My partner has changed her name in the past, for reasons not related to marriage, so I was wondering whether her maiden name would be considered her name at birth, or simply her pre-marital name?

For example:

  • Lady A born.
  • Lady A changes her name to Lady B.
  • Lady B gets married to Man C and changes her name to Lady C.

Which is considered the maiden name? Lady A or Lady B?

3 Answers 3


If you want to be strict then Lady C's maiden name is 'A' going by the definition of maiden.

However, in this specific case the lady has changed her surname from A to B through choice, not marriage, possibly using a system similar to the UK Deed Poll. In the UK a clause given by the UK Deed Poll Service would apply which explicitly disallows the use of a previous registered name.

From UK Deed Poll Service

Two of the declarations you make on your Deed Poll are that you will entirely abandon the use of your old name and you will only use your new name in future. [http://www.deedpoll.org.uk/OtherFAQs.html]

In that case Lady A would be forced to use Lady B as her maiden name, however it is rare that birth certificates are changed after a Deed Poll name registration so her birth surname would remain as A. (This restriction may vary from country to country depending on local laws and regulations.)

In a more general case...

Of course, any lady can choose what she wishes to write as her maiden name but the meanings and uses of the word maiden, suggest otherwise.

Unless otherwise noted all quotes are from OED1.

Maiden : 1. A girl; a young (unmarried) woman. 2. A virgin 3. An unmarried woman, spinster [and some others not related directly to women or marriage]

adj. (from appositive and attributive uses of the n.). Cf. virgin. I. Literal uses. 1. Appositive uses. a. Unmarried; now chiefly in maiden lady, maiden sister: see also maiden aunt. †b. Of a child: Female; see maiden-child (obs.). c. Virgin; sometimes said of men (obs.). 2. Of or pertaining to a maiden, or to maidenhood; befitting a maiden, having the qualities of a maiden. maiden name: the surname borne by a married woman before her marriage.

Unmarried here is the issue does it mean was married and now no longer is? ... the definition isn't entirely clear.

Unmarried : 1. Of persons: Not married, unwedded. 2. Lived free from marriage.

Maiden defn2. A virgin has spawned a couple of maiden ..... words

Maidenhead : 1. The state or condition of a maiden; virginity; said occas. of a man. [and one more about the first crop of fruit]

Maidenhood : The condition of being a maiden; the time of life during which one is a maiden. in phrases to have, hold, keep, lose, etc. (one's) maidenhood.

Fairly clear that maiden here means a virgin, but that doesn't stop Miss A marrying Mr B and still remaining a virgin (much to Mr B's dismay one would imagine and possibly the reason why Mr B might file for divorce making Mrs B unmarried again and free to tie the knot with the unwitting Mr C) but Miss A is now called Miss B so when she marries Mr C is her maiden name A or B?

More maidenish things could sway me towards her maiden name being A. These are some of the other definitions for Maiden that I skipped earlier on.

Maiden : (figurative) 4. That has yielded no results. 5. That has not been conquered, tried, worked etc. [the etc. runs to "A castle that has never been taken;'virgin'. [stuff about fruit again]. Of soil or metals, that has never been disturbed ploughed, or worked. Of a soldier or his weapon: untried. 6. That is the first of its kind; made, used, etc. for the first time. Occas. in sense early, earliest.

Excluding the recurring fruit mentions, defn. 5 seems pretty much the same as virgin to me - not been conquered, tried, worked, disturbed, ploughed all could easily sound a little like euphemistic terms.

But it is defn.6. that seals it. The first of it's kind and there are a number of Maiden .... firsts.

Quotes from Wikipedia

Maiden flight - the first occasion on which an aircraft leaves the ground under its own power.

Maiden voyage - the first journey made by the craft after shakedown. A number of traditions and superstitions are associated with it.

Maiden speech - the first speech given by a newly elected or appointed member of a legislature or parliament.

I think a combination of unmarried, virgin, and first pretty much marks maiden name down as the first surname a lady had.

Interestingly, defn.4 : That has yielded no results gives us

A maiden over : Cricket, of an over: One in which no runs are scored.

A maiden horse : one which has won no prizes.

A maiden tide : one where no vessels enter or exit a harbour

A maiden circuit : Of an assize, circuit, session: Formerly, one at which no prisoner was condemned to death; now, one at which there are no cases for trial.

Wikipedia attribution:

Wikipedia contributors, "Maiden speech," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Maiden_speech&oldid=626049739 (accessed September 27, 2014)

Wikipedia contributors, "Maiden voyage," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Maiden_voyage&oldid=620824032 (accessed September 27, 2014).

Wikipedia contributors, "Maiden flight," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Maiden_flight&oldid=619347591 (accessed September 27, 2014).

  • Thank you, definition 6 is what clinched it for me too. Of course, like you said she can use what she likes (but it's nice to know as objective an answer as possible for curiosities sake if nothing else).
    – OMGtechy
    Sep 27, 2014 at 16:53
  • I'm glad you included the 'maiden over'. But I find meaning 4 - that has yielded no results surprising. Cricket is the only place where I have heard it used. Would a football match that ended 0-0 be a 'maiden match'?
    – WS2
    Sep 27, 2014 at 17:28
  • @WS2 - It looks like you could apply it to football, but it seems to have got 'stuck' for only horses & cricket in sporting terms.
    – Frank
    Sep 27, 2014 at 17:47
  • @OMGTechy - I've just reread your question (more carefully) and it's only just dawned on me that the change from Miss A to Miss B is not via marriage but presumably through deed-poll in the UK or a similar thing in other countries in which case I think the maiden name would be B. After changing your name via a UK deed-poll you cannot use the name you have abandoned (in this case Miss A).
    – Frank
    Sep 27, 2014 at 18:08
  • @Frank ah thanks! Please add this to the answer for others to read in the future, if you could :)
    – OMGtechy
    Sep 27, 2014 at 18:10

Lawyers may have an easier time answering this but in terms of semantics and ...:

"Birth name" is sometimes used specifically as a gender-neutral (or male only) substitute for "maiden name." (link)

In your case of three names in play, I see Lady B as her maiden name. Think of it as a timeline:

  • Born - Change 1 | Lady A = birth name (literally and unique)
  • Change 1 - Change 2 (Marriage) | Lady B = maiden name (immediately prior to marriage with Gentleman C)
  • Change 2 - Present (ongoing) | Lady C = family name (current)

One could argue that maiden name covers birth name (Lady A & Lady B = maiden names) although above descriptions would convey the gist of priorities in these names.

  • Mmm, it's really becoming a question of whether or not birth name and maiden name are synonymous.
    – OMGtechy
    Sep 27, 2014 at 14:55
  • @OMGtechy Possibly synonymous but certainly not interchangeable in a technical standpoint. In case of adoptions and multiple marriages (implying divorce), the list can go haywire. Sep 27, 2014 at 15:04
  • @OMG: That was always the question... and they're not.
    – lly
    Apr 25, 2016 at 16:34

The woman disavowed her birth name A. Her maiden name is considered to be surname B until such time as she might choose to restore her birth name in its place.

Edit: More specifically, legally, the maiden name is the one that appears on the marriage documents regardless of her later changes of heart. In this case, that is going to be surname B. Frank is very well meaning but has no idea what he's talking about.

  • But Frank says the same as you Apr 25, 2016 at 16:54
  • Then his answer is so long he's confusing the people who think they agree with him. "The first surname a lady had" in this scenario was A, which is the birth but not the maiden name. A isn't the "strict" maiden name; it's not the maiden name at all.
    – lly
    Apr 25, 2016 at 17:36

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