On my sport team, when we communicate we would like to use first name plus initial last name initial, e.g. John S. for John Smith, however I always wonder how I should abbreviate some of the Gaelic / Irish / Italian names.

McDonald (M.? MD.? McD?)
Macdonald (M.? MD.?)
O'Donnell (OD.?)
D'Arco (DA.?)
LaPat (LP.? L?)

5 Answers 5


Your last initial is your last initial. The only situation where this becomes relevant is if there are 2 John Ms on the team. Then it could be very useful to abbreviate one John McD. vs plain John M.

I do wonder about Dutch "van" names, like Greta van Susteren. I could very easily see this abbreviated as GvS.

  • 1
    I could easily see "van" completely dropped. You know that Beethoven guy?..
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 11:31
  • 1
    Yeah, but you know that Rossum guy that invented Python? Or Susteren herself? These sound off to me.
    – moioci
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 15:42
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    O it not the initial for O'Brian O'B is the initial. I am very surprised by an answer in this thread that suggests otherwise.
    – Remou
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 19:46
  • 1
    B would be more correct.
    – Remou
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 22:07
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    @Remou - I wonder if this is just a regional difference. I grew up (in the US) with several McDaniels and Macdonals and both used M as their last initial and were alphabetized and such in school as M's not D's.
    – Dusty
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 22:42

I live in Ireland. The simple last initial form is the most commonly used:

McDonald > M.
MacDonald > M.
Macdonald > M. (this is a Scottish name)
O'Brien > O.

The other option (which I prefer) is to include the entire surname up to the second capital letter, thus:

McDonald > McD.
MacDonald > MacD.
Macdonald > M. (no change there)
O'Brien > O'B.

I've never seen

McDonald > MD
MacDonald > MD

You might see

O'Brien > OB

but that's probably just people having trouble with apostrophes.

Some people introduce spaces and write O'Brien as O Brien, MacDonald as Mac Donald, and McDonald as Mc Donald. This seems iffy to me in English, though the prefixes do derive from independent Irish words. But if a man is going to give his surname as Ó Briain, I would expect his sister's surname to be Ní Briain.

  • Well, Ó in Irish names means grandson of. In general, ó means from. Mac means son.
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 14:27
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    I have never seen M for McDonald or O for O'Brian, only McD and O'B, and I worked with large collections of names at one time. It must be very modern. Come to think of it, I would be downright annoyed if my name was abbreviated to O. I do not think de Bruin would be abbreviated to d.
    – Remou
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 19:40
  • @Remou, under the system proposed in the question, I would abbreviate de Bruin as B. (Since there's only one capital letter in the name, the choice is easy.)
    – Marthaª
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 21:59
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    @Martha Not so long ago Mac Liammóir would have commonly been written mac Liammóir, and it was not uncommon for people to drop the Ó. L would indeed be a better single initial for Mac Liammóir and B for Ó Briain. Ó and M should not be used for initials for these names.
    – Remou
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 22:06
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    We really need a question on phonebook/library sorting for surnames that start with McX or MacX, since those traditionally get sorted before Ma.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 23:26

Since using the first name + last name initial is the convention chose by your team, you should also agree on what the convention should be for these surnames on your question. As long as the chosen convention is followed by everybody, it should work for you guys, shouldn't it?

  • You are right, but I just thought it's kind of silly to ask such questions. So I would adopt any convention in the English speaking work if there is such a general convention.
    – grokus
    Commented Sep 20, 2010 at 13:32
  • Grokus, I understand your point. I don't know if there is a general convention for that. Let's wait for the other answers.
    – b.roth
    Commented Sep 20, 2010 at 13:54

I always use A O'D, my family are from Liverpool, and that was the convention used there.


We use COD for Christine O'Driscoll. Each capital letter gets an initial letter. Grace McDonnell would be GMD.

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