When I married my first husband I took his name and used the term "nee" to quickly refer to my birth name. After my first husband died, I remarried and took my new husband's last name. Now I want to know what term to use to refer to my first husband's last name, similar to how I would have used the term "nee" before. I suppose I could say "previous surname" but was hoping there was a shorter way to express this.

As an example, in letter I used to sign my name "Elaine Hornung" and follow it with "nee Elaine Rae" for instances where it might be important for the receiver of the letter to know my birth name. Now I want to sign my name and follow it with the birth name and my previous married name, Wintonyk. The term for that use is what I am looking for.

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    FWIW, "nee" is a loan word from French, and means "born" or "birth" having the same "na" roots as "prenatal, neonatal." Thus, it only applies to your original name, not any intermediates.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 19:18
  • There is no such term. Why would there be? By the way, it's Jane Smith née Oldstone. You don't repeat the first name....
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 20:08
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    I see the need for it. If I’d been receiving letters from E Wintonyk, then suddenly get a letter from E Hornung (and I know more than one Elaine), it would be nice to clarify who this is without having to ask. You could just add a "formerly Wintonyk". Unfortunately I don’t know if there’s a way to differentiate widowed and divorced.
    – Pam
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 21:16
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    Janet Smith, formerly Jones, née Jackson - is how I understand it is done. Thus Janet was born Jackson, then changed her name to Jones and is now called Smith.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 23:34
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    @origimbo Yes! I noticed this looking at this guide to wedding invitation etiquette. You can tell so much about the family situation if it's phrased correctly without ever needing to ask.
    – Pam
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 9:14

3 Answers 3


You might say

Elaine Hornung (formerly Wintonyk; née Rae).

Or, in the case of my mother,

Mrs Monica Mann (also known as Dr Zealley); formerly Lloyd, née Zealley

  • Thanks for taking the time to contribute an answer. It’s because of helpful peers like yourself that we’re able to learn together as a community. A good expert answer includes explanation, context, and supporting facts. This is what makes the answer useful – not only to the person asking, but to future visitors to the page. Please consider expanding your answer.
    – Bread
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 22:47
  • Anecdotally agreed. Not sure how to document this.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 23:37
  • thank you for all the answers. It seems for me that I will have to go with "formerly". Too bad there isn't a shorter word though. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 15:58

Hopefully an etiquette expert will write a definitive answer here. But in the meantime, I'll give you a couple of ideas. Let's say you used to be Jane Smith, and now you married Mr. López.

Jane (Smith) López

Jane Smith López

Jane López (formerly Jane Smith)

Jane López (widow of Smith) - this one is inspired by the way one does this in Spanish

Jane Smith, now Jane López

Also, some people hyphenate.


I've seen the first approach in Dan's answer used and thought it simple, and to the point.

In my family that has been done by a couple women keeping the names active for children from each marriage. Never really considered the second need he shows, that of keeping a woman's professional persona intact, but that seems like it could be a bigger thing over coming years.

Commenting on Dan's answer, the poster looks for a shorter word. One feels the use of née sets up a small demand for a French word so perhaps déjà. As in Abby (déjà Collins, déjà Durham, déjà Eddings, née Brown) Franklin.

(Admittedly though, all I know about French is how to click it for the output language in Google Translate, so perhaps déjà is hopelessly inappropriate.)

Of course, nowadays, women facing the question of a connected persona in, say, FaceBook, seem to simply use their birth names with at most a following current last name. So maybe that will be considered "the" way for the future.

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    Does your suggestion have any established use in English? Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 6:23
  • Please do not use code markdown here. We set mentions in italic, or quote them instead.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 13:53

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