Why do some people use middle name for their first name like attorneys? And is this ok in the academic venue?

  • I do not think this practice is more common among attorneys than among many other professions. – GEdgar Jun 6 '17 at 21:41
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    @GEdgar - I'm not so sure. From what I've seen (anecdotal, sure), it mainly is men with the same first name as their father (for family reasons). Then, to distinguish the father from son the son's second name is used within the family. One of my brother-in-laws is different - as a child the family used his middle name, and he went to his first name once in college when there was no reason to distinguish (in general). – Jon Custer Jun 6 '17 at 23:15
  • I didn't know this was more common among attorneys! – aparente001 Jun 8 '17 at 3:13
  • To take one prominent example, I think Tim Gowers, the Fields medalist also known as W. T. Gowers, would agree that it's acceptable to use your middle name in academia. – Shane O Rourke Jun 8 '17 at 22:19

Why do some people use middle name for their first name like attorneys?

Perhaps they don't like their first name, or maybe there's already a well-known person in their field with the same name, so they need to distinguish themselves.

And is this ok in the academic venue?


  • 7
    Or perhaps they've been called by their middle name their entire lives. – JeffE Jun 6 '17 at 21:36

Upon further investigation I found that there are hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who prefer to write their name like the format shown below:

FirstNameInitial + Middle Name + Last Name

It's perfectly legal to use the above format. It's just might not be common for people of your culture or city or state or country to use the above format. Some people may not like their first name or they might share their first name with other family members, so they prefer to use their middle name.

Let's take the example of J. Edgar Hoover, first and former director of FBI.

Full Name: John Edgar Hoover

Surname: Hoover Family Name: Hoover Last Name: Hoover Given Names: John Edgar First Name: John First Given Name: John Middle Name: Edgar Second Given Name: Edgar His name can be written in multiple ways.

John Edgar Hoover John E. Hoover J. Edgar Hoover [known by his First Name Initial and Middle Name] J. E. Hoover John Hoover Edgar Hoover [when the person wants others to call him Edgar] If you are referring to the first and former director of FBI, then please know that all the above formats are applicable. John Edgar Hoover chose to be publicly known as J. Edgar Hoover.

Take the example of M. Night Shyamalan. His legal first name is Manoj and last name is Shyamalan. He prefers to use Manoj "Night" Shyamalan or M. "Night" Shyamalan as his screen / stage name for professional reasons. But he prefers to use a middle name for movies.

Popular people who use middle names include

Sir Thomas Sean Connery Walter Bruce Wills William Bradley "Brad" Pitt Christopher Ashton Kutcher Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon Hannah Dakota Fanning John William Ferrel James Paul McCartney Robyn Rihanna Fenty Some people choose pen names like J. K. Rowling. J. K. Rowling's real name is Joanne Rowling. Her pen names are J. K. Rowling and Robert Gailbraith. The letter K in her name is just a letter and not an initial for a middle name. She does not have a middle name. She choose K in memory of her grandmother Kathleen. Alas, her creative imagination and hard work took her to a whole new level. She became one of the world's most popular writers.

Finally, its really up to a person as to how they want to be known.

  • 1
    You realy ought to format that long list It looks like there's a "Sir Thomas Fenty" with a lot of middle names. – Chris H Jun 8 '17 at 15:31
  • This answer appears to be copied verbatim from this quora answer without attribution. It also doesn't really answer the OP's question about whether it's acceptable in academia. – rturnbull Jun 9 '17 at 10:08

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