Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Social psychology: Altruism · Attribution · Attitudes · Conformity · Discrimination · Groups · Interpersonal relations · Obedience · Prejudice · Norms · Perception · Index · Outline

Stop hand This article seems to be biased or has no references.
You can help the Psychology Wiki by citing appropriate references.
Please see the relevant discussion on the talk page.

It is nearly universal for a person to have a name; the rare exceptions occur in the cases of mentally disturbed parents, or feral children growing up in isolation. A personal name is usually given at birth or at a young age, and is usually kept throughout life; there might be additional names indicating family relationships, area of residence, and so on. The details of naming are strongly governed by culture; some are more flexible about naming than others, but for all cultures where historical records are available, the rules are known to change over time.

Structure Edit

Common components of true names given at birth include:

  • Given name: Universal. In most of Western culture, the given name precedes the family name; some other cultures place it after the family name, or use no family name.
  • Patronymic: The given name of a relative, usually the father or mother, or a name derived from this. Many family names are derived from patronymics.
  • Family name: A name used by all members of a family. In Europe, the common use of family names started quite early in some areas (France in the 13th century, and Germany in the 16th century), but it often did not happen until much later in areas that used a patronymic naming custom, such as the Scandinavian countries, Wales, and some areas of Germany. The compulsory use of surnames varied greatly. France required a priest to write surnames in baptismal records in 1539 (but did not require surnames for Jews, who usually used patronymics, until 1808). On the other hand, compulsory surnames in the Scandinavian countries did not happen until the 20th century (1923 for Norway), and Iceland still does not use surnames for its native inhabitants. Before the use of family names, people were often referred to by a description or nickname, their place of birth or residence, their occupation, or their parent's name. Many modern family names derive from one of these.
  • Middle name: Least common. In royal or aristocratic families, several middle names honoring ancestors, relatives, or political allies are commonly given. In many families, single middle names are simply alternative names, names honoring an ancestor or relative, or, for married women, occasionally their maiden names. Many Catholic families choose a saint's name as their child's middle name or this can be left until the child's confirmation when they choose a saint's name for themselves.

Some people (called anonyms) choose to be anonymous, that is, to hide their true names, for fear of governmental prosecution or societal ridicule of their works or actions. Another method to disguise one's identity is to employ a pseudonym.

The Inuit believe that the souls of the namesakes are one, so they traditionally refer to the junior namesakes, not just by the names (atiq), but also by kinship title, which applies across gender and generation without implications of disrespect or seniority. In Judaism, someone's name is considered intimately connected with his fate, and adding a name (e.g. on the sickbed) may avert a particular danger. Among Ashkenazi Jews it is also considered bad luck to take the name of a living ancestor, as the Angel of Death may mistake the younger person for his namesake (although there is no such custom among Sephardi Jews).

Depending on national convention, additional given names (and sometimes titles) are considered part of the name.

Feudal names Edit

The royalty, nobility, and gentry of Europe and Britain traditionally have many names, including phrases for the lands that they own. An example is that of Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch Gilbert du Motier, who is known as the Marquis de Lafayette. Notice that he possessed the lands both of Motier and Lafayette. The French developed the method of putting the term by which the person is referred in small capital letters. It is this habit which transferred to names of the Far East, as seen below. Another example is Don Quixote de la Mancha, who is never referred to in literature by the disguising phrase used as the title of the musical comedy, Man of La Mancha.

The bare place name was used formerly to refer to the person who owned it, rather than the land itself (e.g., "What will Gloucester do?" meant the Duke of Gloucester). As a development, the bare name of a ship in the Royal Navy meant its captain (e.g., "Cressy didn't learn from Aboukir") while the name with an article referred to the ship (e.g., "The Cressy is foundering").

Naming convention Edit

In contemporary Western society (except for Iceland and Hungary), the most common naming convention is that of a given name, usually indicating the child's sex, followed by the parents' family name. In earlier times, Scandinavian countries followed patronymic naming, with people effectively called "X son/daughter of Y"; this is now the case only in Iceland.

Different cultures have different conventions for personal names. This is a list of articles about particular cultures' naming conventions.

Name order Edit

Since a name is made up of several parts, the order in which those parts are arranged can be significant. The order family name, given name is known as the eastern order and is used in East Asian cultures such as China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam, as well as in Hungary. The order given name, family name is known as the western order and is used in the Americas and Europe.

When East Asian names are transliterated into the Latin alphabet, some prefer to convert them to western order at the same time, while others leave them in eastern order but write the family name in capital letters. To avoid confusion, some always write a family name in capital letters, especially when writing for an international audience. This habit has become very common also in the international language Esperanto. Japanese names of contemporary individuals and Hungarian names are usually "switched" when individuals that have such names are mentioned in media in Western countries; for instance, Koizumi Jun'ichirō is known as Junichiro Koizumi in English and Puskás Ferenc is known as Ferenc Puskás. Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese names and Japanese names of historical figures are usually left in East Asian order; for instance, Máo Zédōng is known as Mao Zedong in English.

Names of Japanese or Chinese sportspeople generally follow the above conventions. For Japanese examples, see Ichiro Suzuki instead of Suzuki Ichirō, or Hidetoshi Nakata instead of Nakata Hidetoshi. As for Chinese sportspeople, Yáo Míng is Yao Ming and Liú Xiáng is Liu Xiang in the West.

However, names of Korean sportspeople may be rendered in East Asian or Western order in Western countries. The convention in this case apparently varies by sport. For example, names of Korean footballers and athletes are usually left in East Asian order (e.g. Ahn Jung-Hwan, Hong Myung-Bo, Park Ji-Sung, Sohn Kee-Chung, Hwang Young-Cho). Baseball players' names are usually changed to Western order; for example Park Chan-Ho is referred to in the West as Chan-Ho Park. Golfers' names are also typically switched to Western order; the great female golfer Pak Se-Ri is known in the West as Se Ri Pak. Confusion can be avoided by noticing that in all the above cases, the words linked by a hyphen are the given name.

Nonhuman personal names Edit

Apart from the Linnaean taxonomy, some humans give individual nonhuman animals and plants names, usually of endearment.

In some cultures, pets or sporting animals are sometimes given names similar to human names. Other cultures, such as the Chinese, give the animals nonhuman names, because it would be seen as offensive and disrespectful to the person of the same name; even cultures that give human names to animals sometimes do so to an ugly animal to insult the bearer of the name.

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims that humans are not the only animals that use personal names. Researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington studying bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida found that the dolphins had names for each other.


  • Teller, of the magician duo Penn and Teller, has no given names. (He was named Raymond Joseph Teller by his parents but removed the initial names by deed poll.) In official government documents (such as his driver's license) his given name is listed as NFN, meaning "no first name".
  • In 2003, the animal rights activist formerly called Karin Robertson had her name legally changed to [1].

See alsoEdit

  • Name for a general discussion of names, including naming of persons
  • Legal name

External linksEdit

hr:Osobno ime eo:Persona nomo <span class="FA" id="ja" style="display:none;" />ru:Полное имя sl:Osebno ime zh:人名


Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.