Birth name

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A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname, the given name, or the entire name. Where births are required to be officially registered, the entire name entered onto a births register or birth certificate may by that fact alone become the person's legal name.[1]

The assumption in the Western world is often that the name from birth (or perhaps from baptism or brit milah) will persist to adulthood in the normal course of affairs—either throughout life or until marriage. Some possible changes concern middle names, diminutive forms, changes relating to parental status (due to one's parents' divorce or adoption by different parents), and changes related to gender transition. Matters are very different in some cultures in which a birth name is for childhood only, rather than for life.

Maiden and married names[edit]

The French and English-adopted terms née and (/n/; French: [ne], from French né[e] 'born')[a] have been used to indicate maiden or married names.[2]

The term née, having feminine grammatical gender, can be used to denote a woman's surname at birth that has been replaced or changed. In most English-speaking cultures, it is specifically applied to a woman's maiden name after her surname has changed due to marriage if she chooses to.[3]

The term , having masculine grammatical gender, can be used to denote a man's surname at birth which has subsequently been replaced or changed.[4] The diacritic marks (the acute accent) are considered significant to its spelling, and ultimately its meaning, but are sometimes omitted.[4]

According to Oxford University's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, the terms are typically placed after the current surname (e.g., "Alexandra Kollontai, née Domontovich" or "Karl Westphalen, né Marx").[5][4] Because they are terms adopted into English (from French), they do not have to be italicized, but often are.[5]

In Polish tradition, the term de domo (literally meaning "of house" in Latin) may be used, with rare exceptions meaning the same as née.[b]


  1. ^ Both née and né are pronounced the same. The second 'e' in née is silent.
  2. ^ In historical contexts "de domo" may refer to a Polish heraldic clan, e.g., "Paulus de Glownia nobilis de domo Godzamba" (Paul of Glownia noble family, of Godziemba coat of arms). See also De domo (disambiguation).


  1. ^ "French administration must routinely use woman's maiden name in letters". The Connexion. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014. Laws have existed since the French Revolution stating that 'no citizen can use a first name or surname other than that written on their birth certificate' – but many official organisations address both partners by the husband's surname.
  2. ^ Waddingham, Anne (2014). New Hart's Rules: The Oxford Style Guide. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199570027.
  3. ^ "née - definition of née in English from the Oxford dictionary".
  4. ^ a b c Butterfield, Jeremy (10 March 2016). Fowler's Concise Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191062308.
  5. ^ a b Garner, Bryan (11 March 2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190491505.