminder Kaur Nagra).
After a South Indian women marries, she changes her middle name to her husband's first name.
In Tamil Nadu, South India, a baby is given his or her father's first name as a last name. After marriage, a woman will instead have her husband's first name as her last name.
In the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in India, the middle name is the father's or husband's first name, though some people, such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali, use their mother's name as a middle name.