Is there a name for the format of listing names by 'Last name, first name'? For example, how names were listed in phone books when those existed. Ex: this list of names is sorted (blank style):

Goodman, Leo Herman, Bob Smith, John

  • Simply 'alphabetical order of surname'. Feb 23, 2014 at 19:29
  • 1
    Or “last name first.” Feb 23, 2014 at 20:50
  • What year are you living in? Phone books still exist
    – Joe Blow
    May 9, 2019 at 2:43

2 Answers 2


I don't believe there is a well-defined term for this type of list. There first needs to be some clarification of what first name and last name mean - they do not always conform to the presumed model of given name (personal name) and family name (surname).

I have always used the term surname-ordered list in my computer programming. White Pages directories generally describe their own sorting simply as alphabetical, as do most dictionaries.

Sorting by surname has some pitfalls - a number of countries and cultures do fit the standard FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME naming structure. Spanish and Portuguese names often have one or two personal names and one or two family names (such as Vicente Yáñez Pinzón). Chinese and a number of other Asian countries are usually written with the family name first (such as Liu Xiaobo). Some exceptions to the standard sorting methods of names is described nicely in wikipedia. For these reasons, sorting by LAST_NAME can be tricky if LAST_NAME is not a well-defined and independent field.

  • +1 for pointing out arbitrariness of the idea of 'last name', and also for linking to Liu Xiaobo Mar 18, 2014 at 16:49

I believe that is called "Lexicographic Order"

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