I'm filling an English document and I'm being asked to complete my family name, then my name at birth and then my first names. Does anyone know the difference between these 3 concepts? My guess is that my family name is my last name, my name at birth is my complete name at birth, and my first names are everything but my surname. Is that correct?

  • 4
    You should really inquire with the agency that created (or will process) the form.
    – Davo
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 20:46
  • Is it really plural first names on the form??
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 22:02
  • @Jim, yes, it is. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 8:51

3 Answers 3


Here's the common usage of those terms but for a specific form check with whoever is asking for the form to be filled out.

Family name is the part of the name you share with your family, often called "last name" or "surname" in English (though that's less accurate since some cultures put the family name first).

Name at birth would be your full-name on your birth certificate (usually the same unless you've changed your name).

First Name is your given name (strange to see a form that mixes "first name" and "family name") if it says first names (plural) it might include all other names other than your family name (eg middle names).

  • First names includes those also called middle names - basically all names in order except for family name. Also, some people actually go by their first middle name, so First Name isn't necessarily the given name. So they might have Paul as their Firstname, but David as (one of) their middle names, used as their given name. In short, everyone might be different ¬_¬
    – Smock
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 12:12
  • Name at birth implies Maiden Name or even name before you changed it at some point.
    – David M
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 20:29
  • @DavidM that'd be the most common reason to change your name but people change names for reasons other than women who get married so "Maiden name" doesn't cover all of it.
    – Mike
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 22:30
  • @Mike not disagreeing with your answer. Expanding upon it.
    – David M
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 22:51

"name at birth" is probably family name (last name, surname) at birth, as some people change their family name on marriage.

I don't think it would expect your full name at birth in that box, at least in the UK - but does the length of the box give any indication?


They are attempting (poorly in my opinion) to come up with a way of getting full accurate name information that would apply cross culturally. In some cultures, the concept of "first name" is different than other cultures, especially those where the family name is said first, FOLLOWED by the given name. In some religions, you have a "birth name" but also a "Christian name" given to you at Baptism or Confirmation. Different again is the fact that some families will have official "first names" on the birth certificates, but everyone inside of the family uses what others would consider "middle" names. My wife's family from South Dakota was like that; her mother's name was Virginia, but everyone in the family called her Fay. Her aunt's name was Nancy, but everyone called her Ruth. In both cases those were their middle names. Confused the heck out of me until my wife explained it.

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