name help: advice for an adult name changeName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.

We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes:

My name looks like a typo.

It’s not Madisynne or Alexxus or anything excessive, where you can just sort of throw your hands up because it’s so different.

It’s just a Very Popular name from the 1990s with one of the consonants doubled. And no one EVER doubles this letter. (Imagine something like Emilly or Courttney.)

When I’d ask my mom about it, her answer would change. Sometimes she claimed she knew someone with that spelling. Later, she said she liked it because it was different. She always promised I’d “grow into it” or appreciate it when I was older.

I’m 25 now. I hate it. It’s frustrating. It recently caused a huge hassle with a mandatory background check for a new job.

Everything has been resolved, thankfully, but I think it’s time to fix this for once and for all. Before I spend the money and time, I could use a little bit of advice.

Here are my questions:

1. I think I’d like my first name fine if the spelling were fixed, but I’m considering changing my middle name. It’s Lynn, which doesn’t bother me, but I’m remodeling the house, so why not knock down an extra wall?

2. More importantly, how do I approach this subject with my mom? We get along reasonably well, but I know this will upset her.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Please read on for my reply and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Abby replies:

I’m so sorry you’re going through this!

First, I imagine this spelling causes quite the headache.

For readers who can’t see it, let’s frame it this way: in the year of your birth, over 16,000 girls received the standard spelling of your name. This alternate spelling isn’t completely unknown – just over 100 girls received this spelling from the late 1970s into the 1990s. That’s a tiny number, especially compared to the roughly half-a-million given the conventional spelling in the same range of years.

So, yes. No one is going to expect it. It doesn’t change the pronunciation at all. And it does look like a typo. If there’s no good reason for keeping it? I’d change it in a heartbeat.

But that’s not your question, so let’s get to those.


It depends. My initial impulse is to say “yes, of course!” As you note, if you’re making changes, it is no more effort or cost to go from being, say, Ammber Lynn to Amber Beatrice or Amber Jessamy. (Just making up names.)

Do you have a great middle name in mind? If so, I’d give you the green light.

If choosing a new middle name is going to slow you down? Then I’d ask if you really want to delay the process.

I’m not a lawyer, but it’s worth noting that legal name changes in the US are handled at the state and local level. (This is a good overview of the process.)

That means it’s impossible to say how long it will take to process a change – though an attorney in your area can likely give you a better idea.

Plus, as the article notes, the legal name change is only step one. You’ll have to change all of your legal documents, some of which take time. (There’s a good list here.)

So if you’re planning a big trip overseas, you wouldn’t want to be mid-name change and without a valid passport as a result.


Oof. I’ve been here. It’s awkward.

Still, it sounds like you’ve often voiced dissatisfaction with your unique name spelling, right? Assuming that’s the case, then it’s not so shocking to announce – kindly and privately – that you’re making a change.

Unless there’s a practical need, I’d wait until the name change is done before you share the news.

In whatever words work for your relationship, I’d emphasize that you love her and appreciate that she chose your name with every good intention, but it just wasn’t quite right for you.

If your relationship is frostier? Or just plain more complicated? I suppose it’s also possible that you don’t actually need to tell her.

But I feel like that’s only if you truly are estranged. After all, at some point it’s bound to come out.

Better to manage it up front, on your own terms, than having to explain when circumstances force you to reveal the change.


I’d suggest you look at any practical constraints you’re facing – a destination wedding requiring a passport, buying your first house, etc. Assuming nothing is on the horizon, I’d do two things:

ONE: Research the exact process where you live and decide if you need an attorney or not. I tend to err on the pay-an-attorney side, but that’s your call. This article notes that some jurisdictions might have forms you can fill out, rather than having a lawyer draft a petition.

TWO: Give yourself a specific timeline to decide on a new middle name. Maybe it’s a month. Or maybe it’s until your next birthday or until you set aside the money to pay for the name change. But don’t let an endless search for The Perfect Middle stop you from fixing your first.

I suspect you’ll breathe a deep sigh of relief when it’s finished. Best of luck!

Readers, over to you. Any advice on this name change or choosing a new middle?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. This letter really touched my heart. As someone who has changed her name twice as an adult, I have found it to be a truly empowering and even euphoric to be recognized by the name you chose for yourself. I hope this will be the letter-writer’s experience, as well!

    I actually know someone who was likewise given the middle name Lynn when she was born, but who changed it to Lucia as an adult. She preferred a name that honored her Italian heritage, and she liked the significance of Lucia (both because it means “light” and because her birthday happened to be Saint Lucy’s Day). She also liked that her middle initial remained the same.

    My own story is that, when I got married, I added my spouse’s last name (which started with E) as a second middle name. When we ended our marriage, I didn’t want to revert to my previous name, since that felt like “erasing” a significant part of my life history. But it also didn’t feel right to keep carrying around my ex-spouse’s family name.

    I debated for months what to do, and finally I had a lightbulb moment: my dear aunt and godmother is named Ellen. She has no children, and she has been a wonderfully loving and influential person in my life.

    I called her up and asked if I could take Ellen as my new second middle name. She was surprised and delighted – it was such a special moment when she said yes! So, my initials have remained the same, but now I get to carry the name of someone very important to me. It feels so right!

    If there’s a name that feels special to you – whether because of its meaning, or because of its connection to someone you love or admire – I say go for it!

    If you find a name with the same initial as Lynn, or a name that honors your family in some way, that might give you a sense of stability amidst the change. Your mom’s reaction might be mitigated if you choose a name from her family.

    But you shouldn’t feel obligated to check those boxes! Go with your heart, and enjoy the sense of completeness that comes with the name change process. Wishing you the best of luck!

  2. I think go for it with the first name spelling.
    As for the middle, I think this is a very personal choice.
    A possible suggestion you could use a spin off version of Lynn. Lynnae, Lyndall, Madelyn, Brynn.
    Another possibility, pick a name from the family tree, include ladies, last name options or feminine versions of male ancestors.
    As for you your mum, she will get over it I’m sure. Probably more easily if you only change the first name spelling.

  3. There’s some solid advice in this post, as changing your name on all legal documents DOES take a while. I had a friend who hated her father as she was growing up, despite the fact that he was the reason she had U.S. citizenship (she was originally from Ecuador, I think – we’re out of touch now but I would totally have asked her about this process for you, Anonymous). I’m fact, she changed her LAST name the year she turned 18 after a terrible car accident and she realized she’d rather have her mother’s last name for the rest of her life. So she’s known by that last name personally & professionally! And I suppose for career reasons, you definitely want to make it clear who’s getting your paycheck/salary next year. If you think you can tough it out for however long it takes to sort that out, then live having confusions on paper/online, go for it.

    On a different note, I think if you’re close with your mom, I can understand the difficulty of changing your legal first name. Still, if she or both your parents feel attached to the name they gave you, especially the middle, then I’d consider only changing your first. Alternatively, if they or she especially doesn’t mind the middle name change, you have less to worry about! But I think the biggest hurdle is owning up to this new identity you’re trying to embrace with the new spelling. Maybe start with writing your name on unofficial things and buying a personalized tote bag to practice. If you feel comfortable with it, it’s time to have that talk.

    Personally, I have a unique name. Like no one ever spelled their name in the U.S. like mine, as far as I know (I check sometimes but not lately, but I’ve heard variant spellings yet no one I’ve met figured mine out). And yet plenty of people have given me nicknames. I’ve learned to embrace that, since even the name itself was never common to begin with. So I don’t speak from the perspective of a someone with a variant spelling of a recognizable 1st name who grew up feeling as you did. But my name was and still is unusual. Plus, it’s somewhat indicative of my family’s cultural background, so I can’t imagine erasing that. For some, a piece of your family history is embedded in a name. I’m named after both parents too and that’s shaped my identity significantly.

    Lastly – Sometimes as a person who grows up with an unusual name, you realize how when people don’t use it enough (ex. calling you by your nickname or professional pseudonym constantly – verbally or on paper), you find yourself looking back to the sound of it. Maybe that’s not your case, so you have the peace of mind in that.

    Best of luck, however you choose. If you feel it’s best to change the first name, this sounds like 1 of the most significant adult decisions you can claim and embrace as your own. You’ll have to trust your mom to understand and trust yourself that who you are is who you will be with that new name.