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The term "maiden name" is only used to describe the name that a woman had before marriage, and as such, is not gender neutral. However, it occasionally occurs that a man will take his partner's last name, or they will choose a different last name altogether, so this doesn't work in all cases.

What is a gender-neutral way to refer to a last name that you had before you were married, in fewer words?

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    Birth name seems to be the forerunner, but "given name" and "family name" are pretty common as well. Research "legal change of name" and you'll see that those are terms often resorted to.
    – horatio
    Mar 27, 2014 at 15:10
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    My problem with "birth name" and "given name" is that they are ambiguous - is it the first name or the last name? As for "family name", it could do, but again, is it the person's last name before or after the marriage? Both are families. "Family name" is the best bet so far, though.
    – randak
    Mar 27, 2014 at 15:17
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    True, though I should be able to refer to people in Iceland in English!
    – randak
    Mar 27, 2014 at 15:26
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    Seriously, what's wrong with maiden name? I really have a problem seeing your problem.
    – Robusto
    Mar 28, 2014 at 2:08
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    If two men marry, and one takes the other's name, "maiden" is not the right term.
    – randak
    Mar 28, 2014 at 2:55

4 Answers 4

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Birth name is completely gender neutral, but it might be confusing out of context.

Pre-married name will provide context in addition to being gender neutral.

Or even née and which are derived from French meaning born. They are past participle of naître (to be born). But, as most Americans wouldn't recognize as masculine and née as feminine, it retains some of its neutrality. You would still need to designate male and female properly for those who do, but it won't be as loaded as "maiden name".

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  • The trouble I have with birth name is that it is ambiguous as to whether it means first name or last name (or at least it would confuse some people).
    – randak
    Mar 27, 2014 at 6:36
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    @Laure Look at when the post was written. You shouldn't edit a post within 2 minutes of its being posted. If you see something, leave a comment. Give the OP time to fix their post. Its the proper etiquette on the site. Especially for posts of people who are experienced on the site.
    – David M
    Mar 27, 2014 at 6:46
  • We may see the term "birth name" when describing celebrities who took stage names ... "Rock Hudson (birth name Roy Harold Scherer Jr.)" ; "Whoopi Goldberg (birth name Caryn Elaine Johnson)."
    – GEdgar
    Jun 19, 2020 at 13:28
  • On occasions when I must discuss people's names, I sometimes use "original surname" especially when it is still part of their name. "Pre-married" implies (to some people) that the name is no longer used.
    – A.K.
    Apr 1, 2021 at 15:53
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Whilst I agree with the previously answered "birth name", I'd also like to offer the simple "previous name".

A lot of forms I have completed will have forename, surname, and previous name fields.

It's gender-neutral and it covers most scenarios - same-sex marriage, change through adoption, change through divorce, change through deed poll, etc.

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Another option: Surname at birth. Applies to both women and men, as couples can take a hyphenated married name.

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The term "maiden name" clearly indicates when the name was changed (when the bearer ceased to be a maid) and why (because she became a wife).

If you say "previous name" or "birth name" we are left wondering when he changed his name and why. The suggestion "pre-married name" sounds too much like "pre-washed" or "pre-adjusted" and that makes it confusing.

They are just two short to explain what will be an unfamiliar concept to much of your audience. Do not try to invent a term. Instead select a few simple words. You could say, "He name before he was married was Smith."

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