“Mother’s maiden name” meaning: How to easily explain it to a child

Have you ever been asked what your mother’s maiden name is? Perhaps you’re a woman, and somebody has asked you what your maiden name is?

Of course, when you get asked what your X is, it’s only natural to wonder what it means.

What is “Mother’s maiden name”?

A mother’s maiden name is what her name used to be before she got married. This is usually her first name, followed by the surname of her parents. Although not very common, these days, it can also be applied to men, should they choose to take their wives surname.

This article will be looking at why women might or might not keep their maiden name. Why the system is there in the first place. What happens if you change your name for reasons other than marriage.

Why is it called “maiden name”?

A maiden is an unmarried woman. However, it’s important to note, socially, there has always been a difference between a maiden and a spinster.

A maiden is a young, beautiful woman, who is yet to be wooed by the right man. Hence the phrase “fair maiden”. A spinster is an older woman who was unable to find the right man.

Today, a spinster is a bit of a negative term, so many older unmarried women will refer to themselves as “maidens”.

You may also use “maiden” to describe a first attempt, such as “the Titanic’s maiden voyage”.

Should women keep their maiden name or take on their husband’s name?

Women should keep their maiden name

Some people would argue that women should keep their names, even after they get married.

People who argue this would say that a woman getting married was her father’s way of giving her to another man in the past. But now times have changed- women are no longer the property of their husbands.

Women are independent beings, even after they walk down the aisle, making it seem like they belong to their husbands is archaic, not something we should be aiming for.

Women should take on their husband’s name

On the other hand, others would argue that when a woman gets married, she should take on her husband’s surname.

They would argue that changing her surname does not show that she is owned by her husband, but rather that she has simply made a lifelong commitment to her new family. Most of the time, women are not forced to change their name, they choose to do so out of their own free will.

And plus, whilst it’s true their husbands don’t own them, their fathers don’t either. By keeping her father’s name, a woman would just be replacing one outdated custom with another.

Other options for women’s names after they marry

Of course, there are other options to either keeping your dad’s name or taking on your husbands. Although most women will choose to keep their husbands name, now that marriage has become more liberalized, the rules are more varied.

One option that people might choose is to combine their names into a double-barreled surname. So if Miss Smith marries Mr Jones, they might become Mr and Mrs Jones-Smith.

Or, you could even come up with a completely new name. However, this option is rare and usually only done if both want to distance themselves from their family.

What is a woman’s title before and after marriage?

Since we’re talking about name changes when women get married, it would be impossible for me to write this article without mentioning titles.

Before a woman is married, she is called “Miss”, usually followed by her father’s surname. For example, if Jack Smith has a daughter named Mary, Mary will be known as Miss Smith until she is married.

When a woman is married, her title becomes “Mrs”, and her surname becomes her husband’s. So if Mary married Alfie Robinson, her new name would be Mrs Robinson.

However, a new title has popped up recently, “Ms”. If a woman is “Ms”, she may or may not be married. But it doesn’t matter either way.

What if a name change is due to reasons other than marriage?

If you change your name for reasons other than marriage, your old name will not be your “maiden name”, it will simply be your former name.

You might want a name change because you’ve fallen out with your family and now want to distance yourself from them.

But more common reasons are that transgender people have changed their name to suit their new gender.

If you get married then get divorced, your married name will become your former name.

Why you may need to know someone’s maiden name

The most common reason you will need to know someone’s maiden name is password security. Several websites ask you for your mother’s maiden name. This is for the website to make sure you are who you say you are when you forget your passport.

It may also be helpful when filling in legal documents. Sometimes, knowing what someone’s name used to be can help police with their investigations.

And finally, you might need to tell someone your maiden name if you wish to find out more about your ancestry.

Alternatives to “maiden name”

These days, “maiden” is seen as too submissive, and “spinster” is archaic. Which is why many women prefer to be called “Bachelorette”. In casual conversation, women might refer to their maiden name as their “Bachelorette” name.

You could also simply call it her “former name”. Even though this applies to more than maiden names, it can apply to these kinds of names too.

You may also call it a “Baptismal Name”, as it was the name you had when you were baptized. Another option is to call it her “father’s surname”.


When a woman gets married, her name before she tied the knot will become her maiden name. However, things are not quite as straightforward as they used to be, since marriage is no longer about one man’s property becoming the property of another.

There won’t be many circumstances where what your name used to be will be of much use to anyone. But it’s still useful to know as you never know when it might be helpful.

Even today, most women will choose to take on their husband’s surname. But thankfully, it’s now a choice! Hopefully, now, you have a better idea of what a “Maiden Name” is and when it could be helpful to you.