Recently I was at a play date with my son W. As he was approaching just beyond the boundaries of our play zone I called out his name. Not just his first name — it was a first AND middle name situation. It was the kind of shout out where he knew I wasn’t simply “checking in,” but calling him back. The parents who were standing near me remarked on W’s middle name and wanted to know “where I got it.”
See, that’s where things get interesting. I had a pretty easy time selecting my son’s first name. I knew I wanted it to be a family name, and with grandparents who had done decades of genealogical research, I had heaps of options. The middle name felt like an opportunity to be a bit quirky with my inspiration.
My son got his middle name from one of our family dogs.
Of course our pets also are named after family so I suppose you could say it is also a family name, but it was my dog I wanted to honor when I chose it. My son gets a kick out of having an interesting “name story” and I love hearing the name — even when I’m shouting it across the playground.
Selecting a middle name with a back story for your baby is a tiny creative gift you have an opportunity to craft. When we share our middle names, most of us inevitably end up sharing where the name came from. The story will always be attached, so why not come up with a name with a fantastic story?
In honor of Middle Name Pride Day (tomorrow!), here are six out-of-the-box places to turn to for middle name inspiration …
The middle name is a perfect location to tuck in a tribute to someone who is special to you, be it a famous person or someone you know IRL. Consider using the name of a celebrity you admire, a grandmother or grandfather, a favorite teacher, or even a best friend. Robin Clement, an editor at Babble shares,
“My middle name is Whitney. Whitney Houston was in her prime in ’86 and [my parents] liked how the name sounded with Robin.”
2. Family Pets
We live in an era where pets are getting people names, too. My son’s middle name comes from a favorite family dog. I also have a friend who gave her son a middle name shared from a family cat. I promise you will not be the only family who has honored a cherished pet by bestowing their name on a baby. Many parents and parents-to-be are jumping on this trend.
3. Significant Locations
It could be the city where you met your partner or the name of the cafe you were sitting in when you got the call that a baby was on the way: locations are meaningful. Actress Bryce Dallas Howard is a great example of this middle name in action. She and all of her siblings have middle names of locations of significance. In their case, it is the place where they were conceived.
4. Past Generations
Passed down middle names are a beautiful thread connecting generations together. In my family, every other generation of women has Julia for a middle name. It’s been passed down from grandmother to granddaughter for several generations. A pass down needn’t have a long history to be meaningful. Here are two of my favorites:
“My mom told my dad that he could choose my middle name (I’m their first child), so he decided to take that very seriously. She didn’t find out what he chose until she saw Dawn written on my birth certificate. He surprised my mom by giving me her same middle name. It’s kind of special to know that my middle name was somewhat of a gift from my dad to my mom.” — Heather Newman, editorial intern at Babble
“My son’s middle name is Love. It’s a family name, but also a reminder that our hearts were big enough to love again after loss.” — Jana Anthoine, Jana’s Thinking Place
5. Last Names
So many of my friends changed their middle name when they got married. Several opted to make their maiden name their middle name, while others took their mom’s maiden name. Last names as first or middle names is a wonderful way to give your baby a unique, yet not necessarily unfamiliar name. From a genealogical perspective, it can be a way to resurface any maternal line maiden names.
6. Mother Nature
The middle name is the perfect place to go BIG with a name legend. In researching this story, I heard all kinds of anecdotes connected to middle names. Here are some of my favorites:
“After I was born out in 29 Palms, California, [my dad] went outside and saw a shooting star and wanted to name me Star. My mom said no way for a first name.” — Jessica Judd
“My son Jack’s middle name is Wolf. He was born on the night of a full moon in the middle of winter, and I was renting a house in the middle of the country at the time. Coyotes were howling outside. Up until that night, he was going to be named Jack Hendrix (for obvious reasons — because Hendrix is a God), but that night, the moon, and the howling were really powerful. — Juliane Hiam, editor at Babble
… and here are two more things to remember when choosing a middle name:
Don’t Forget to Check out the Initials
One of THE most important rules of middle name selections is checking the initials. You may love Imogen as a middle name, but if your last name is Griffin and you are planning on Penny as a first name … well, you might want to rethink things. Paying attention to initials can be something fun to do with a middle name. I have a friend who has a daughter with the initials MAO. Her friends refer to her as “the chairman” when she’s in a mood. Her son’s initials are DVO, and she had to stop her husband from giving him an additional middle name to make his initials DEVO. (He really loves that band!)
Don’t Feel Obligated to Give Your Kids a Middle Name
There is no rule that says you MUST have or give a middle name. I have several friends who don’t have a middle name and they don’t all feel the same way about it. Some feel like they are missing out and have found filling out forms (“NMI” — no middle initial) as adults annoying or troublesome. Others feel it makes them unique and like that their parents were rebels.
A friend who opted not to give her sons middle names had a very specific reason. She couldn’t stand hearing her full name said with a harsh tone when she was younger. She didn’t want her kids to endure the same feeling. She says since her boys have no middle name, “I have no magic trick to pull out if they are in trouble. I have no special way of informing them that I am cross.”