These days, middle names are rarely used by anyone but frustrated parents yelling at misbehaving kids. Despite the fact that just about all of us have them, most people don’t know where the tradition of middle names comes from.
The actual history dates back to ancient Rome. Many Romans had three names, a praenomen (a personal name) a nomen (a family name) and a cognomen (signifying the specific branch of family). The more names a Roman citizen had, the more they were respected by others.
This three-name tradition spread north into Europe and continued to persist throughout the Middle Ages. Eventually America was discovered and Europeans began to migrate, carrying the tradition with them overseas.
Historically in the US, people have traditionally used middle names to honor a relative or close family friend. They also indicated heritage and, as the population began to skyrocket, were used to help distinguish between people with the same first and last names.
That was then, this is now. Now that you have some background on the history of middle names, let’s dig into today’s trends.
Today’s Most Popular Middle Names
There are a plethora of different middle names, and over the years the trends have slowly changed. Just like clothing, hairstyles and music, some middle name trends go in and out of style over time. Today we’re seeing many more creative and unique middle names than in decades past. They take inspiration from things like personality traits, flowers, even colors.
In spite of that, the vast majority of popular middle names have stood the test of time. These old, reliable names are largely biblical in origin. Here are some of those classic middle names that have existed for centuries and their meanings.
Most Popular Boy’s Middle Names
James is one of the most popular first and middle names. It’s derived from the name Jacob in Hebrew, which means “one who follows.” In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestled with an angel and was known as the Patriarch of the Israelites.
Alexander is another common middle name that’s remained in the top 10 most popular middle names for decades now. It means “defender of mankind” in Greek and is most associated with Alexander the Great, one of the most famous leaders in human history.
David is also a popular middle name. It’s derived from the Hebrew word for “beloved.” In the Old Testament, David was the second king of Israel. He defeated the Goliath and is one of the most well-known people in the Bible.
Joseph is another common name that comes from the Old Testament. In the book of Genesis, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He would eventually climb to power and become a vizier of Egypt. The name itself comes from the Hebrew word “Yosef,” which means “to add.”
Most Popular Girl’s Middle Names
Rose was popular as a first name, but in recent decades its popularity has declined. Interestingly enough, as a middle name, Rose has climbed the popularity ratings rapidly and seems destined to remain there for a long time. This middle name has a Germanic history. It’s a combination of two elements, which roughly translates to “fame” and “type.”
May is another name which has dropped in popularity as a first name but became extremely popular as a middle name. At first, May was used as a nickname for either Margaret or Mary, but now it is more closely associated with the fifth month of the year. The original derivation is from Maia, the Greek daughter of Atlas and mother of Hermes.
Jade is popular as both a first and a middle name for girls. Jade itself is a name for a green gemstone traditionally believed to cure pains in the side of one’s body. It came to the United States from Spain and is a great middle name to give a green-eyed little girl.
Kate is a middle name short for “Katharina” in Latin and “Aikaterina” in Greek. Both of those names mean “pure” and variations of this name were used by numerous female saints, the most prominent being Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who was a princess and a scholar.
Nicole is a name which has reached popularity peak at around 1970, and since then started to drop in popularity. It’s a shame because it’s a beautiful name to use as a middle name and it comes from Greek, roughly translating to “victory of the people.”
How to Find Someone’s Middle Name
If you want to find someone’s middle name, you can use Spokeo’s people search engine. This tool may be able to help you find information about someone, including their middle name. Spokeo is an extremely convenient to use tool which can help you to find old friends or satisfy your curiosity.
Legal Importance of Middle Names
Even though the Social Security Administration does not register suffixes or middle names as parts of a citizen’s legal’s name, some important institutions do. You are always better off writing your full name with first, middle, and last names all involved when it comes to official documentation, just to be safe.
For instance, you should use your full name when booking a plane ticket. This is because other countries might deny your entrance if your passport has first, middle, and last name, while your ticket only has your first and last name recorded.
As millennials start to become parents, middle name trends are changing. Young parents understand that middle names are rarely used in real life anymore, so they tend to use this opportunity to add more personality to their children’s name. This means that new trends have begun to emerge.
First of all, occupational middle names are more popular. If you have a relative whom you want to honor, giving your children an occupational name relating to that person is a great way to do it. For example, Judge, Pilot, Dancer, are all middle names that are unique and can easily act as strong middle names. Another growing trend is the rise of one-syllable middle names. If used in real life, they add some strength and depth to your children’s name, for example, Pax, Jazz, East.
If you believe a name can predetermine your child’s virtues, you can give him or her a middle name related to a personality trait. A child carrying such name will not only feel obliged to carry out a certain virtue, but others will also look at him or her through the lens of that virtue. Common examples include Hope, Justice, and True.