28

How should I fill this information if I have more than one given name and more than one last name?

For example, if my name is Juan Eduardo González Rodríguez. I have 2 given names: "Juan" and "Eduardo", and I have 2 last names (The first one of my father and the second one of my mother because that how it is done in Mexico): "González" and "Rodríguez".

Should I only write:

First name: Juan

Last name: González

or should it be

First name: Juan Eduardo

Last name: González Rodríguez (or González-Rodríguez)

  • 6
    I would just use one single First Name, and for the Last Name I would use both, using "-", as for instance; Juan González-Rodríguez. Just two "words", otherwise you will have trouble with indexing systems, englishmen, etc – Open the way Jan 12 '15 at 11:06
  • 17
    I would use your names exactly as they are written on your passport. If your actual legal name does not have a hyphen, don't add one. If your actual legal family name consists of more than one word, use mor than one word. Modern indexing systems have no problem with multiple-word names. – JeffE Jan 12 '15 at 12:31
  • 4
    Every time I need to give my second last name in the UK I try to explain how in Spain we have 2 last names and they may not want to use the second one or maybe the want to put them together. Every time, they smile, affirm understanding, and then screw it when they do it.... I just don't know what to do anymore! ;) – Ander Biguri Jan 12 '15 at 13:41
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    As an English person who has encountered (and worked with) Spanish people in the past, they have always just had to give in and put their last-last name in as their last name, OR hyphenate the two last names. So, in your case, your name would become "Juan Rodriguez" or "Juan González-Rodríguez". Eduardo would be your "middle name". I totally understand how dumb this seems. But from my experience you will cave in at some point if you try to fight the system, so you might as well just cave in now. I'm sorry on behalf of our country! – Max Williams Jan 12 '15 at 16:01
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    Semi-related post: Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names – user20640 Jan 13 '15 at 4:38
40

I am in your exact same situation: Spanish name with 2+2. I have lived abroad for 6 years now, most of it in Ireland.

There is no way out of misunderstandings, I'm afraid, and your second last name will often be assumed to be your only family name.

Here is a recipe that has worked out for me so far:

  • For a non legally-critical situation, e.g. your name on a paper or a name tag at a conference, use your first last name only or hyphen both last names. You can then initialize your second (or even first) given names. People from English-speaking countries often have a middle name, so that's not a problem.

  • For legal and official stuff, use your full name as per your identity document so it cannot be used against you. If they get it flipped over it's their fault.

19

The solution that involves the least hassle in most cases is to fill out the form so that it matches your name on your identity documents (e.g. passport).

This avoids problems (annoyances, mainly) that can arise as a result of having "different" names in different systems.

  • 1
    While this is a good advice for documents and legal stuff, using the whole name on a day-to-day basis doesn't work. This is even worse in some countries (my firsthand experience is France) where they never use more than one first and one last name (They have middle names, but it is never used, apart from some documents). I almost never use my whole name, even in papers (I'm dropping the 'á' as well....) – Fábio Dias Jan 9 '16 at 18:47
6

I know a number of people who deal with similar situations, and the last name will never cease to given you bureaucratic headaches in English-speaking countries, because no matter what you do, other people will sometimes enter it incorrectly into databases in a variety of different and unusual failure modes.

Most major institutions, however, will be capable of understanding the variety of names in the world, and yours is a fairly common case. As such, for a government form, put down your name exactly as it is structured on your passport. For any other form:

  • For the first name, put whatever you want people to actually call you. In America, two first names is actually not uncommon: in addition to the Hispanic population, it's an long-standing Southern tradition.

  • For the last name, put both names, or else you will confuse people.

  • In both cases, you can add a hyphen if you want to reduce confusion by making it clear which name-components go together. It won't stop the corporate screw-ups, though, so don't feel you have to compromise your heritage this way unless you want to.

6

Anyone who believes this problem to be solved, or is building a system and wants to work with the issue should read this: Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names

Essentially you will have to decide based on what you are doing and the longevity of your information in the system how to approach the problem. In most European and American systems this means your last name will be hyphenated, or you can choose one.

The first name will need to be one word as well unless you wish to deal with endless issues with clerks incorrectly entering the information.

In short, come up with a compromise you can live with that will cause the least amount of problems, or there will be constant issues with every entity you run across. This is especially important in academic publications, as you will need to reference them consistently later.

5

I would say it partly depends on how you want be known at the school where you are applying. Fill it out the first way, and you'll be known as Juan González at that school. That's how your name will likely be printed on class rosters, and that's what professors will see when you've registered for their class. If you'd rather be known as Juan Eduardo, it'll be a constant uphill battle explaining that to your instructors each semester.

However, if you put Juan Eduardo as your first name, most professors will see that in the first name field, and they'll be more likely call you Juan Eduardo on the first day of class.

As for your last name, hyphenated last names are not uncommon in the U.S. Therefore, if you are applying to a U.S. school, it might be worth hyphenating the last name – but not if you feel like you are compromising your own identity to do so. If you feel like your last name is González Rodríguez (no hyphen), then list it that way. People might get confused initially, but they will adapt. Moreover, if they've never seen a 2+2 name before, some might even be thankful to learn something new.

Part of this is a tradeoff between how much you want to retain your name as it is, and how much you want to fit your name into a culture that is more accustomed to First MI Last.

As a footnote, perhaps a university registrar will read this question, and begin to wonder if they should tinker with their institution's online application form, to be more accomodating to people from other cultures.

  • 1
    I like the practicality of this answer, but it doesn't address the potentially very serious consequences of having the wrong name on important legal paperwork. It's a pesky question because there are some games you can't win (what's legally correct will be misunderstood as if it were incorrect). – tripleee Jan 13 '15 at 5:29
  • @tripleee - It's true that I let others focus more on the legal issues than I did in my answer. That said, I'm having trouble seeing how [Juan] [Rodríguez], or [Juan Eduardo] [González Rodríguez], or [Juan] [Eduardo] [González-Rodríguez] could be considered a "wrong name" for someone whose given name is Juan Eduardo González Rodríguez. – J.R. Jan 13 '15 at 9:12
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    It's hard to predict when bureaucracy is going to go wrong. I was almost unable to exchange currency once in Italy because my passport has inconsistent place names. But it's when Juan González mismatches Eduardo Rodríguez that the real trouble is going to start. – tripleee Jan 13 '15 at 10:08
  • @tripleee - Good point. Whatever convention the O.P. uses, he should try to be consistent. – J.R. Jan 13 '15 at 10:12
  • Add room for generous misunderstandings, like [Rodríguez] [González] or whatever ...! (-: – tripleee Jan 13 '15 at 10:14
3

I'm pretty sure this will get voted down as "Not answering the question", but the truth is we can not tell you what's right.

What kind of form is it? Does it have a legal status (ie: passport, Driver's license, academic transcript); something someone will ask, "How do I know this is really you, because the names do not match?", which may have consequences. I could share stories where people are at risk of losing government benefits or even their job because the legal names provided (exp. Asian legal + English common names) did not match originating documents. It has caused untold stress and countless hours of effort and expense to correct. One poor soul entered into a form his given name and in the "preferred name" box entered "Same". You can guess what they called him.

The best advise it to ask the provider of the form. You may also want to read for your amusement and share with them for their information the following:

Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names to help them improve their data systems.

2

As a Portuguese person with four names, living in the UK for a few years now, I’ve found that putting my first 2 names as First Names and my last 2 names as Last Names works virtually everywhere.

I got to this conclusion after having a British Airways staff person telling me the system couldn’t find my tickets automatically because I had filled them in with 1 first name, 1 middle name, and 2 last names.

1

It may depend on the forms and systems in use at the particular institution you're working with. Taking my university as an example (U.S., large urban community college), our systems work fine with your full name, i.e., option #2. The class rosters I receive routinely have two names per field (i.e., have a space in them; but not any accents or diacritical marks).

If you're filling out a form that has separate fields for first & last, then I would print your full name as given in those fields. If there's only one field for "name", then I would insert hyphens to reduce confusion about which parts go together.

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