A name suffix, in the Western English-language naming tradition, follows a person's full name and provides additional information about the person. Post-nominal letters indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honor.
Academic suffixes indicate the degree earned at a college or university. These include the bachelor's degree (A.B, B.A., B.S., B.E, B.F.A., B.Tech., L.L.B, B.Sc., etc.), the master's degree (M.A., M.S., M.F.A., LL.M, M.L.A., M.B.A., M.Sc., M.Eng etc.), the professional doctorate (J.D., M.D., D.O., Pharm.D., etc.), and the academic doctorate (Ph.D., D.Phil., LL.D, Eng.D., etc.).
In the case of doctorates, either the prefix (e.g. "Dr." or "Atty.") or the suffix (e.g. "J.D.", "M.D.", "D.O.", "D.C.", or "Ph.D.") is used, not both. In the United States, the suffix is the preferred format (thus allowing differentiation between types of doctorate) in written documentation.
Such titles may be given by:
- a monarch (for example, K.B.E., a suffix granted to Knights Commander of the Order of the British Empire);
- a university (as in a LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) given in recognition of a person's life achievements rather than their academic standing);
- a church or seminary, who may offer an honorary Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) to outstanding ministers or teachers.
The style Esq. or Esquire was once used to distinguish a man who was an apprentice to a knight and is used for a man of socially high ranking. In the United States, Esq. is used both socially and as a professional styling for a lawyer.
||The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (July 2011)|
Professional titles include Esq., often used for an attorney (but not necessarily) in the US who has passed a state bar examination, and CSA (casting) and ASCAP, which indicate membership in professional societies. The suffix CA is used for individuals who have completed the requirements to become a Chartered Accountant. The suffix CPA is also used for individuals who have completed the requirements to become a Certified Public Accountant. Similarly, Chartered Financial Analysts use the suffix CFA. Engineers that are certified as a Professional Engineer in his or her state will use the suffix P.E., Certified Professional Geologists use P.G., Certified Professional Logisticians use CPL, and Chartered Engineers use CEng. Likewise, Registered Architects sometimes use the suffix R.A., or more often a suffix such as AIA or RIBA that refers to their professional society. Examination Office personnel within the United Kingdom who are registered with the Examination Officers' Association use MEOA.
Project managers that have obtained certification as Project Management Professionals from the Project Management Institute may use the suffix PMP after their name. Similarly, individuals who hold certifications in the field of information security – e.g. CISA, CISSP, and/or CISM – may use them as suffixes.
The suffix PT is used by Physical Therapists to denote their state certification, but not to be confused with DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) which is a qualifying degree. UK physiotherapists prefer to use MCSP or SRP to denote membership to professional bodies. RGN is used by qualified nurses as a suffix.
Officers and enlisted in the United States Military will add an abbreviation of the service frequently to disambiguate seniority, and reserve status. For example, Captain Smith, USN (O-6), outranks Captain Jones, USMC (O-3).
Members of religious institutes commonly use their institute's initials as a suffix. For example, a Franciscan friar uses the post-nominal initials "O.F.M.", derived from the Order's name in Latin, "Ordo Fratrum Minorum" (Order of Friars Minor). Equally, a Viatorian priest uses the suffix "C.S.V." from the name of his religious institute, "Clerici Santi Viatori", the (Clerics of Saint Viator). These initials are not considered by members of religious institutes as an equivalent to academic or honorary post-nominial initials, but rather as a sign of membership in a particular religious lineage, similar to the use of "Senior" or "Junior".
Generational suffixes are used to distinguish persons who share the same name within a family. A generational suffix can be used informally (for disambiguation purposes, or as nicknames) and is often incorporated in legal documents.
The most common name suffixes are senior and junior, most frequent in American usage, which are written with a capital first letter ("Jr." and "Sr.") with or without an interceding comma. In England, the abbreviations are "Jnr" and "Snr", respectively. The term "junior" is correctly used only if a child is given exactly the same first, middle, and last name as his or her parent. When the suffixes are spelled out in full, they are always written with the first letter in lower case. Social name suffixes are far more frequently applied to men than to women (due to the common practice of women taking their husbands' surnames). In French, the designations for a father and son with the same name are père ("father") and fils ("son"). In Portuguese, common designations are Júnior (junior), Filho (son), Neto (grandson), and Sobrinho (nephew). In many other nations, it is considered highly unusual or even inauspicious to give a son the same first name(s) as his father, removing the need for such suffixes. Sons with a different middle name or initial may also be called Junior as a nickname, but unless the names are identical, the Jr. suffix is never used. President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton was at birth named William Jefferson Blythe III after his late father William Jefferson Blythe, Jr. (who died three months before Bill's birth). However, when teenage Bill changed his last name to "Clinton" for his stepfather Roger Clinton, Sr., his suffix no longer applied.
Alternatively, Jr's are sometimes referred to as "II". However, the original name carrier relative a "II" is named for is generally an uncle, cousin, or ancestor (including grandfather). The suffix "III" is used after either Jr or II and like subsequent numeric suffixes, does not need to happen in one family line. For example, if Randall and Patrick Dudley are brothers and if Randall has a son before Patrick, he will call his son Patrick, II. If Patrick now has a son, his son is Patrick, Jr. As time passes, the III suffix goes to the son of either Patrick Jr or Patrick II, whomever is first to have a son Patrick. This is one way it is possible and correct for a Jr. to father a IV. Another example involves President Ulysses S. Grant and his sons Frederick, Ulysses Jr, and Jesse. When Frederick's son Ulysses was born in 1881, Ulysses Jr did not yet have a son named after himself. Therefore, Frederick's son was Ulysses III. Ulysses Jr's son, born afterwards in 1893, was Ulysses IV. Jesse's son Chapman was the father of Ulysses V, as neither Ulysses III nor Ulysses IV had sons named for themselves.
In practice, it is quite uncommon for families to go beyond "IV" in naming children. However, notable examples of families with members containing the suffix "V" include the Taft family (William Howard), the Vanderbilt family (Cornelius), the Astor family (John Jacob and William Waldorf), the Rockefeller family (John Davison), and the Roosevelt family (Theodore). Former Major League Baseball pitcher Orel Leonard Hershiser IV and singer Usher Raymond IV also have sons with "V" as their suffix.
Although there are instances of daughters who are named after their mothers and also use the suffix "Jr." (such as Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Jr., Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr., and Carolina Herrera, Jr.), or after their grandmothers or aunts with the suffix "II", this is not common. Usually, the namesake is given a different middle name and so would not need a suffix for differentiation. Furthermore, once the woman marries, she would most commonly take the surname of her husband and thus do away with the generational suffix. The title "Jr." is sometimes used in legal documents, particularly those pertaining to wills and estates, to distinguish among female family members of the same name.
A wife who uses the title Mrs. would also use her husband's full name, including the suffix. In less formal situations, the suffix may be omitted. Hence: Mrs. Lon Chaney Jr. on a wedding invitation, but Mrs. L. Chaney or simply Shannon Chaney for a friendly note. Widows are entitled to retain their late husband's full names and suffixes, but divorcees may not continue to style themselves with a former husband's full name and suffix, even if they retain the surname.
In the Astor family, the two eldest (and only surviving) sons of fur-trader John Jacob Astor (1763—1848) were John Jacob Astor, Jr. (1791—1869) and real estate businessman William Backhouse Astor, Sr. (1792—1875). Since John Jacob Jr. never married or had any children, William Backhouse Sr. was the father of financer/philanthropist John Jacob Astor III (1822—1890) and businessman, yachtsman, and race horse breeder/owner William Backhouse Astor, Jr. (1829—1892). Since John Jacob III's only child was Viscount William Waldorf Astor (1848—1919), William Backhouse Jr. was the father of millionaire businessman and RMS Titanic victim John Jacob "Jack" Astor IV (1864—1912). Because William Waldorf did not have the same middle name as his grandfather and uncle, he was not "III". William Waldorf was the father of Viscount Waldorf Astor (1879—1952), John Rudolph Astor (1881—1881), and Baron John Jacob Astor V (1886—1971). John Rudolph had no suffix because he did not share his middle name with his great-great-grandfather, great-granduncle, grandfather, or cousin. At the time of John Jacob V's birth, Jack did not yet have any children. Jack's elder son was businessman/philanthropist William Vincent Astor (1891—1959). Vincent did not have a suffix because he had a different middle name than his cousin, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Jack's younger son was socialite/shipping businessman John Jacob "Jakey" Astor VI (1912—1992). Waldorf Astor's youngest son was politician/sportsman John Jacob "Jakie" Astor VII (1918—2000). At the time of Jakie's birth, neither John Jacob V nor Jakey had sons named for themselves. John Jacob V's eldest son Baron Gavin Astor (1918—1984) was the father of Baron John Jacob "Johnny" Astor VIII (born 1946). John Jacob V's youngest son was politician John Astor (1923—1987), who did not have a suffix because he did not have his father's middle name. His elder son John Richard Astor (born 1953) does not share his middle name with either his cousin, father, or paternal grandfather, thus does not have a suffix either. Jakie's younger son John William Astor (1962—1963) also did not share his father's middle name. Therefore, he also had no suffix. Jakey was born four months after his father perished in the Titanic, and became the father of William Backhouse Astor III (1935—2008), as William Backhouse Jr. did not have any sons named for himself. William Backhouse III's elder son is William Backhouse Astor IV (born 1959).
In the Rockefeller family, con artist William Avery "Bill" Rockefeller, Sr. (1810—1906) was the father of Standard Oil founders John Davison Rockefeller (1839—1937) and William Avery Rockefeller, Jr. (1841—1922). Bill was a grandson of William Rockefeller (1750—1793), nephew of William W. Rockefeller (1788—1851), grandnephew of Godfrey Rockefeller (1745—1818), and eldest son of Godfrey Lewis Rockefeller (1783—1857). Bill was not "III", and William W was not "Jr" because these three men all had different middle names. Godfrey Lewis was not "II" as he did not share his middle name with his uncle. Two of William Jr.'s sons were director William Goodsell Rockefeller (1870—1922) and John Davison Rockefeller II (1872—1877). John's son philanthropist John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. (1874—1960) had not yet been born at the time of John II's birth. William Goodsell was the father of William Avery Rockefeller III (1896—1973), Godfrey Stillman Rockefeller (1899—1983), and John Sterling Rockefeller (1904—1988). Two of John Jr.'s sons were philanthropist John Davison Rockefeller III (1906—1978) and Governor Winthrop Aldrich Rockefeller (1912—1973). While William Goodsell was named after his father, the two did had different middle names. Therefore, William Goodsell had no suffix. John Sterling also did not have a suffix as he did not share his middle name with his uncle, great-uncle, or cousin. Godfrey Stillman did not have a suffix either as he did not share his middle name with his great-great-grandfather or great-great-great-granduncle. Winthrop's son was Governor Winthrop Paul "Win" Rockefeller (1948—2006). Win was not "Jr" because he and his father had different middle names. Three of Win's sons are Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, Jr. (born 1976), William Gordon Rockefeller, and John Alexander Camp Rockefeller. The latter two do not have any suffixes as they have different middle names than their ancestors, great-great-grand-uncle, and cousins. John III's son is Senator John Davison "Jay" Rockefeller IV (born 1937). Jay's eldest son is John Davison "Jamie" Rockefeller V (born 1969). Jamie's son is John Davison Rockefeller VI (born 2007). Godfrey Stillman's eldest son was Godfrey Anderson Rockefeller (c. 1925—2010).
In the Taft family, Peter Taft's (1715—1783) son Aaron Taft (1743—1808) was the father of lawyer Peter Rawson Taft I (1785–1867). Peter Taft had no suffix because he did not share his grandson's middle name. Peter Rawson's eldest son Alphonso Taft (1810—1891) was the father of several sons, including lawyer Charles Phelps Taft I (1843—1929), Peter Rawson Taft II (1846—1889), President William Howard Taft (1857—1930), and lawyer Henry Waters Taft (1859—1945). Henry was the father of William Howard Taft II (1887—1952) since President Taft did not have any children at the time. President Taft and First Lady Helen Lousie "Nellie" Herron were the parents of Senator Robert Alphonso Taft (1889—1953), history teacher Helen Herron Taft (1891—1987), and politician Charles Phelps Taft II (1897—1983). Robert was the father of Ireland ambassador William Howard Taft III (1915—1991). William II did not have any children named for himself. William III was the father of attorney William Howard Taft IV (born 1945). William IV is the father of William Howard Taft V.
However, many men in the public eye misuse suffixes. An example of this is WWE chairman Vincent Kennedy McMahon who is sometimes credited as Vince McMahon, Jr. because his own father (Vincent James McMahon) was credited as Vince McMahon, Sr. Strikingly, the son of actor Lon Chaney was billed by Hollywood as Lon Chaney, Jr., to capitalize on his father's success, even though he had an entirely different birth name: Creighton Tull Chaney. A similar situation exists with singer Hank Williams, whose birth name is actually Hiram King Williams. His son, Randall Hank Williams, is professionally known as Hank Williams, Jr. Randall's son Shelton Hank Williams is known professionally as Hank Williams III. In some cases, if a famous person already has a suffix but does not use it professionally, and names a son after himself using the next suffix, the son may publicly be known as a "Jr." despite this; the most famous example is Desi Arnaz, Jr. (whose name is actually Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV), the son of bandleader, actor and producer Desiderio Alberto Arnaz III. Franklin Wayne Sinatra goes by "Frank Sinatra, Jr." while his father Frank Sinatra's full name was Francis Albert Sinatra. President Ronald Wilson Reagan's son Ronald Prescott Reagan has often been misidentified as "Ronald Reagan Jr".  Senator Henry Cabot Lodge II went by Jr when his grandfather, also a senator, was the original Henry Cabot Lodge. Henry I did not have any sons named for himself.
Common nicknames for a junior or II include "Chip" (as in "chip off the old block") and "Bud" (predominantly in the American South). However, President James Early "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.'s second son James Earl Carter III goes by "Chip". Common nicknames for a III are "Trip(p)", "Trace", and "Trey" which denote that the name carrier is the third person to carry the name. Notable examples include Green Day drummer Frank Edwin "Tré Cool" Wright III, South Park co-creator Randolph Severn "Trey" Parker III, and Willard Carroll "Trey" Smith III, elder son of actor Willard Carroll "Will" Smith, Jr.
Ordering of post-nominal letters
- McDermott, Tricia. "Bill Clinton: His Life". CBS News. Retrieved 11 February 2009.
- Sinatra, Nancy. Frank Sinatra biography. (1998). Frank Sinatra An American Legend. The Sinatra Family.
- Sinatra, Nancy. (15 July 2007). Frank Jr. & Steve Tyrell (forum thread), The Sinatra Family Forum (sinatrafamily.com).
- When introduced as "Ron Reagan Jr." Reagan clarified that he is not a "Junior". (19 January 2011). The Colbert Report (television interview).
- Dow, H. (11 February 2009). George Foreman's rise to the top. Sunday Morning. CBS News.
- "James "Chip" Carter". academyofachievement.org.