Married and maiden names

Married and maiden names

A married name is the family name adopted by a person upon marriage. When a person assumes the family name of her spouse, the new name replaces the maiden name.

The term "maiden name" is rarely applied to the change of family names by men, or by either sex other than in connection with marriage. Nevertheless, the French and English-adopted term "née" (play /ˈn/; French: [ˈne]), meaning "born as," can be applied to a woman's family name at birth that has been replaced for any reason. The French masculine inflection corresponding to née is ""; while less readily recognized by non-French-speakers, it is likewise applied to family names changed for any reason.[1] (The diacritics are sometimes omitted.)

The term "birth name" is sometimes used specifically as a gender-neutral (or male only) substitute for "maiden name", but it is also applied to mean the family name of the mother of a child adopted at birth, and is thus likely to be used with more flexibility than the loan-words née and , accepting it even when the name being referred to was acquired by adoption (at or long after birth), or made in connection with a change of nationality, or changed in any of the variety of other, rarer circumstances.

Normally, changing one's name requires a legal procedure, as further described in name change; however in some jurisdictions anyone who either marries or divorces may change his or her name if he or she wishes. Traditionally in the Anglophone West, only women do so, but sometimes men as well change their last names upon marriage.[2] In the United States, only seven states allow a man to change his family name after marriage without the formal legal process and associated fees mandated for any name change, which are not required of women.[2]


Customs relating to maiden names in marriages

In various cultures in this article, traditionally a woman inherits her surname or birth name 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.[3][4][5] 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 (patrilineality) are seen as primary—that a child has no inherited name tying him or her to female ancestors (matrilineality).[4] Moreover, it means that women have no matrilineal surnames of their own, but only "place-markers" indicating their relationship to men.[4] However, for a further treatment of matrilineal surnames or matrinames, see Matriname.

In the remainder of this article birth name, family name, surname, married name and maiden name always are patrilineal surnames unless explicitly stated to be matrilineal surnames.


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


Women retain their maiden name after marriage in Cambodia.[citation needed]


In English Canada, names follow much the same convention as they do in the United States and United Kingdom. The first name on the birth certificate is the name the child is expected to go by, although use of a middle name in everyday life is not uncommon. The last name is usually the same as the father's last name though it is not unheard of for children to take their mother's last name, or for both names to be hyphenated. Middle names are optional and are generally only used on official documentation. Multiple middle names are rare but are officially recognized.[6]

With the exception of Quebec, either spouse, though usually the wife, has the right to change their last name after marriage. Their marriage certificate is considered proof of their new name.[7][8]

One of Canada's chief values is multiculturalism. As such it is not uncommon to see names that follow patterns differing from the English and French naming conventions.


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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] However, she can use her husband's name socially and may eventually apply to change it under the "general use" clause.

China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Singapore

Generally, children inherit their father's surnames. For this reason alone, male children were preferred over females in Chinese history.[12] The practice was also observed in India and Korea.[12][13]

Chinese women generally do not change their surnames after marriage. While their legal names are left unmodified, it is not uncommon for them to be addressed in a similar fashion to Western custom as 'Mrs. (husband's family name)'. During the imperial times, some women assumed the husband's surname, which either replaced the woman's maiden name or is simply prefixed to her original 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).

In addition to this, a more dated practice among poorer females existed, as many did not have personal names and were simply called by their family names suffixed with shi (氏); in this case, the husband's surname is added before the maiden name after marriage. (氏) in older transliterations may be written shee, while the modern official pinyin is shi, fourth tone. Women with personal names may also have been referred to with the title 氏. Mrs. Li-Wu (i.e. Li née Wu) could be addressed Li Wu Shi (李武氏) without mentioning her personal name. This tradition is no longer commonly practiced in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau. Only a few women (usually over 70 years old) in Taiwan and Hong Kong still have their husband's surname prefixed to their original name. For example, the maiden name of Chan Fung Fu-chun (aka Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General) is Fung, and Chan is her husband's surname.

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, 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, Pakistan, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Ireland, India, Philippines, the English-speaking provinces of Canada, and the United States. This remains the most common practice in the United States. In Massachusetts, for instance, a Harvard study found approximately 87% of married college educated women take their husbands name down from a peak before 1975 of over 90% but up from about 80% in 1990. The same study found women with a college degree were "two to four times (depending on age) more likely to retain their surname" relative to those without a college degree.[14]

In Scotland, until the 20th century, married women kept their maiden names, but today the practice of changing to the husband's family name is the norm.[15]

Usually, the children of these marriages are given their father's surname. Some families have a custom of using the mother's maiden name as a middle name for one of the children—Franklin Delano Roosevelt received his middle name in this way.

Use birth name

Persons who keep their own surname after marriage do so for a number of reasons. Objection to the sexist inequality of the tradition is one major reason;[4] another is that changing surnames 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. It may also be for ethnic pride, to protect copyrights and patents, or a rejection of the idea of being property of the husband. Many people also keep their name for professional reasons, if a successful career was established before marriage.

For many, the decision whether to keep or change their birth name is a difficult one.[16] This process is expedited for newly married persons in that their marriage certificate, in combination with identification using their married 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. Men, however, encounter more difficulties in changing their last names.[17] There were some early cases which held that under the common law, a woman was required (in the U.S.) to take her husband's name,[18] but newer cases overturned those.[19]

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.

Persons retaining their birth name after marriage may encounter difficulties with having people correctly use their name. Many people who know of the marriage will simply assume that the married person 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 has 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.

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 varies.

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.[2] (It is increasingly common for men in those countries to do so; although still a rarity, an example can be found as far back as 1901 with Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, who worked for women's suffrage). Which name is placed first reflects personal preference. For example, if "Hannah Kelly Watson" marries "Michael Errick", she might become "Hannah Kelly Watson-Errick" or "Hannah Kelly Errick-Watson". 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 "Hannah Kelly Watson Errick", where "Watson Errick" is the last name, and "Kelly" is the only middle name.

Name blending

Although less common than name joining, a growing trend is the blending of two surnames upon marriage. For example, if "Jane Marie Fordham" marries "John Smith", she might become "Jane Marie Smithford". In virtually all cases of name blending, both spouses will adopt the joint surname, and this name is passed along to their children. By example, Los Angeles, California's mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's surname was Villar until he married Corina Raigosa, at which time they fused surnames, creating Villaraigosa.


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

  • Most commonly, children are given the surname of one parent, usually the father's.
  • Children are given the mother's surname.
  • Female children are given the mother's surname, and male children the father's.
  • Children are arbitrarily assigned the mother's or father's surname.
  • The surname of a neutral third party is assigned to the children.
  • Children are given the hyphenated surname consisting of their parents' surnames, in either order.
  • Children are given a blended surname, formed from each parent's surname.
  • Children can also be given a surname derived from elsewhere in the family tree, such as the maternal or paternal grandmother's maiden name.

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[citation needed]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. In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, the children receive the surname of both of their grandfathers in this order: first of their paternal grandfather, second of their maternal grandfather, so that in reality, the surnames do always descend from the men in the family and not from the women.

In the United States, some states or areas have laws that restrict what surname a child may have. For example, Tennessee allows a child to be given a surname that does not include that of the father only upon "the concurrent submission of a sworn application to that effect signed by both parents."[20]

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. However, in daily life, he or she may choose to use only the first name and new last name. Of women who change their last name at marriage, about 25% informally use their birth surname as a middle name[citation needed]. An example is Hillary Rodham Clinton[21]. Certain cultures[which?] don't give a female a middle name at birth, with the assumption that she will marry and take her husband's family name, leaving her birth name as the single middle name.

Use as security question

One's mother's maiden name has been a common security question in American banking since at least the 1980s,[22] on the assumption that this name was not common knowledge. Today a wide variety of security questions are used, not only by banks.


Since the 1789 Revolution, the law stipulates that "no one may use another name than that given on his birth certificate";[23] 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 example, open a bank account, sign cheques, 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 264 of the French civil 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, President Nicolas Sarkozy's 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 some cases, it has been noted that the children of famous parents and their spouses decide to have a common hyphenated surname. For example, Marie and Pierre Curie's daughter, Irene, and her chemical engineer husband, Frederick Joliot, decided to hyphenate their surnames to Joliot-Curie.


In Germany, the name law has been ruled by sexual equality since 1994: a woman may adopt her husband's surname or a man may adopt his wife's surname. One of them—man or woman—may use a name combined from both surnames. The remaining single name is the "family name" (Ehename), which will be the surname of the children. If a man and woman decide to keep and use their birth names after the wedding (no combined name), they have to declare one of those names the "family name". A combined name is not possible as a family name (exception: since 2005 it has been possible to have a double name as family name if a man or woman already had a double name and the partner adopts that name. Double names must be hyphenated in any case. All family members must use that double name).[24][25] To indicate one's birth name, a person appends it with "geb." (short for "geboren(e)" = "born"), e.g. "Anne Lübke geb. Schlüter".


From Hungarian names#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 rarely had a last name at all as 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 law and 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 choose to keep their birth names or take that of their husbands in the aforementioned form. Still, most women took their husbands' names; most of the exceptions were artists.[citation needed]

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 they will use and 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.


Icelandic names adhere to the old patronymic system (a child receives a parent's—usually the father's—first name in the genitive with -son or -dóttir appended). An Icelandic woman customarily retains her maiden name upon marrying, because regardless of whom she marries she remains her parents' daughter.


Indian women usually adopt the husband's surname or family-name as their own. In some communities of northern India a woman takes her husband's given name as a middle name after marriage, and adopts his surname as her new surname. In some parts of south India, a woman adopts her husband's first name instead of his family name after marriage, while in others, she will keep her birth name for the whole of her life. In Andhra Pradesh, a woman adopts her husband's surname as her own. In some orthodox families, a new bride might change her full name to one her in-laws prefer.

Several Hindu communities in Kerala, the most notable being Nairs, are matrilineal, and in these groups the woman keeps her name even after marriage.Furthermore, her children will take her family name, rather than their father's. In Kerala, amongst Muslims(Mopilas), 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; this also serves as a precaution against discrimination of converts based on their pre-Islamic caste identities.

Christians generally follow the Western customs. Hindu women normally keep their birth names, but in the new generation, adding the husband's name is also observed. In some communities[citation needed], the bride's first name is also changed after marriage. In these cases, the family she's married into selects the first name. This practice is quite rare today.

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 (e.g. applying for a passport, bank account, etc.). This is irrespective of whether the woman is considered a minor or an adult.

In the state of Meghalaya, the practice of changing names after marriage is not prevalent at all. Everyone is known by the birth name for life. The birth first name is the name the parents choose for their child and the last name is, by default, the mother's last name.


In Italy since 1975 a woman legally keeps her birth name. Only in informal situations, she may add her husband's name to the end of her name linked with the word in, nei/nel (less common) or cg., abbreviation of coniugata, married (very uncommon): for example, if Alessandra Gallestiaga marries Gian Michele Cappoluoghinetto she can then use the form Alessandra Gallestiaga in Cappoluoghinetto or Alessandra Gallestiaga nel Cappoluoghinetto (less common) or even Alessandra Gallestiaga cg. Cappoluoghinetto. In a small number of cases it is possible that the wife can add just the husband's name without the in addition. Only in rare cases is a woman informally referred to with just her husband's surname (Alessandra Cappoluoghinetto). When the husband dies, in the same informal cases in can be replaced by ved., abbreviation of vedova, widow (Alessandra Gallestiaga ved. Cappoluoghinetto, Alessandra Gallestiaga ved. in Cappoluoghinetto, Alessandra Gallestiaga vedova Cappoluoghinetto or Alessandra Gallestiaga vedova in Cappoluoghinetto).


Most Iranians do not change their names upon marriage, although the Iranian women may be called 'Mrs. (husband's family name)' in daily life.


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's family have no son, particularly if her lineage has some significance, in which case the husband is considered an "adopted son-in-law" – he has joined the family in order to continue the lineage; this practice is known as 婿養子 (mukoyōshi). Eldest sons are more likely to keep their family names than younger sons. Though uncommon, foreign men who marry Japanese women may choose to join their wife's koseki and take her surname. An example of this is Koizumi Yakumo, (born Lafcadio Hearn), a Greek-born Irishman who took his Japanese wife's name. (Non-Japanese citizens are listed only on a person's koseki to verify marriage. Name changes are not recorded and the foreign citizen is listed as spouse but not as part of the family registration. Foreign citizens have a separate registration system, and cannot establish their own koseki unless they take Japanese citizenship). The foreign citizen is governed by his/her own country's laws.)

In the Japanese language, it is common to avoid second and third person pronouns and instead refer to persons in conversation by their surname plus a title such as san, which 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 variant surnames in official settings. (It is possible to establish the maiden name, or another variant name, as a legal alias, which can then be used officially.) Although women's rights groups have attempted to introduce legislation that would allow married couples to maintain individual surnames, a practice which in Japanese is referred to as fūfu bessei (夫婦別姓 lit. "husband and wife, different-surname"?), such legislation has not yet been enacted.


Korean women do not change their names upon marriage. By given 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 usually addressed solely by their family name; however, it is more specifically 'wife of (husband's family name)' or '(child's name)'s mom', when the relation has to be known. Women emigrating to cultures where it is customary to take on their husband's names may choose not to change, especially if they are professionals. However, using the same concept as Chinese and Taiwanese women, they may let themselves be addressed as 'Mrs. (husband's family name)'. Similarly, it is not uncommon for them to be called 'Dr. (her maiden name)'.

Muslim-majority countries

Arabic-speaking countries

In Muslim Arabic-speaking countries, women keep their full birth and family names and do not change their family names to their husbands'.

However, some women either choose or are legally expected to carry their husbands' family name. This is the case in Egypt and the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan), where Islam is not the official state religion or Islamic sharia'a (law) is not the sole basis of the civil law of the country (although Egypt considers Islam as the main source of law). In these cases, women carry their husbands' family name while keeping their original family name as a middle name, so a woman would be known as "[First Name] [Original Family Name] [Husband's Family Name]". Examples of famous women who adopted their husband's family names: Jehan Sadat, wife of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, Suzanne Mubarak, wife of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan.


It is traditional that Malay women keep their maiden name. As of the 1951 处女 Act, men can take the surname of their wives. Once the man is committed to his wife's surname it is considered inadequate to divorce her.


In the Netherlands, persons who have been married or entered into a registered partnership will remain registered under their birth name. They are, however, permitted to use their partner's last name for social purposes or join both names. Upon marriage or registered partnership, one may also indicate how they would like to be addressed through the registration of their choice in the Municipal Basis Administration (Gemeentelijke Basis Administratie) (although their birth name does not change). One may choose to be called by one's own name, one's partner's name, one's own name followed by one's partner's name (hyphenated) or one's partner's name followed by their own name (hyphenated). Both men and women may make this choice upon registering to get married or entering into a registered partnership. Upon the end of the marriage or registered partnership, one person may continue to use their ex-partner's last surname unless the ex-partner disagrees and requests the court to forbid the use of the ex-partner's surname.[26]

Prior to the birth or adoption of a first child, married parents may choose by which surname the child will go (mother's or father's but not both). If no choice is made, the child automatically obtains the father's surname. Any further children will also go by this name. If the parents of the child are not married, the children will automatically obtain their mother's name unless otherwise indicated.[27]


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 López). 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 López 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, which is 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 María Santos Cojuangco (where her mother's maiden surname is "Santos", and her father's is "Cojuangco") marries a man by the name of Juan López Agbayani, her full name would become María Cojuangco Agbayani. For the sake of brevity, she would be usually known at the very least as María 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 María 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. María Cojuangco-Agbayani, instead of simply María Agbayani or María C. Agbayani), at least in professional use, and use it socially even if legal documents follow the above naming pattern.


In contemporary Polish only names that are valid adjectives (e.g. Silny - Strong, Śliski - Slippery) or sound like an adjective (e.g. Skłodowski, Mącki) have feminine versions, according to behavior of real adjectives. If a masculine surname ends in -i or -y, its feminine equivalent ends in -a. Therefore women would be identified as Silna, Śliska, Skłodowska, Mącka, in examples above. This is the default and most often used approach, however woman can elect to use masculine version. The -owa (spelled -ova) suffix for other types of names is not used in official language but remains recognized and sometimes appears in informal or humorous context. Originally it was reserved to married name. Historically -ówna suffix was used to denote maiden name.

According to the law, upon marrying the couple chooses names for husband, wife and (future) children. Any of those three can be groom's, bride's or double-barrelled combination of both (tripple-barreled names are not possible). Most often the bride forgoes her name and adopts her husband's.

Portuguese-speaking world

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

The custom of a woman changing her name upon marriage is recent. It spread in the late 19th century in the upper classes, under French influence, and in the 20th century, particularly during the Estado Novo,[disambiguation needed ] 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.[citation needed]

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's optional to bear only the last surnames of the parents. For example, Carlos da Silva Gonçalves and Ana Luísa de Albuquerque Pereira (Gonçalves) (in case she adopted her husband's name after marriage) would have a child named Lucas Pereira Gonçalves. However, the child may have any other combination of the parents' surnames, according to euphony, social significance or other reasons.

Russia and some Slavic countries

During the wedding, the young couple has to declare what surname they are going to use. Both have the option to keep their original surnames or to adopt the other one's surname. Most often the bride adopts her husband's surname in its feminine version. In most Slavic languages there are two ways to create the feminine surname version. First and most prevalent is by adding "-ova" (for example: Kumkov → Kumkova, Ivanov → Ivanova, Lashkonov → Lashkonova), "-eva" (for example: Dostonev → Dostoneva, Nikolaev → Nikolaeva, Porokastev → Porokasteva), "-ina" (for example: Galkin → Galkina, Sartejin → Sartejina, Ardirsin → Ardirsina) or "-aya" (for example: Stronsky → Stronskaya, Merdonsky → Merdonskaya, Putanesky → Putaneskaya) to the masculine form (in Russian surnames ending with "-ov", only "-a" is added). Navratilov's wife will be called Navratilova, Gorbachev's wife will become Gorbacheva. Sometimes, to ease pronunciation, the root of the husband's name may be slightly modified - e.g. Havel's wife will become Havlová, or the husband's surname may be shortened before adding the suffix, especially when the surname ends in a vowel, so Čábela's wife will be Čábelová.

The second grammatical way of creating the feminine version of the husband's surname concerns names that are or resemble adjectives and end with "-y" or "-i". In that case the feminine version follows the rules for adjectives and "y" or "i" is replaced with "a" (in Russian "-aya"). So Sklodowskiy's wife will become Sklodovskaya, Ostrovskiy's wife will become Ostrovskaya. There is one further option - some surnames do not change and do not follow any grammatical rules at all, as for example the names in Ukrainian and Polish ending with "-ko", or in Serbian the surnames ending with "-ić". Bondarenko's wife will remain Bondarenko, and Milošević will remain Milošević. In Czech these are the surnames ending with "-u" or "-í". Martinů's wife will remain Martinů and Kočí's wife will be Kočí.

In fact, in most cases the wife and the husband never have identical surnames, which sometimes creates translation problems into most western languages. While Putin's wife is Putina, it is normal to refer to the couple as "Mr and Mrs Putin", or "the Putins". On the other hand, the surname makes clear whether the person is a man or a woman. Another case in point is Anna Karenina. Karenina was her own surname, and her husband's was Karenin. Because the novel is principally about her, her surname has traditionally been used in the translation of the title. Recent editions, however, have rendered it as Anna Karenin.

Usually, female surnames of foreign origin are not modified. One exception is the Slovak Republic, where modification of foreign female surnames is required by language laws. For instance, Nicole Kidman would become Nicole Kidmanová in Slovak. This practice is also common in the Czech Republic. More recently, this controversial regulation is being abandoned, as many celebrities with a surname of foreign origin are using it in original form.

Spanish-speaking world

In Spain and in most Spanish-speaking countries, the practice is for people to have two surnames. The first surname comes from the father and the second from the mother. A child's first surname will usually be their father's first surname whilst the child's second surname will usually be the mother's first surname. For example, if Señor Smith Adams and Señora Jones Roberts had a child named Paul, then his full name would be Paul Smith Jones. One family member's relationship to another's can often be identified by the various combinations and permutations of surnames.

In Spain, especially Catalonia, the paternal and maternal surnames are often combined using y (Spanish) 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".[28] 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. In 1973 in Chile, the law was changed to avoid stigmatizing illegitimate children with the maternal surname repeated.

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".

In some churches, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where the family structure is emphasized, as well as legal marriage, the wife is referred to as "hermana" [sister] plus the surname of her husband. And most records of the church follow that structure as well.

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 issued 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 also composed of other 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.

In early 2008, some new legislation is under consideration that will place the mother's last name ahead the father's last name, as it is done in Portuguese-speaking countries, despite Argentina being a Spanish-speaking country.


In Chile, marriage has no effect at all on either of the spouses' names, so people keep their birth names for all their life, no matter how many times marital status, theirs or that of their parents, may change. However, in some circles, it is still customary for a wife to use her husband's name as reference, as in "Doña María Inés de Ramirez" (literally Lady Maria Ines (wife of) Ramirez).

Children will always bear the surname of the father followed by that of the mother, but if there is no known father and the mother is single, the Children can bear either both of her mother's surnames or the mother's first surname followed by any of the surnames of the mother's parents or grandparents, or the child may bear the mother's first surname twice in a row.


Only since the beginning of the 20th century has it been common in Scandinavia for women to take their husband's last name.[citation needed] 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. Many women who change their name either take their husband's name as a "middle name" and use their maiden name as their surname, or keep their maiden name as a middle name and use their husband's surname as a new surname.[29] Since a person cannot have two surnames in the official registries, women often register the maiden or the married name as a "middle name", a name not to be considered a given name or a surname. There is a perception that well-educated women with a career do this more often since they may have acquired a good reputation in professional circles by their maiden name before they get married, which would be in difficulty if they changed their name.

The most common Swedish surnames end with "-sson", which means "son of" in English. Until recently, surnames ending with "-sdotter" ("daughter of" in English) were not so common, but recent legislation allows any daughter to take either parent's name and add "-sdotter" as a surname. A daughter of Sven can thus take the name "Svensdotter" meaning "daughter of Sven". The same rules apply to sons, who can take the name "Svensson" meaning "son of Sven", or (very uncommon so far but allowed) their mother's name ending with "-sson", like "Mariasson" if their mother's name is Maria. This is very similar to the system used in Iceland but applied to a greater extent. However, very few people take surnames like this in Sweden. Most people use the traditional structure.[citation needed]


In Thai law, before 2005, a woman was required to take her husband's surname. The new rule in 2005 (2548 BE) has allow Thai married couples to:

  • Have no surname changes
  • Use the husband's surname
  • Use the wife's surname
  • Swap surnames between husband and wife (very rare cases)

A Thai wife that adopted her husband's surname due to the old law requiring it, can also change back to use her original surname.[30]


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.[31] [32]

Same-sex marriages

Public and legal acknowledgment of same-sex marriage is well established in some regions, though still uncommon due to its illegality in most regions. 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 of name changes at marriage

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.[33] At the time of the lawsuit, only the 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.[17]

Feminism and preserving one's personal name

Jane Grant, of the United States, wrote in 1943 of her efforts to keep her name despite her marriage, as well as other women's experiences with military service, passports, voting, and business. She and others formed the Lucy Stone League, named for Lucy Stone, who had earlier won her fight to keep her name. "We [in the League] . . . made ourselves generally troublesome", with legal cases, mass meetings, signing into hotels openly, and going to Washington, D.C.[34]


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.[citation needed] 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.


  1. ^ Compact Oxford English Dictionary, "née"[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c More men taking wives' last names, USA Today, March 20, 2007, last accessed May 29, 2008.
  3. ^ New Feminist. "There'll Be Some Changes Made."
  4. ^ a b c d Spender, Dale. Man-Made Language (1980), pp 24-25 of 1985 2nd Ed.
  5. ^ Stannard, Una (1977). Mrs Man. GermainBooks, San Francisco. ISBN 0-914142-02-X, pp. 1-384 (the whole book).
  6. ^$File/11022E.pdf
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Gleanings from the mails; Maiden names. How an old Québec law annoys married women, lawyers, and tax-collectors, from the Montreal Witness, reprinted by The New York Times, 10 August 1880 . Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  10. ^ Civil Code of Québec, March 14, 2008 . Retrieved April 3, 2008.
  11. ^ Québec newlywed furious she can't take her husband's name, by Marianne White, CanWest News Service, 8 August 2007 . Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  12. ^ a b Goodkind, Daniel. (1999). Should Prenatal Sex Selection be Restricted?: Ethical Questions and Their Implications for Research and Policy. Population Studies, 53 (1), 49-61. Retrieved March 13, 2007.
  13. ^ A. Gettis, J. Getis, and J. D. Fellmann (2004). Introduction to Geography, Ninth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 200. ISBN 0-07-252183-X
  14. ^ Making a Name: Women's Surnames at Marriage and Beyond by Claudia Goldin and Maria Shim, Journal of Economic Perspectives
  15. ^ Krossa, Sharon L.. "Early 16th Century Scottish Lowland Names". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  16. ^ The Maiden Name Change Debate
  17. ^ a b "Man files lawsuit to take wife's name". Archived from the original on 2007-01-14. 
  18. ^ Stannard, Una (1977). Mrs Man. GermainBooks, San Francisco. ISBN 0-914142-02-X, pp. 239-277.
  19. ^ Stannard, Una (1977). Mrs Man. GermainBooks, San Francisco. ISBN 0-914142-02-X, pp. 277-282.
  20. ^ Tennessee State Code. Title 68. Chapter 3. Part 3. 68-3-305. Father's name on birth certificate. -Surname of child.
  21. ^ Hillary Drops Her Maiden Name, The Brisbane Times, April 30, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  22. ^ Levin, Josh (2008-01-30). "In What City Did You Honeymoon? And other monstrously stupid bank security questions". Slate. 
  23. ^ "Une femme mariée est-elle obligée de remplacer son nom de jeune fille par le nom de son mari à la suite de son mariage ? -". 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  24. ^ BGB - Einzelnorm( article in German)
  25. ^ Doppelname als Familienname(article in German)
  26. ^ "Wanneer mag ik de achternaam van mijn partner gebruiken?". 2010-06-01. Retrieved 2010-07-29. [dead link]
  27. ^ "De keuze van de achternaam". 2009-06-24. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  28. ^ Art. 55 Ley de Registro Civil -Civil Register Law(article in Spanish)
  29. ^ Inge Göransson, "Kärt barn har många namn", Statistics Sweden, 2009
  30. ^ Royal Thai Consulate-General, Frankfurt am Main. "การใช้ชื่อสกุลตามพระราชบัญญัติชื่อบุคคล (ฉบับที่ 3) พ.ศ. 2548". Retrieved 10 August 2011.  (Thai)
  31. ^ Tagliabue, John (31 January 2011). "A Swede by Any Other Name. In Fact, Many Swedes.". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  32. ^ Francis, Ric (21 March 2007). "More men taking wives' last names". USA Today. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  33. ^ ABC News: ABC News[dead link]
  34. ^ Grant, Jane, Confession of a Feminist, in The American Mercury, vol. LVII, no. 240, Dec., 1943 (microfilm), pp. 684–691, esp. pp. 687–688 (quoting p. 687).

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