What is the term for someone who has a last name that can also be a first name? For example, Brian Stella.

  • 5
    Are you sure there is such a term? (Do you recall hearing it some time ago, and now you can't remember what it is? Or are you asking on a whim?)
    – J.R.
    Jun 12, 2012 at 1:48
  • 6
    It's not the people with two first names you have to worry about. Three first names, that's a when you need to start worrying. Lee Harvey Oswald, I'm looking at you. Jun 12, 2012 at 8:12
  • 1
    @MattЭллен Three first names? Like Jay McInerney? Jun 12, 2012 at 17:04
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    @MarkBeadles. I didn't get the one about Jay McInerney, but surely another example could be the actor Robert Sean Leonard, whose real name is Robert Lawrence Leonard.
    – Paola
    Jun 12, 2012 at 23:57
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    I did hear of this term some time ago and I have forgotten it and it is driving me crazy that I cannot remember it! Thanks for the comments.
    – Judi
    Jun 13, 2012 at 0:52

7 Answers 7


No such word exists, because it would be entirely redundant. Any surname can be turned into a forename, on the whim of the parents.

  • That's a good point. Moreover, that practice is not exactly rare, especially with middle names (at least in the U.S., it's not unheard of to use the mother's maiden name as the child's middle name). But I assumed the O.P. was referring to common names. Perhaps a more interesting phenomenon is when the last name is a common first name, and the first name is a common last name: e.g., Thomas Scott (or Scott Thomas).
    – J.R.
    Jun 12, 2012 at 8:50
  • 2
    Not an answer to the question, hence the downvote. Would suggest deleting this.
    – Christi
    Jun 12, 2012 at 12:00
  • 1
    It may not be a direct answer, but it does address the scope of the question. (Perhaps this would have made a better comment than an answer, but I don't think it needs to be deleted.)
    – J.R.
    Jun 12, 2012 at 20:20
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    @Christi: a perfectly good answer is to state that the question does not have an answer.
    – Mitch
    Jun 13, 2012 at 3:57
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    @Dmitri I take your point. And the questioner's example (Brian Stella) falls in the category of last names that commonly function as first names.
    – Pitarou
    Oct 2, 2012 at 23:12

I've always heard this called a "reversible name" - but that's referring to the forename and surname together.

Here is a list of them. http://richard.tangle-wood.co.uk/reverse.html

  • You antipodeans can sure coin a nickname. "Reversible name" is almost as good as "two dads" for someone with a double last name, like the John Rhys Davies that roams your New Zealand woods with his dwarven axe. I've never heard it here, but will use it: "Hey, are you Wallace David when it rains, or is your name not fully reversible?"
    – Dmitri
    Oct 2, 2012 at 18:21
  • Actually, @Dmitri I believe it's a British expression. It's certainly a British web site that I provided the link for. I'm pretty sure John Rhys Davies is British too.
    – user16269
    Oct 2, 2012 at 23:14

I'm pretty sure there is no specific term to describe the generic concept you're describing. The closest specific term is probably a pseudo-surname where a child takes on a parent's first name as their last name. This is referred to as a Patronymic or a Matronymic name.

Patronym - a family name derived from name of your father or a paternal ancestor (especially with an affix (such as -son in English or O'- in Irish) added to the name of your father or a paternal ancestor)

Source: http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/patronym

  • Isn't this the opposite of what the OP asked?
    – JLG
    Oct 7, 2012 at 13:59
  • JLG - No, it's not the opposite, it's an example of a last name that could also be a first name. A child takes on a last name that was the parent's first name. Oct 9, 2012 at 2:37

Surname Adaptation?

During the American Civil War, soldiers began to use the surnames of their commanding officers (Grant, Lee, Sherman) as first names for their sons. This, and the American custom of using the mother's maiden name as a child's given name, along with the general twentieth century trend towards 'new' names, has led to many other surnames being recognised as first names. Thus Old English and Celtic personal names, long out of use except in their adaptation as surnames, have returned to the central stock. This was formerly almost exclusively confined to boys' names but is now beginning to produce many new girls' names, especially in America. The more established surname adaptations are subject to the same spelling variations as other first names. The link


I guess you could say they're interchangeable surnames and forenames. Here's a link with many examples: http://www.nationalfinder.com/surnames/index.htm#INTERCHANGE

Or you could also use interchangeable surnames and given names.

Or, as Jim said in a comment, this can be called "having two first names." There's even a Facebook group for people with two first names and an Urban Dictionary entry.

And apparently, on further Internet searching, there is the term "firsty firsty" for this. See this blog as an example: http://firstyfirsty.blogspot.com/2008/02/curse-of-firsty-firsty.html

  • They're only interchangeable when the forename also happens to be a surname.
    – Pitarou
    Jun 12, 2012 at 23:31
  • @Pitarou, Why do you say that?
    – JLG
    Jun 13, 2012 at 3:01
  • The original questioner wants to know about the situation where the surname works as a forename. Names are only interchangeable when the surname works as a forename and the forename works as a surname. So "interchangeable" is not the word the original questioner is looking for (although it's probably the closest match).
    – Pitarou
    Jun 14, 2012 at 9:32
  • @Pitarou, but with two names that can be first names, isn't that always the case?
    – JLG
    Jun 14, 2012 at 13:24
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    @Pitarou: I agree that interchangeable probably isn't the exact right word, but I appreciated the link anyway. It's close; out of the billions of pages on the internet, that one is tantalizingly close to the OP's question. This question may not even have a real answer, but that link could be a clue pointing someone else in the right direction. As for your nun example, true, it's NOT the right word, yet I could see joking about an unmarried relative: "She lives like a nun," even if she wasn't Catholic! That's the beauty of language: just when you think a word is wrong, maybe it can work.
    – J.R.
    Jun 16, 2012 at 10:45

I thought firsty firsty might just have been a term used by kids, but this appears to be evidence of wider use in popular culture.

Note that there is a corresponding lasty lasty.


I suggest the term you are looking for is surname names. nameberry.com and thinkbabynames.com both refer to this term in the context you ask.

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