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What Is A Suffix In A Name

What Is A Suffix In A Name? Why Do People Have Name Suffixes?

You may occasionally notice additional letters and wordings behind the surname when reading someone’s name. These are commonly called name suffixes. However, so many types of suffixes can be very confusing. What is a suffix in a name?

Suffixes are usually additional wordings added behind a person’s surname. Name suffixes usually indicate their position in society, religion, ethnic origin, educational attainment, and relationship to another person. Suffixes may or may not be added to official documents.

This article discusses what a suffix is in a name and answers some common questions about suffixes you may have. These questions include the types of suffixes, as well as why people carry suffixes.

What Is A Name Suffix?

Name suffixes are letters that appear after a person’s last name. It may indicate a person’s relationship with another person, academic achievement, or profession. It may also indicate if the person has received an order of chivalry from a state or royal family. Some suffixes may also indicate cultural and national origin.

In western naming conventions, people are commonly given first, middle, and last names. In the most traditional manner, first and middle names are given after baptism and confirmation into a Christian church. However, the convention may not be followed as closely today.

The last name is commonly passed down from the father. This at least allows the lineage of a particular person to be traced. Last names could also have additions, indicating special relationships or cultural heritage.

For example, some people may have a combined surname, usually by combining two names (e.g., Jones-Williams). This may indicate a special relationship, such as having a biological and a stepfather. Some may take their godfather’s surname as well.

Some surnames may indicate origin, such as Romanova, which may indicate a Russian or Slavic origin. Surnames such as Yamamoto may indicate Japanese origin.

Less common after the surname is the suffixes. These are additional letters that may indicate additional information about a person. For example, the suffixes’ Sr.’ and ‘Jr.’ between someone with a similar first and last name may indicate a father-and-son relationship.

Suffixes can also indicate professional titles, such as a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy). Some may also have suffixes to indicate having received an Order of Merit, such as the O.B.E. (Order Of The British Empire.)

Suffixes usually appear as additional letters after the surname is written out. They do not appear in the middle or the beginning of the full name. If there are letters between the first and last name, it may be contractions of the middle name. If there are letters before the first name, it may be a form of honorific, such as Mr. or Mrs.

Is Name Suffix Similar To Name Prefix?

Name suffixes are not similar to name prefixes. Name prefixes usually appear before the first name and are often used to indicate honorifics. This is a way to tell another person how to address the person. Common name prefixes include Mr., Mrs., Dr., Ir, and more.

Within language grammar, the word ‘prefix’ indicates the positioning of ‘before,’ while the word ‘suffix’ indicates ‘after.’

You can use this understanding to differentiate between a name prefix and a name suffix. The name prefix appears before the name, while the name suffix appears after the name.

The name prefix appears before the first name and is commonly used to indicate honorifics. Honorifics often serve as a guide on how to address the person, particularly in a formal, respectful manner.

By default, every male has the name suffix of ‘Mr.’ (Mister). This indicates that the person has come of age and is a male. For females, the default name suffix is either ‘Mrs.’ (Missus) or’ Ms.’ (Miss). The honorific Missus is used on a married woman, while Miss is used on an unmarried woman.

However, the name prefix may change when a person attains an academic achievement, enters a certain work profession, or is given an order of chivalry by a monarch or a government.

For example, a person with a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or M.D. (Doctor Of Medicine) has a name prefix of ‘Dr.’ (Doctor). If a person was bestowed with the M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire), the person might use the name prefix of ‘Sir.’ A person with religious education and background may carry the prefix ‘Fr.’ (Father) or ‘Rav’ (Rabbi).

As such, name prefixes and suffixes are two different things. However, you may use the name prefix or suffix to inform the other. 

Why Do People Have Name Suffixes?

Name suffixes often indicate relationship, professional qualifications, educational attainment, cultural background, possession of an order of Merit, or being a member of an organization. These are often expressed in short forms or initials.

Name suffixes have been around for a long time and were used as a way to style a person. This helps the person separate him or herself from the masses and showcase a certain uniqueness.

Generally, name suffixes are attached behind a surname to indicate relationship, professional qualifications, educational attainment, cultural background, possession of an order of Merit, or being a member of an organization.

Name Suffix Type Examples Full Meaning
Relationship Sr. Senior
Jr.  Junior
Profession CPA Chartered Public Accountant
Esq. Esquire, indicating a lawyer
Educational 

Qualifications

Ph.D Doctor of Philosophy
MBA Masters Of Business Administration
B.Eng Bachelor of Engineering
Cultural Background d.y den yngre (younger), indicating Swedish origin
óg Young, indicating Irish origin
Order Of Merit OBE Officer Of The British Empire
Membership In Organization SJ Society of Jesus (Jesuits)
OFM Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)

Relationship

Some people may carry suffixes to indicate their relationship with another person. This is more likely when the person carries similar names. This may happen between father and son or siblings.

For example, suppose a father by the name Thomas Frank just got a son, and he intends to name the son Thomas Frank as well. To prevent confusion, he may adopt the suffix ‘Sr.’ (senior) while adding the suffix ‘Jr.’ (Junior) to his son. This practice is common in North America, although it is a lesser practice in Europe.

Profession

Some people may also adopt a name suffix to indicate their line of work. This is a common practice with professions requiring certification or a period of intense study or practice to qualify.

This professional work may also be regulated by a regulatory body, which means only those with the certification can practice it. As a result, those with the certification would indicate that in their name. This allows them to show to their clients or acquaintances.

For example, lawyers. Lawyers do not have specific honorifics to use, unlike medical doctors (Dr.), engineers (IR.), or Catholic priests (Fr.). As a result, at least within North America, lawyers use the suffix ‘Esq.’ (Esquire) to indicate their profession as a lawyer.

The practice could be the same for accountants. Depending on the qualifications and specializations, you may see different name suffixes. For example, the suffix C.P.A. may mean ‘Chartered Public Accountant.’

Educational Attainment

When a person achieves a certain educational attainment, they usually may indicate that as a name suffix. This is often a common practice within professional work or in academia.

For example, a person with a Doctor of Philosophy degree may use the name suffix ‘Ph.D.’ after their surname. Those with a Master of Business Administration may use the suffix ‘M.B.A..’ Lawyers may also place their Bachelor of Law suffix as well (LL.B.)

Achieving certain educational attainment may result in a change in honorifics. For example, a person with the suffix ‘Ph.D.’ may be called a ‘Doctor.’ This means you can use their name suffix to indicate how to address them properly.

Cultural Background

Certain name suffixes may tell a person’s cultural origin. You may also be able to tell their nationality. However, with human migration, this may only sometimes hold true. For example, some may carry name suffixes of Irish origin as ‘Og.’ Still, they may be American or Australian in nationality.

However, certain name suffixes such as d.ä (den äldre, the elder) or d.y (den yngre, the younger) could indicate a Swedish origin. It may be used in Sweden to distinguish between individuals of the same name, such as father and son, elder and younger brothers, and so on.

In France, the suffix père (father) and fils (son) could also be used to distinguish between father and son who have the same name. This system works similarly to the Sr. and Jr. suffix in English.

Possession Of An Order Of Merit

If a person receives an order of Merit from a monarchy or a country, they may be able to add that as a name suffix. One of the most popular orders of Merit is that of Great Britain, as many celebrities were bestowed with it.

You may see several British orders of Merit, such as the following:

  • M.B.E. (Member of Most Excellent Order Of British Empire)
  • O.B.E. (Officer of the Most Excellent Order Of British Empire)
  • C.B.E. (Commander of the Most Excellent Order Of British Empire). 

Some people who carry these suffixes include Elton John and Johnny Ive.

Male members who carry these name suffixes also may adopt a new honorific, ‘Sir.’ Female receivers also may carry the prefix ‘Dame.’

Membership In An Organization

If a person belongs to a certain organization or body, they may indicate that as a name suffix. These bodies may require an intense study to enter or indicate membership in the order.

For example, when looking at some Catholic priests, you may notice that some carry name suffixes that differ from other priests.

One such is the suffix S.J., which may mean that the priest is a member of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. If a priest has membership in the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), he may carry the suffix O.F.M.

Is Name Suffix Similar To Last Name?

A name suffix is not the last name. This is because the last name is passed down from one generation to the other, while name suffixes are usually not. Last names are also usually spelled out in full, while name suffixes are often abbreviated. Name suffixes are also not used in official documentation as widely as the last name.

It may not surprise that people may need clarification on a person’s last name and name suffixes. This is because they often appear at the end, and the word ‘last’ may need to be clarified for people. 

The best way to explain the term ‘Last Name’ may be to equate it with another, more specific term, ‘Surname.’ This makes it different from name suffixes in several ways:

Position

Generally, the easiest way to tell apart a person’s last name and name suffixes is to look at the positioning. Name suffixes always come after the last name and, in many cases, may be styled in smaller font size or in italic font.

The last name is usually spelled in full and is similar in font size to the first and middle names. The font is also regular. In some situations, some people may capitalize or underline their last names. This is done to indicate to others their surname or last name. You can also use this to tell apart last names and name suffixes.

This is commonly done with non-western names to avoid confusion. For example, Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, may spell his full name and suffixes as ‘Kuan Yew, LEE GCMG CH SPMJ DK.’

Possession

One way to distinguish between last name and name suffixes is possession. Everybody has a last name, although not all would have suffixes.

This is because a person is often given a surname, usually passed down from their father. However, there are cases where children receive surnames passed from their mother or they adopt surnames of non-blood relatives.

When it comes to naming suffixes, not everyone will have them, as name suffixes often come from either being given one (e.g., Sr., Jr.) or that the person studied to get them (e.g., Ph.D., Pharm. D). A person may also receive a name suffix from receiving an order of Merit (e.g., O.B.E.)

Use In Official Documentation

Last names are often used in full in all official documentation of a person, be it a driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport. This is because the last name is assigned to a person the moment they are born, meaning it could be entered into the documentation immediately.

This may only be true for some name suffixes. Some name suffixes may be entered into official documentation since they are given out when the person is born. For example, suffixes such as Jr. Generally, this may only happen with other name suffixes if added later through a legal declaration.

Name suffixes may occasionally be in the documentation, such as when added to forms. This may happen more formally, such as at a professional conference or convention. This is to ensure the person is addressed and saluted appropriately.

Conventions In Expressing The Name

Last names are spelled out in full, while name suffixes are usually abbreviated. This is because name suffixes may be long and may be longer than the person’s actual name. Abbreviations may usually be in contractions, acronyms, or others.

For example, rather than indicating the full suffix ‘Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George’, it may be shortened as GCMG. The same could be said for the full suffix ‘Doctor of Pharmacy. It is commonly shortened to PharmD.

Last names are spelled out in full since it is common to address a person by their last name, as it is less common for people with the same surname to be at the same location at the same exact time.

Spelling last names out in full also help in documentation and identification work, such as passports, birth certificates, or driver’s licenses.

Can You Check A Person’s Name Suffix?

You can check a person’s name suffix. You can usually check with the regulatory body that issues the qualification to see if the person is deserving of the name suffix. This is because there are cases of people adopting a suffix, even when they do not qualify for it.

People with certain name suffixes are often seen as respectable members of society. They may be viewed and accorded a certain level of honor and respect. This is because, in many cases, these suffixes come from spending years of study, work, and effort to earn it.

People with professional, academic suffixes are often seen this way, together with those with orders of Merit and membership in certain organizations.

As a result, certain people may attempt to adopt these name suffixes without being able to do so. Unfortunately, faking titles, credentials, and name suffixes can be quite common.

You can verify its authenticity whenever you doubt a person’s ability to carry the name suffix. You start by confirming the full meaning of the suffix before checking with the regulatory body that allows the person to use such a suffix.

For example, suppose you are unsure of a certain Dr. John Doe Smith, Ph.D. (Yale). You can check with Yale University and see if the person graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Suppose that there is a John Doe Smith that graduated with a Ph.D. from Yale. Then you can confirm the genuineness of the person’s claim to use the suffix Ph.D.

However, suppose there is no such person with the degree. In that case, that means the person is a fraud and needs to be exposed to avoid the person from misusing the honorific and suffix to defraud others. 

How Do You Write A Person’s Name Suffix?

A person’s name suffix is often written after the last name or surname. Depending on the styling, it could be written in a bracket, italic, or smaller font size. The key is to show that these are name suffixes, not part of the person’s actual name.

Generally, there are no set conventions for writing a person’s name suffixes. The key is to indicate clearly that these are name suffixes and are not part of the person’s full name.

This is usually done by writing out the person’s first, middle, and last name before following up with the name suffixes. Depending on the method of writing, they could be written out differently.

When handwritten, it may be common to see the name suffixes written out in similar size and style. For example, Thomas Frank, Ph.D. Some like to place a comma between the end of the last name and the suffixes to separate them. For example, Thomas Frank, Ph.D. Bracketing may also be common, such as Thomas Frank (Ph.D.).

When the person has more than one name suffix, it may be common to list them in alphabetical order. For example, Thomas Frank, C.P.A., M.B.E., Ph.D. Bracketing may also be common here to separate between full names and suffixes. For example, Thomas Frank (C.P.A., M.B.E., Ph.D.)

Name suffixes’ writing style may not apply to given name suffixes, such as Jr. or Sr. In many cases, they are written out as a part of their last names, such as Thomas Frank Jr. or Thomas Frank III.

Are Name Suffixes Different Between Men And Women?

Generally, men and women can use about the same suffixes. However, some suffixes are more commonly used on men, such as Sr. or Jr. Men and women usually use the same professional, academic, or merit-based suffixes. Their honorifics may be different. 

Name suffixes generally are the same for both men and women. The only difference is the usage conventions, which may see some name suffixes used on men much more than on women. 

For example, the suffix Sr. or Jr. tends to be used on men rather than women. Some Merit orders or membership may open to only men, such as the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). As such, you may not see a woman carrying the suffix S.J. after their last name.

For professional and academic suffixes, there are generally no differences between men and women. This is because these suffixes indicate the person’s achievement and do not differentiate between gender.

The only difference may be in the honorifics of the person. Although earning the right to use similar suffixes, men and women may use different honorifics. For example, those receiving the Order of The British Empire (O.B.E.). Men may be addressed as a Sir, while a woman, a Dame.

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