Whose surname?

Advice on choosing a surname for your baby with ideas on all of your options from the traditional approach to surnames to changing your family name.
Finding the perfect name for your baby isn't easy to say the least, but for couples who don't share the same surname, deciding what baby's last name should be is a whole nother debate in itself.

Tradition dictates that a baby automatically receives his father's surname as his own. However, while this practice has been common place in the UK and much of the Western world for centuries, to many this now seems as antiquated as the assumption that all couples who have children are husband and wife.

The traditional approach

If you and your partner already share the same surname (regardless of whether you are 'officially' married or not) then there is unlikely to be any question as to what you'll choose for your child. Having a consistent family name that you all share can be a good option as it unifies you as a family, is more convenient for the purpose of filling out forms and such like and is also likely to cause less confusion as to who baby's parents are.


If you and your partner do not share the same surname there are a range of options available to you. One of the more popular choices is combining your surnames to create a hyphenated last name for your baby. This can be a convenient option as it incorporates both of your names, identifying you both individually and together as your baby's parents. It also enables both of you to keep your family naming lineages going which can appease grandparents-to-be.

If you are thinking of this approach, points to consider are whose name will go first, whether a hyphenated name will be too much of a mouthful (especially if you both have long names) and how you will go about teaching your little one what their name is (as both names together may be too much of a mouthful to start off with). You may also want to consider the implication of what will happen if your child marries someone else with a double barreled surname - be prepared that your grand children may have surnames of unparalleled proportions!!!

One or the other

You can choose to give your baby either your own or your partner's last name. This has the advantage of continuing the naming lineage of one of your families and you could always incorporate a naming tradition from the other family as a middle name too. The only problem with this approach is that there could be some confusion as to whether the individual whose surname isn't the same as their baby's is actually the real parent. In this instance the mother usually has the final say as to whose name is officially registered on the birth certificate.

Create a new one

If you and your partner can't come to a compromise as to whose name should be used, you can create a new one. Whether you decide to combine both of your surname into a completely joint but unique name or simply think creatively and choose a whole new one, you and your partner can officially change your name and use this for the whole family.

This can be fantastic if neither of you are particularly keen on your surnames and really enables you to forge yourself officially as a unique family unit. Beware though - families, parents especially, may not be too keen on this approach as they may see it as you disassociating yourself from them, however, with a little reassurance and an explanation of your reasons, they will more than likely accept your decision (especially once they meet their new grandchild)!

Its up to you

Whatever surname you decide for your baby remember that it is you and your partner's choice alone and you should avoid being influenced too much by what family members expect of you. Having said that, do remember that the name you bestow upon your child will have to see them through life so try and avoid being too weird and wonderful.


Chat or Ask a Question:

If you have a question about this article or something else, visit our friendly forums & ask the AskBaby community.

Chat about whose surname? with our friendly community...

Your Comments:

We'd love to hear your comments on this article...

Login to add your comment:

Email: Password:
Not yet a member? Join thousands of other parents and parents-to-be... Sign Up Now!
Forgot your

It was good reading this article I didn't know there was so many options for a babys surname, me and my boyfriend are from colombia and am six weeks pregnant. We've never discussed the surname as in our country its tradition and compulsary to have both surnames however the dads surname must always come first no matter what, the only way that the baby won't have the dads surname is dad refuses to give the child his surname, in the community is seen as a bad thing this shows that legally the dad will have no rights over the child. My child will have two surnames his fathers first and then mine.
by alejita 6th Feb 2012, 9:06am
me and my bf keep having debate whos last name the baby is going to have I really don't want it to b his and he does it may sound selfish I don't like his last name but he wont budge bout having it in his name I want the baby 2 have the same name as my older daughter well surname.
dnt no wat to do bout this any ideas x i do think think that should b in fathers name but i like my surname and dnt like his bit harsh hey so any idea what cud do
by shortie2k10 6th Dec 2010, 8:48am
I am currently 17 weeks pregnant with my 2nd child, who has a different father from the first child..my sons name is caleb joshua james kennon and my babies name will either be isla-mai or noah but as I'm not with babies father any-more, im unsure as to which surname to go with? mine? My ex's partners or keep it simple and use the same as my son? I am unsure on the rules 4 surnames? does my ex partner have to be there when I register the birth if I want to use his name? as he as demanding dna etc...please help!!
by princesshollie 10th Nov 2010, 2:05pm
im expecting my son in 7 weeks, and have had the surname argument from the very beginning. At first i was so adiment i wanted my son to have my name, but as times gone by its not important to me anymore. Me and my babys dad are still together, not maried and not looking to get maried anytime soon. people cant unserstand why ive agreed to let my son take his dads surname rather than my own. Whether he has my name or or his dads he'll be my son regardless, i carried him for 40 weeks, brought him into the world and will love him regardless. lol, infact ive agredd to let him take his dads whole name! first and last. i think its more to do with my boyfriends male pride more than anything else. the only thing ive put my foot down on and will not change is his middle name, which will be after my grandad. R.I.P x
by alliey 6th Sep 2010, 10:10am
i know how your kids must feel with the thought of changing names... me and my brothers had our parents split before the youngest arrived... myself and one brother had our fathers name... my youngest brother was given my mothers name... me myself took on my mothers name hyphenated to my fathers making 4 names in total also! vicky louise glindon-lynch! my child is going to have my partners surname... we are not married yet but hope to soon... x
by vickynbubba 12th Aug 2010, 11:05am
we wasnt married when i gave birth but i still gave Michaela her dads surname, it was a good thing seeing we got married 10 weeks later.
by kelly81 12th Aug 2010, 11:00am
im expecting my 4th, all three have my name, but i married their dad 3weeks ago after 11years. i havent officially changed my name yet but my kids dont want to change thiers, so my hubbie is adding mine before his surname and the kids can add his after mine but its really long- mitchinson-griffiths.
my kids have 3 names each already
i choose my name as when they went school i didnt want my kids having a differant name to me and if i had children with another partner my kids would have different names to me an each other
by stacykel 12th Aug 2010, 9:41am
i dont no wat to do, i've expectin my first but hav split from the father. at first i'd decided to give him my surname, but now theres part of me that wants to give him his dads as he's the only one to pass on his name, as his dad died wen he was a child, i no it would mean the world to him if i did. but i no my family wont b happy if i give him his surname. i really dont no wat to do for the best.
by rachxx88 14th May 2010, 3:58pm
I personally am a traditionalist and think all babies should inherit their fathers name (if known) but as i say i am a traditionalist and everyone is different x
by Emziexxx 14th May 2010, 3:14pm
I am almost 10 weeks & i am stuck on the surname, ive always thought the child should have the fathers name & he would be delighted. but i love my surname, and the first names i have in mind go so much better with my surname rather than his?? i think our names are too long for a hyphenated surname. any other suggestions?
by laturner85 21st Jan 2010, 9:20am
me n my hubbie have gone weird for our daughters name wen she comes: Emily Joan Harris-Thompson. Harris is my dads surname, but I was named after my mum: Borris, and thompson for my hubbies surname. I like it. :)

Emily Joan Harris-Thompson.
by XBabyXLoverX 30th Dec 2009, 9:59am
Hi ladies, I have 3 children from my 1st marriage who are almost grown up and when me and their dad split I oroginally kept my married name, for the kids and school etc. However this caused problems in other areas. Anyway when I met my wonderful partner I reverted back to my maiden name, the kids weren't bothered at all. I am prgnant now and my baby will have my partners name. Just out of interest we are now living in Bulgaria, here the tradition is that the chilld has their mothers maiden name as a middle name and the surname is the fathers surname, so it is only necessary to choose the first name for the child
by startingagain 9th Oct 2009, 9:30am
hi i'm 27wks pregnant and i know what i'm having and i'm calling him alan joesph james
by becky96375 13th Jul 2009, 9:07am
ello me n my bf r having this debate whether it should go n my name or my boyfriends name i think it should go in he's name but i have been told if we split up he has got more chance ov custody in court is this true?? xx
by caznwake 13th Jul 2009, 9:07am
hello this is a fabulouse website
by sharky 18th May 2009, 9:40am
hi,im 33wks gone an my partner finished with me so now im all over the show with the surnames whos should i pick mind and his os just mine? wot should i do please help
by gogo1 17th Mar 2009, 9:26am
it all depends, my baby will have my last name as my partner and i have recently had a huge fight with his family and they since have dis-owned me therefore because of their actions i dont feel that they have the right to having my babes last name plus my fiance has plans to take mine anyway
by skye88 2nd Mar 2009, 9:29am
by ClareIsKage 2nd Feb 2009, 10:47am
i don't know whose surname to have, im an only child and basically be up to me to keep my surname going, but would be unfair on the dad, i would possibly consider hypenated since we dont have long surnames
by bubblechic88 8th Jan 2009, 9:38am
well my parents split just before i was born so i was given my moms maiden name then when she married my step dad and had more children they all had the same name and i was the odd 1 out it never bothered me though but now i have children of my own even though me and my partner are not married i still gave my children there fathers name because if 1 day we do get married then we will all have the same name but my children understand that mommy has a different name because mom and dad arnt married and they are fine about it my daughter tells me she only wants me and daddy to get married so she can have a princess dress lol. I feel as long as u dont make it an issue i dont think it will bother ur children
by amylou1983 5th Dec 2008, 9:34am
i would choose the fathers last name but if you have split from your partner before marriage then you could choose your last name.
my mum and dad got married so i took on my fathers last name whereas my firends dad left before she was born so she took on her mums last name. hope this helps
by Becki93 4th Dec 2008, 8:47am
i really dont no which surname to give my child as me and the father have split up , im not keen on my surname but id like to have the same surname as my child , im a little mixed up as to what to do yet
by tahlula 20th Oct 2008, 10:59am
im giving my baby my second name , split with the dad or i would have gave him his dads second name
by xlorax 3rd Sep 2008, 9:26am
I have a child from a previous marriage and now I am pregnant with my new partners child - we will be giving our new baby my partners surname as my partner wishes to adopt my daughter and we will hyphernate her surname & when we marry in 2010 I will also have the hyphernated surname that way I will be linked to both my children - my current daughter will be linked to her "old" and "new" family by hyphernation and my "new" child will be linked to me by surname and my hyphernation..

Confused - we not !!
by Karran 13th Aug 2008, 8:50am
i have decided to keep my children surname the same as there father. i have separated from him and once the divorce comes i am staying with my married name, as i had as i had trouble at school from my mum having a different surname to me. i think its totally up to the mother but, it really depends on what name you have chosen for a child. as my daughter is called trinity and i am hoping to call my baby, either william or logan, r surname iskent which works well but if i went back to my maiden name atkinson it wouldnt work.
by rach85 14th May 2008, 8:52am
[think the baby should take the mothers surname so as all children carry the same surname reguardless of father or fathers in one unit or family
by jill76 7th Apr 2008, 2:44pm