Wikipedia:Naming conventions (people)

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This guideline contains conventions on how to name Wikipedia articles about individual people. It should be read in conjunction with Wikipedia's general policy on article naming, Wikipedia:Article titles.

Most biographical articles have titles in the form <First name> <Last name>, as with Albert Einstein and Margaret Thatcher. This guideline explains how to handle cases where this format is not obvious, or for one reason or other is not followed.

Scope of this guideline[edit]

In general this guideline deals with the naming of articles where a single article is devoted to a single person (although there are also sections on articles combining biographies of several people and several articles treating the same person).

This guideline does not cover articles on organizations or other groups of people, things named after people (Basilica of St Denis, RMS Queen Elizabeth 2), or gods and deities. Naming of such articles may be covered by other relevant guidelines: see the box at top right. Otherwise, consult the general policy on article titles.

This guideline also does not apply to fictional characters (for example P. D. Q. Bach, Dame Edna Everage), unless when the main biography of the creator of that character is contained on the same page (example: Conchita Wurst, article title treated similar to a stage name). Similarly, the guideline does not apply to pseudonyms (e.g. Anna O.) treated in a separate article from the main biography of the person they refer to.

Redirects should be created from other names by which readers are likely to search for articles. For the naming of disambiguation pages, see Wikipedia:Disambiguation.

Article titles for certain groups of people are dealt with on more specialized guideline pages. See:

There are also several other naming conventions for specific languages and cultures (see the box at top right).

Standard format and variations[edit]

The "<First Name> <Last Name>" format applies to the majority of biographical articles on Wikipedia. These are not usually problematic, except possibly in terms of orthography, which is treated in the guidelines for particular languages (see box at top right).

However, there are also many biographical article titles that do not have "<First Name> <Last Name>" format, either because the person has no name in that form, or because they are much better known by some other name. The following sections cover cases where other formats may be considered or where other issues arise with applying the standard format.

Important: provide redirects wherever possible (or appropriate disambiguation where redirects are not possible) for all formats of a name that are in use, or could reasonably be typed in Wikipedia's "Search" box by someone looking for information about that person.

Capitalization: See Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters § Proper names. Names that are not capitalized include k.d. lang and danah boyd.

People from countries where the surname comes first[edit]

The conventions for dealing with such names vary from country to country, and are usually covered in specialized guidelines, such as those for Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese. With Hungarian names, use Western name order (given name before surname).

Single name[edit]

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Sometimes, mostly for names from antiquity, a single word is traditional and sufficient to identify a person unambiguously: Aristotle, Livy, Plutarch, Charlemagne, Fibonacci, etc.

Some modern examples include Sukarno and Suharto of Indonesia, and Hirohito of Japan.

Using the last name as the page title for a person, when the first name is also known and used, is discouraged, even if that name would be unambiguous, and even if it consists of more than one word. Unambiguous last names are usually redirects: for example, Ludwig van Beethoven is the title of an article, while Van Beethoven and Beethoven redirect to that article.

Similarly, don't use a first name (even if unambiguous) for an article title if the last name is known and fairly often used. For example, Oprah Winfrey is the article title, and Oprah redirects there. Only if the single name is used as a true artist's name (stage name, pseudonym, etc.) can the recommendations of Nicknames, pen names, stage names, cognomens below be followed.

Exceptionally the use of a single name without any other qualifier as article title helps in disambiguation, for example Tacitus (the author) is seldom confused with the emperor with the same name. More often it doesn't help—for example "Prince" has many meanings—so a disambiguator is still required for Prince (musician).

Middle names and initials[edit]

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Generally, use the most common format of a name used in reliable sources: if that is with a middle name or initials, make the Wikipedia article title conform to that format. Examples: John F. Kennedy, Thomas John Barnardo, George H. W. Bush, J. P. Morgan.

For initials:

See also section about pen names, stage names, nicknames and cognomens below: prefer what is most common, e.g. Malcolm X and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Adding given names, or their abbreviations, merely for disambiguation purposes (if that format of the name is not commonly used to refer to the person) is not advised.

Multiple and changed surnames – patronymics and matronymics[edit]

Some Western cultures use a "double last name" format, or add patronymics or matronymics. Also, people sometimes change their surnames, particularly on marriage.

The general rule in such cases is to title the article with the name by which the person is best known. Some examples are listed below.

  • Josep Puig i Cadafalch – Puig is the last name of his father, Cadafalch of his mother; i means "and" (see Iberian naming customs).
  • Antoni Gaudí – not Antoni Gaudí i Cornet; this architect is better known without the matronymic.
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Ilyich is a patronymic based on the first name of the father (see Eastern Slavic naming customs#Patronymic). Only for a very few Russians is the patronimic customary in English, notwithstanding widespread use of patronymics in the native language.
  • Tatyana Sukhotina-Tolstaya – on marriage she combined the feminized versions of her husband's and father's surnames. Note: the patronymic (Lvovna) is not used in the page title in this case.
  • Virginia Woolf – born Virginia Stephen, she took the married surname Woolf. The article title contains "Woolf" because that is the name by which she is best known.
  • Vita Sackville-West – her birth name, not her married name Vita Nicolson, which is rarely used.
  • Courteney Cox – on marriage she became Courteney Cox-Arquette, but she is still best known by the surname Cox, so the article title reflects that.

Adding or subtracting a second last name or a patronymic artificially, as a disambiguation aid, is rarely advised. The most usual form of the name is the one that should be used.

"X of Y" format[edit]

Some people, particularly historical figures, are known by names in the format "<First name> of <Location>", such as Stephen of Ripon and Anne of Cleves. If, for a given person, this format is more often used than the usual "<First name> <Last name>" format, then it should be used as the article title.

If alternative "locations" are in use, then use the more common one. For example, Jeanne of Flanders and Jeanne of Constantinople both refer to the same person, but the first version is slightly more used, so that is the preferred article name.

Note that for monastics, names in the form "X of Y" may exist where "Y" is not a location. If a variant with a location exists, that is the version preferred as the article title. For example:

  • Teresa of Ávila, not "Teresa of Jesus" (translation of "Teresa de Jesús," the way she signed her letters and was known in her convent); but
  • John of the Cross, translation of "Juan de la Cruz"; no variant with a location available.

Sometimes the "of <Location>" part is differently formatted: "à Kempis" (in: Thomas à Kempis) would by many be perceived as a last name, while in fact it is "of Kempen" differently formatted. Such an alternative format is only used for an article title when in English the name is nearly exclusively written in that form (compare: Thomas Becket and not Thomas à Becket).

The "X of Y" format is widely used in Wikipedia for monarchs (see the royalty and nobility guideline). For many monarchs and saints this format is useful for disambiguation, although in some cases the ambiguity persists – see for example Elisabeth of Bohemia (disambiguation).

Ordinals[edit]

For guidance on the use of ordinals with the names of European monarchs and other European nobility, see the royalty and nobility guideline.

For others, use ordinals if they are commonly used in reliable sources, for example:

Use ordinals for disambiguation only when naming the ordinal explicitly is the commonest way to refer to the person. So it is Henry Vane the Younger, not Henry Vane II.

Nicknames, pen names, stage names, cognomens[edit]

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The name used most often to refer to a person in reliable sources is generally the one that should be used as the article title, even if it is not their "real" name, and even if it appears to pass judgement on the person (as with Alfred the Great).

If people published under one or more pen names and/or their own name, the best known of these names is chosen.

Examples of pen names, stage names etc. used as article titles:

For guidance on the use of cognomens or other titles for monarchs and nobles, see the royalty and nobility guideline.

Page names are hardly suitable to clarify, explain or in any other way elaborate on the composition of a name. Notable distinctions can be explained in the article, but avoid (for example) adding a nickname, or a contracted version of the original first name(s) in quotes between first and last name. For example: Bill Clinton, not William "Bill" Clinton. The page name uses preferably the most commonly used version of the name of that person, other variants can be included as redirects, and if needed clarified in the body of the article.

Titles and styles[edit]

Styles, such as "His Grace" or "HRH", are not used in the page titles of biographical articles.

Honorifics and other titles such as "King", "Queen", "Blessed", "Mother", "Father", "Doctor" etc. are not generally used to begin the titles of biographical articles, unless they are used to form the unambiguous name by which the subject is clearly best known (as in Mother Teresa, Father Damien, Mahatma Gandhi).

Where such qualifiers are used, they are not abbreviated. Redirects should be created from commonly used forms containing such qualifiers; this may include abbreviated forms. For example, Blessed John Forest redirects to John Forest, and Dr Livingstone redirects to David Livingstone.

For guidance on the use of the title "Saint", and for clerical titles such as "Pope", see the clergy naming guideline.

For the use of titles in the names of articles on monarchs, other royals and members of the nobility, see the royalty and nobility guideline.

Descriptive titles[edit]

When the subject is known by a description, and not by a name, use it.

Exceptionally, when no direct name (not even a nickname) can be given for a person, or when such a name would have too much uncertainty and/or lack wide recognisability, a descriptive article title may be appropriate. For example:

Do not do this for disambiguation alone.

Disambiguating [edit]

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As with many other Wikipedia articles, the titles of articles on people (arrived at using the principles described above) sometimes require further disambiguation. An article title will require disambiguation if there are other articles to which the plain title could also refer, unless the subject of the current article is considered to be the primary topic for that title.

When there is a usual way of distinguishing two people of the same name, use it. Examples:

In the case of Senior/Junior, the preferred format is with " Sr." or " Jr." written after the name; for Latin and Greek names, "the Elder"/"the Younger" (or in some cases "the Great(er)"/"the Lesser") is preferred (with that capitalization) rather than "Major"/"Minor".

If there is no usual form of conventional disambiguation, place a disambiguating tag in parentheses after the name. Examples:

The disambiguator is usually a noun indicating what the person is noted for being in his or her own right. In most cases these nouns are standard, commonly used tags such as "(musician)" and "(politician)". Try to avoid using abbreviations or anything capitalised or containing hyphens, dashes or numbers (apart from instances where more specific guidelines specify particular exceptions). Try also to limit the tag to a single, recognizable and highly applicable term.

Sometimes disambiguators need to be more specific. For example, "Engelbert Humperdinck (musician)" could still refer to two different people, so Engelbert Humperdinck (composer) and Engelbert Humperdinck (singer) are used.

Sometimes a mix of the preceding techniques is required, as in this example: Roger Meddows-Taylor and Roger Taylor (Duran Duran drummer) for the two drummers called Roger Taylor.

Years of birth and death are not normally used as disambiguators (readers are more likely to be seeking this information than to already know it) although this may be necessary when there are multiple people with the same name and tag. Where the disambiguation can't be resolved in a straightforward manner by such more specific qualifiers, e.g. for the two poker players called David Baker, date of birth can be added in this format: [[Name (qualifier, born YYYY)]]. Note a comma should be used and born should not be abbreviated to "b.", so: David Baker (poker player, born 1972) and David Baker (poker player, born 1986).

For historical figures when there is no dominant qualifier (at least no practical one), the descriptor may be omitted in favour of a single use of the date of birth or death. For historical figures this would often be the date of death, that is if that date is better known and/or has a higher recognisability with regard to the person than the date of birth. Example: George Heriot and George Heriot (died 1610).

Self-published name changes[edit]

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When the subject of a biographical article self-publishes a new name, both the article titling and biographies of living persons policies apply. Particularly relevant:

The appreciation of how much extra weight should be given to more recent sources is guided by the likelyhood the new name is going to stick: while Wikipedia is not a crystal ball it needs to be unavoidable that the new name will soon be the most common name. Examples:

  • Several years after publication of the new name, Cat Stevens is not moved to Yusuf Islam: impossible to say whether the new name will become as popular as the former stage name.
  • Minutes after announcement of the new name the biography of Jorge Bergoglio is renamed to Pope Francis: unavoidable that on the short term the former cardinal will be known by his papal name.

When the subject of a biographical article wants to return to an earlier name (e.g. purging the article title from honorifcs no longer identified with, abandoning a pen name,...), also older sources may carry additional weight when the proposal is to go back to the name given at birth.

For minor spelling variations (capitalisation, diacritics, punctuation and spacing after initials,...): when a consistent and unambiguous self-published version exists it is usually followed:

Articles combining biographies of several people[edit]

Occasionally, multiple persons with a strong connection are treated in a single article (the individuals may or may not also be the subject of separate articles). Examples include:

A page titled with a single first name or family name will often be a disambiguation page, for example: Katz. The lead paragraph of such page may contain information about the name (etymology, variants and so on), for example: Peter. If such information consists of more than a short introductory paragraph, it is better to make separate "description" and "disambiguation" pages, for instance: John (name) and John—in this case John (disambiguation) redirects to the latter of these pages. Jean only has a disambiguation page, but the introduction of this page links to John (name) for the etymology.

If several people share the same name, a disambiguation page (or disambiguation using hatnotes) is generally used. Occasionally, however, a single page may be created for a number of people with the same name. (See Category:Articles about multiple people.)

This is quite often done for ancient Roman names such as Julia Caesaris. Brief information is given on each person in a separate section, with a link to an individual article on that person if one exists. Even if there are no subarticles, the same layout can be used, that is: one "==...==" level section per person by this name (example: Lucius Valerius Flaccus). A mixed example (some sections having subarticles, while others haven't) can be found at Lucius Julius Caesar. (Such pages are placed in Category:Articles about multiple people in ancient Rome.)

Several articles treating the same person[edit]

The essentials of a person's life and significance can generally be summarized in less than 30/50 KB. If additional encyclopedic content seems justified, the Isaac Newton article structure can be followed: split the article on the person in sections: each section giving a summary of another article detailing a specific part of that person's life stage or significance in history. It is best to make a link to such other articles in the {{Main|<sub-article name>}} format, immediately under the title of level "==" sections. A similar style with {{Details|<sub-article name>}} templates can be followed, as explained at Wikipedia:Summary style.

See also[edit]