Middle Names

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    Where did the custom to call people with two names by their middle name? It seems more prevalent by the galitzianis than litvish. Is it they just prefer the middle name, or is their some svarah for it. It seems to me that a person should go by the name he was given at birth, either by the first or both names.


    Well, I know someone that if I told you what their first name was, you would understand why they call themselves by their second name. 🙂


    I couldn’t answer about Galitzianers, as my paternal side is Litvish and maternal German.

    That said, I grew up in close proximity to many paternal cousins of my generation. There were 6 boys born in early 1954. All of us were named for our paternal Great Grandfather A”H who had died in December 1953. Rather than having mass confusion when mother, grandmother, aunt called for Yitzhak to stop playing ball and come inside, we were all called by our middle names (which were all different from each other). Only when signing our names, in yeshiva, or after Bar Mitzvah when being called for an aliyah are we called by our given first names.


    They began to become common during the end of the middle ages (or the early modern period depending on whom you ask). The region is that as populations started to grow, you needed double names to be distinct, especially since people seem to have a preference for a very limited number of names (in the gemara period, people used far more names).. According to one of the early bibliographies of sefarim, published in Amsterdam in the late 18th century, Ashkenazi custom was to call a person by the second name, and Sefardi custom was to call someone by the first, but these are generalizations.

    Given that surnames (family names) are now used, and pioneered by the Jews in Eretz Yisrael, many people are using a wider variety of personal names, it will be interesting if the use of having multiple forenames (personal names) will continue.


    When everyone has 1 name, and their father has 1 name, it makes the Gabbai’s job so much simpler, as well as reducing Tircho dTzibur when calling up people.

    I signed several Gittin under the tutelage of a certain Choshuv Rov who was frequently Mesader Gittin, who would only accept Eidim who had 1 name and whose father had 1 name, to cut out potential Sha’alos. … He would have loved to do the same for picking divorcing men & women, but obviously realized he had to deal with the issue of multiple names of divorcees, but wasn’t interested in causing extra issues when it came to the Eidim.


    akuperman: What was pioneered by the Jews in Eretz Yisrael?


    It’s not so much that people are called by their middle name as that their first name is their second name.


    I haven’t noticed that there is any wide spread generalization as to using middle names. In fact most people use their first name only and drop the middle name. Lately the Yeshivish community seems to be using both names for males and females. There is no specific chasidish minhag concerning this. Often a person was named for a relative with two names who was called by his first name and this was continued. Or the next generation just liked the first name.

    As an addendum, Jews don’t really have a “second” name. Both names are the persons “name”. Not like Catholics who add a middle name. Their first name is the name they want to use and the “middle” name is usually a “saint” or the maternal family surname.


    There is a difference between compound names and having two names.


    TheProf: I know a number of people who go by their middle names, and it was only after knowing them for awhile did I even learn they had a first name. So, if Jews don’t really have second names, then everyone should be called by all their names, but we see that isn’t thecase


    The need to be distinguished during population growth svara makes sense for why middle names were introduced, but as a gabbi, I was always perplexed by those people who have four names and whose father has three. Too many names bro!


    My real name is Fancy Fusion Jewish Japanese Sushibagel creamy cream cheese tasty tampura wonderful wasabi aka. Chrain.

    But I just go by my middle name


    So far waiting for a reasonable explanation why some people go by their middle names.



    You gave a reasonable and accurate explanation in your OP

    ” …they just prefer the middle name”



    Many people need to add a name to a main name (I. e. if the person they are naming after, passed away at a young age). According to some [Poskim], the added name needs to be first. Since the second name is the main name, they are called by their second name. I have many family members who have 2 names. Most go by their second name or are called by both names.

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