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If a male marries (same sex or opposite sex doesn't matter for this question) and takes the last name of his spouse, is his previous last name still known as his "maiden" name?

  • 1
    Related Quora question but no corroboration for any of the answers. – Andrew Leach Dec 24 '16 at 21:00
  • @Mari-LouA Sure, and Hugo is free to transfer it if the community decides to close this one as a duplicate. Or he could leave it here, knowing that the other question will automatically have this question listed in the Linked box. Or the community may decide to close the duplicate in the other direction. In any case, the presence of an excellent answer does not change the fact that the two questions are essentially the same. That's why it was appropriate to propose that this one be closed as the older question. – curiousdannii Dec 25 '16 at 9:33
  • @curiousdannii well I've added some suggestions that were not included in the older question because I think Hugo's answer has strong supporting evidence, which all the others (and mine come to think of it) lack . – Mari-Lou A Dec 25 '16 at 10:48
  • I don't think this is a duplicate. The other question asks specifically for a gender neutral term; this one is asking specifically for a term applicable to men. While a gender-neutral term could be used for men, the OP (or others looking at this question) might well want a gender specific term, which by definition shouldn't be included in the other question's answers. – 1006a Dec 27 '16 at 1:20
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Right now, there's several terms being used, but not really a single, commonly-agreed upon option. Perhaps that might change in the future.


Bachelor name

One option is bachelor name:

  • Since I wasn't ever a "maiden", I have decided to reference my former last name as my "bachelor name"

Ricky on Twitter

  • When we married, my wife kept her name and I took it. We call my former surname my bachelor name.

Mark Tyler on Twitter

Although old name and maiden name are also options:

  • I did the same thing too. Don't really mind if people call it my old name, my bachelor name, or my maiden name.

Mark Tyler on Twitter

As are original name and old name:

  • hahaha, I've just been using 'original' or 'old'... But it's definitely my 'bachelor name' now!

Tom Katsumi on Twitter


Maiden name for men

This 1995 piece from the New York Times says men can have a maiden name and that it's a totally gender-neutral term:

Like most every other man have a first name and a last name. And I have a middle name -- Murray -- that I was given at birth, 35 years ago. But I have one other name, too. It's my maiden name.

When I got married 10 years ago, I took my wife's name. I had been Sam Howe all my life; I became Sam Howe Verhovek. And by now, most of the time, I'm Sam Verhovek.

...

Now, can a man even have a maiden name? The word "maiden" shows up in the thesaurus as "earliest," "first," "original." So, yes, Howe is my maiden name. And happily, I can report, government computers from the United States Passport Agency to the Internal Revenue Service have become totally gender-neutral on this question. Fed a copy of our marriage license, all efficiently transformed me into Samuel Howe Verhovek -- or Verhovek, SMH -- in nanoseconds. Really, we're just numbers to them anyway.

...

Names mean a lot. And what to do with them -- keeping, changing, hyphenating them -- is a problem for a lot of couples as their wedding day approaches. I feel in no way diminished by taking my wife's name, and I don't think a woman should feel diminished by taking her husband's name. Personally, I think it's a privilege to have all these names, and it's not confusing at all. Howe is my maiden name, and Verhovek is my maiden's name.


Don't use maiden name for anyone

However, others think maiden name for women is outdated and sexist. The Guardian style guide says:

maiden name

sounds outdated in an age of marriage equality; preferable alternatives include birth name, original name, previous name, or a construction such as “Jane Smith (born Jane Jones)“

A 2015 Guardian column on language backs this up:

An interesting debate was launched on Twitter when @KenSmith asked whether it was about time we dropped “maiden name” for the gender-neutral “birth name”. The tweet said: “Maiden has a ghostly cargo of Victorian sexual anxiety.”

There was an overwhelming consensus that “maiden name” seems outdated at best and, for most people, sexist. A few comments:

“Name before which marriage? I’ve been married, widowed and married again, keeping my own name always.” (@Bentonbag)

“Archaic and inaccurate. I was most definitely not a ‘maiden’ when I married. Didn’t change my name either.” (@JemmaD)

“The anglophone obsession with ‘maiden name’ is a window to the origin of marriage: trade of women for goods.” (@thisisredundant)

“I’m always baffled when my bank asks me my mother’s maiden name. How presumptuous to assume she married or changed her name.” (@WilkinsonSamuel)

Other people questioned the concept of changing one’s name on marriage at all as outdated. These days the husband sometimes takes the wife’s last name, or they double-barrel it. And with marriage equality, there may be two husbands or two wives, rendering the concept of a “maiden name” even more old-fashioned.

But there wasn't consensus with the alternatives:

Not everyone was comfortable with “birth name”. Alternative suggestions included “childhood name”, “native name”, “née”, and “original name” or “previous name” which, as @JonathanWest pointed out, “covers all cases of name change, not just to marriage and not just to birth name”.

Concluding:

Maiden name” does not take account of equal marriage – a male couple don’t have “maiden names”, a female couple have two, which are probably the names they actually use, so the whole thing becomes as dated as “spinster” or “bachelor girl” – or for that matter “confirmed bachelor” – now sound.

It may be a while before we all agree on an alternative, if we ever do, but it seems likely that the phrase “maiden name” is on the way out. And about time too.


Birth name as gender-neutral

The Wikipedia article on "Maiden and married names", which liberally uses birth name, begins:

When a person (traditionally the wife in many cultures) assumes the family name of his or her spouse, that name replaces the person's birth surname, which in the case of the wife is called the maiden name. "Birth name" is also used as a gender-neutral or masculine substitute for "maiden name."

As already mentioned, birth name doesn't cover situations where people had already changed names before their marriage, however, in 2011, the Geni website for researching genealogy opted for birth name as gender neutral:

We are proud to announce some improvements to the way the name fields work on Geni.com. These changes will provide a clearer and more consistent method of inputting names.

... “Maiden Name” has been renamed to “Birth Name.” Lastly, male profiles will now have the ability to be listed with a “Birth Name” just as female profiles can. ...

Enhancements:

  • The maiden name field is now called “Birth Surname” and is available on all profiles regardless of gender.
| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    The question arose because I am designing a database table and wondered what the most descriptive and accurate name for a person's previous name would be. I considered "maiden" but wasn't sure so I thought to ask the cloud. I also consider just using "Nee" but with your contribution in hand, I'll just go with "Maiden". – SezMe Dec 24 '16 at 22:20
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    This Quora post includes: In English, the French word "née" is used to show a woman's maiden name, or name at birth. "Née" is the female form of the past participle of naître. Because it is a borrowed word, it is usually italicized. For example: Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis (née Bouvier), or Marilyn Monroe (née Norma Jean Mortenson). The masculine form, né, is less common, but it is suggested in some style guides. – Hugo Dec 24 '16 at 22:27
  • But I think maiden name is the most understandable. – Hugo Dec 24 '16 at 22:28
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    Given the root of née, perhaps birth_name is most apt – Dancrumb Dec 25 '16 at 0:45
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    'Birth name' might have potential to cause confusion as it is often used to describe someone's pre-adoption surname, and even a pre-gender-reassignment first name. – Spagirl Dec 25 '16 at 8:06
0

Given the context you've provided in comments (database fields) I would opt for former surname (or substitute previous, name). I would also make it possible to list more than one.

This is already used in some official forms in the UK, and reflects all reasons for changing names (adoption, divorce, etc.) the only exception might be if your database is of weddings, when the change at that event can only really be due to one thing.

Something else that's also recorded is when the legal name is changed (perhaps by marriage) but professionally the former name is still used. It may or may not be necessary to track this in your case.

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  • You've raised some points I hadn't considered in my database design so I thank you for that. In particular, the issue of how many "former names" need to be considered is one I had neglected. Consider a woman who gets married, changes her last and middle name then gets divorced and reverts to her old last name only. Now she undergoes gender reassignment and gets married and then divorce then ..... Boggles my database! :-) – SezMe Dec 26 '16 at 0:02
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For a man who adopted his spouse's last name, I would refer to his "old" last name as his

  1. former family name
    or, more simply
  2. (last/family) name/surname before he married.
  3. unmarried last name

There are a couple of instances where the expression, unmarried name, has been used and as you can see there is no ambiguity at all.

A same-sex couple, after legally changing their name when they married, have had their driver's licenses revoked by the Florida DHSMV.

His husband, Scott Wall-DeSousa, applied for a license with his unmarried name, and received it so he can drive, but finds the state's actions "offensive." source

P.S. I see @Chris H suggested "former name". Great minds think alike etc.

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  • Not sure what the DV is for, but please note that the term "surname" is becoming somewhat old-fashioned, and especially in the US, the terms family name and last name are increasingly preferred. – Mari-Lou A Dec 25 '16 at 11:19
  • I have no supporting evidence, just what my common sense tells me. If that is the reason for the DV, then I'm fine with that. – Mari-Lou A Dec 25 '16 at 11:21
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    I wouldn't care to comment on Am usage, except experience suggests that 'surname' is not common - and is sometimes completely unknown - there. But I would dispute that "the term 'surname' is becoming somewhat old-fashioned" in Britain: I would say it's still in common usage. Certainly, I would always refer to my surname (unless speaking with an American). – TrevorD Dec 28 '16 at 14:15

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