Personal name

A personal name, or full name, in onomastic terminology also known as prosoponym (from Ancient Greek πρόσωπον / prósōpon - person, and ὄνομα / onoma - name),[1] is the set of names by which an individual person is known, and that can be recited as a word-group, with the understanding that, taken together, they all relate to that one individual.[2] In many cultures, the term is synonymous with the birth name or legal name of the individual. In linguistic classification, personal names are studied within a specific onomastic discipline, called anthroponymy.[3]

First/given, middle and last/family/surname with John Fitzgerald Kennedy as example. This shows a structure typical for the Anglosphere, among others. Other cultures use other structures for full names.

In Western culture, nearly all individuals possess at least one given name (also known as a first name, forename, or Christian name), together with a surname (also known as a last name or family name). In the name "Abraham Lincoln", for example, Abraham is the first name and Lincoln is the surname. Surnames in the West generally indicate that the individual belongs to a family, a tribe, or a clan, although the exact relationships vary: they may be given at birth, taken upon adoption, changed upon marriage, and so on. Where there are two or more given names, typically only one (in English-speaking cultures usually the first) is used in normal speech.

Another naming convention that is used mainly in the Arabic culture and in different other areas across Africa and Asia is connecting the person's given name with a chain of names, starting with the name of the person's father and then the father's father and so on, usually ending with the family name (tribe or clan name). However, the legal full name of a person usually contains the first three names (given name, father's name, father's father's name) and the family name at the end, to limit the name in government-issued ID. Men's names and women's names are constructed using the same convention, and a person's name is not altered if they are married.[4]

Some cultures, including Western ones, also add (or once added) patronymics or matronymics, for instance as a middle name as with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (whose father's given name was Ilya), or as a last name as with Björk Guðmundsdóttir (whose father is named Guðmundur) or Heiðar Helguson (whose mother was named Helga). Similar concepts are present in Eastern cultures. However, in some areas of the world, many people are known by a single name, and so are said to be mononymous. Still other cultures lack the concept of specific, fixed names designating people, either individually or collectively. Certain isolated tribes, such as the Machiguenga of the Amazon, do not use personal names.[lower-roman 1]

A person's personal name is usually their full legal name; however, some people use only part of their full legal name, a title, nickname, pseudonym or other chosen name that is different from their legal name, and reserve their legal name for legal and administrative purposes. The use of chosen names is very common in transgender and non-binary communities.[citation needed]

It is nearly universal for people to have names; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child declares that a child has the right to a name from birth.[7]


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