Double-barrelled name

A double-barrelled name is a type of compound surname, typically featuring two words (occasionally more), often joined by a hyphen. Examples of some notable people with double-barrelled names include Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Sacha Baron Cohen.

In the Western tradition of surnames, there are several types of double surname (or double-barrelled surname[1]). If the two names are joined with a hyphen, it may also be called a hyphenated surname. The word "barrel" possibly refers to the barrel of a shotgun, as in "double-barreled shotgun".

In British tradition, a double surname is heritable, usually taken to preserve a family name that would have become extinct due to the absence of male descendants bearing the name, connected to the inheritance of a family estate. Examples include Harding-Rolls and Stopford Sackville.

In Hispanic tradition, double surnames are the norm, and not an indication of social status. A person used to take the (first) surname of their father, followed by the (first) surname of their mother (i.e. their maternal grandfather's surname). In Spain, parents can choose the order of the last names of their children since the year 2000, with the provision that all children from the same couple need to have them in the same order. The double surname itself is not heritable. These names are combined without hyphen (but optionally combined using y, which means "and" in Spanish). In addition to this, there are heritable double surnames (apellidos compuestos) which are mostly but not always combined with a hyphen. Hyphenated last names usually correspond to both last names of one of the parents but both last names can be hyphenated, so some Hispanics may legally have two double-barrelled last names corresponding to both last names of both parents. Many Spanish scholars use a pen name where they enter a hyphen between their last names to avoid being misrepresented in citations.

In German tradition, double surnames can be taken upon marriage, written with or without hyphen, combining the husband's surname with the wife's. (More recently the sequence has become optional under some legislations.) These double surnames are "alliance names" (Allianznamen).

  1. ^ The term "double-barrelled surname" was in origin used for British double names indicative of (partially) aristocratic background; so in Thomas Innes of Learney, The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands (1970), p. 186. Earlier usage prefers "double-barrelled name" in reference to the British double surnames, the more specific "double-barrelled surname" is a recharacterization after the recent tendency to use "double-barrelled name" for the fashion of hyphenated given names. The term "double-barrelled (sur)name" appears to have been coined in the Victorian era, originally with a sarcastic undertone implying pomposity; e.g.:
    • "It is looked on as a public blessing, a boon to the general good-humor, when a statesman is endowed with a double-barreled name. It brings on a perpetual feu de joie of squibs, and makes him so much the more agreeable to everybody but himself." Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, a Popular Journal of General Literature, Volume 18, 1876, p. 385.
    • "The hero, who was a prince, had a sort of double-barreled name, which would defy all sorts at pronunciation; and so had the heroine. They were names which, no doubt, would be instrumental in selling any fever and ague mixture should they be affixed to it." Puck, Puck Publishing Company, 1878, p. 21.
    • "an extravagant superfluity of new-coined phraseology and technical terms, which every distinguished person's illness elicits from some fashionable physician with a double-barreled surname and none denoting Christianity." Robert Joshua Leslie, John Leslie (bishop of Clogher), The life and times of ... John Leslie, bishop of the Isles, and of Raphoe and Clogher, 1885, p. 157.
    But it is now also used more generally of any double surname (an example for this is Azoulai, The Question of Competence in the European Union (2014:180) using "double-barrelled" to refer to a Danish double surname.

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