What is a Maiden Name?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2018
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A maiden name is the last name used by a woman before changing her name upon marriage. Some people prefer to use the term “birth name.” As a general rule, a woman's maiden name is her father's last name, reflecting the patrilineal system of descent which dominates many cultures.

If a woman is born with the name “Jane Smith” and she chooses to marry “John Jones,” she might choose to change her last name to Jones, becoming “Jane Jones.” In this scenario, “Smith” would be Jane's maiden name. Some women prefer to keep their maiden names, either using it alone or hyphenating their last names, becoming “Jane Smith-Jones” in the example above.

The practice of changing one's name after marriage is controversial among some groups. Some people feel that it is patriarchal, linking the name change with an identification of a woman as man's property, in a sense. Others feel that it simply undermines a woman's personal identity, rejecting her own lengthy family history. For professional women especially, keeping a maiden name may be a matter of career advancement, especially if they became well-known before marriage.


There are a number of ways to indicate a maiden name in text. Using our Jane Smith from above, her name might be written “Jane Jones née Smith,” or “Jane (Smith) Jones.” Many genealogists like to indicate the original of women on their family trees to make it easier to trace the family history of a family's women. Some women may also use this format in formal correspondence, especially if they are recently married, so that the recipients of a letter know who the communication is coming from.

As a general rule, a legal procedure is required to change one's name after marriage, although the fees are often minimal to make it as easy as possible. Women may also choose to leave their maiden names intact legally, but to use a married name socially. When changing one's maiden name, it is important to make sure that it is changed on all legal documents and identity papers, to ensure that there is no confusion.


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Post 6

If a woman does not change her surname upon marriage, then her surname is just her surname. It's not her "maiden name."

Post 5

And now what about homosexuals and lesbians who are getting married?

Post 4

Changing your name after marriage is appropriate if children are involved, but if you're a professional it can kill your career.

Changing your name is a lot of trouble if you have property and is not necessary. The male spouse may need reassurance if you don't take his name; it's a good way to test their inner security. Real men do not require their mates to change their names. Women have identities too.

Post 3

In many cultures of the world, women are treated as embodiments of honor and pride of a family in the society. Many cultures affirm that women are the conservers or carriers of culture for generations together. When a woman replaces her maiden name with her husband's family name, symbolically it means that she has taken the responsibility of conserving honor and pride of her family in the society. It also means that she has established new family after getting married. The sacrifice, loving nature, sanctity, and adaptability of a woman in a family are revealed by this tradition. The objective of implementing this tradition by the ancients is to preserve the feeling of unity and oneness among the family members

. This culture also helps a person to be identified in the society by family name. Since husband is elder to his wife, most commonly all the members of a family including wife and children appends his last name to the original names. However, owing to women's empowerment and growth of feminism few women of today are trying to break this culture by preserving their maiden names even after marriage.
Post 2

There is nothing wrong for a woman to change her name upon marriage.

Marriage creates a new unit, confusion is eliminated, life is simplified. A name does not change who the woman is, as a person.

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