In many parts of the world the sequence of first name and surname is not always the same and can cause misunderstanding what should be given.

As family name unambiguous defines surname or last name what name should be used for the name used for you as your social friendly name.


  • first name,
  • call name,
  • Christian name
  • baptism name
  • baptismal name
  • forename

What should be used as an unambiguous name.

  • It can be a problem. The only answer is to ask the person what to call her/him and do that.
    – Tuffy
    Feb 19, 2021 at 0:15
  • The question is to improve forms and other documents that can be used without to create misunderstanding what should be filled in, Family name does that but that other name is vague.
    – janhgm
    Feb 19, 2021 at 0:36
  • In some cultures all the names a person has are 'given names'. In other words there is no surname. Some young Muslim ladies in the UK use Begum as a surname but this is, I understand, Arabic for 'young female person' and hardly even a name in the culture from which they come.
    – BoldBen
    Feb 19, 2021 at 1:59
  • Strongly relevant and related: 1, 2, 3.
    – tchrist
    Feb 19, 2021 at 2:04
  • Please see the referenced related links, and then if you still have a specific question about a specific use in a specific region for a specific set of cultural names, please edit your question to specify your question, including which terms your research discarded and why, and it will be automatically nominated for reöpening.
    – tchrist
    Feb 19, 2021 at 3:15

2 Answers 2


It’s common to refer to a two-part name as consisting of a family name and a given name:

A name given to a person at birth or at baptism, as distinguished from a surname.

(American Heritage Dictionary)


Talking about what is common in North American English (this actually differs a bit with British English usage):

Certainly Christian name and baptismal name make a lot of cultural assumptions that do not apply to everyone - not everyone is Christian or has been baptized.

Furthermore, even first name does not equal "social friendly name" for everyone. Some people prefer a shortened nickname ("Bob" for "Robert") or a nickname that's unrelated to their first name ("Junior" for someone with the same name as their father). I, personally, use a shortened version my middle name as my "social friendly name" rather than my first name.

Many human resources databases use the term preferred name to indicate the name taht someone wants people to address them with. So you might see an entry like this:

First name: Rafael

Last name: Cruz

Preferred name: Ted

Given that data, formal documents (e.g., tax receipts) would get the first and last name ("Rafael Cruz") but informal emails would get the preferred name (e.g., "Hey Ted, welcome to the team!").

  • This may come as a surprise, but please understand that your "Christian name" no more means you're a follower of Christ than "walking Indian file" or "sitting Indian style" means you’re an Indian. Similarly "going Dutch" does ɴᴏᴛ mean you're dating a Nederlander, and playing "Chinese checkers" does ɴᴏᴛ mean that game ever had anything to do with China. These things happen in all languages; for example in Spanish, hablar cristiano does ɴᴏᴛ mean to speak Christian: it means to speak properly. Your Christian name is your given name no matter your avowed religion or lack of same.
    – tchrist
    Feb 19, 2021 at 2:11
  • @tchrist - I know that "Christian name" might be common in the UK, but in North America it's decidedly not common at all and would be extremely strange and possibly offensive in a formal situation. This was discussed a bit in an older post. Feb 19, 2021 at 2:57
  • @tchrist - I'm editing my answer to make it clear that I'm talking specifically about North American usage. Feb 19, 2021 at 3:03
  • ‡ Thank you for curating your answer.
    – tchrist
    Feb 19, 2021 at 3:10
  • @tchrist - In my youth Christian name was the usual term in the UK, dating from the time when everyone was baptised as a matter of course. We don't use the term any more, since large sections of our population are of other faiths. Feb 19, 2021 at 8:45

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