I'm filing out an application form on a US website. The website is asking for my first name and last name. The Arabic name system is probably different from the English one. My name as it exactly appears on my national ID is Sara Adel Mahmoud Gad. My first name is Sara, my father's name is Adel, my grandfather's name is Mahmoud, and my family name (which is probably my great grandfather's name) is Gad. The part Adel Mahmoud Gad is shared among the family members, so my brother's name is Ali Adel Mahmoud Gad. Now What is my last name? Is it Gad? Or is it Adel Mahmoud Gad?

There has also been times when websites ask about middle name. What is my middle name? Is it Adel, or Adel Mahmoud? Or do I not have a middle name at all?

  • This isn't strictly about the English language, but about naming conventions, which vary all over the world. In traditional usage, the format is Firstname, Middle Names, Lastname, Generation where firstname is what you are commonly known as and lastname is your family name, typically inherited from the father's side, thus Sara and Gad. Middle names are given for a wide variety of reasons that vary by family tradition and in public are rarely used except for disambiguation, because many names are common (e.g. John R. Smith and John A. Smith).
    – choster
    Oct 25, 2018 at 22:32
  • Thank you. I'm not sure I understand you. Are you saying when a website asks only for my first name and last name, I should write Sara in the first name box, and only Gad in the last name box and leave out Adel Mahmould?
    – Sara
    Oct 25, 2018 at 22:39
  • Some languages (such as Spanish) allow composite surnames that include paternal and maternal surnames. For example, "Juan Pablo Fernández de Calderón García-Iglesias" mentioned in Spanish naming customs. But such convention obviously is country dependent, so this really needs to be answered by someone with such experience. As for the middle name, I don't think you have one as we use it (really only necessary for legal purposes). It usually does not have any relation to family position.
    – user3169
    Oct 25, 2018 at 22:49
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    It probably would be best to contact your local US embassy or consulate. Or the US State Dept. website U.S. Department of State | U.S. Visas might be helpful.
    – user3169
    Oct 25, 2018 at 23:43
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    Consider asking on travel stack exchange. Visas tend to be very picky about the exact format and there are probably visa regulations that answer this. Here you can get general advice on naming conventions in English but there are experts on visa applications on the Travel.
    – James K
    Oct 26, 2018 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


Generally, when you read last name it really means family name or sur name.

But what do you mean when you say "family name"? Are your siblings also called ___ Adel Mahmoud Gad? Or just given-name some-other-name Gad?

If your whole family uses the names Adel Mahmoud Gad, you should use that as your "last name." I'm not sure about the rules in your culture, but many Spanish and Hispanic people have multiple family names, for example Gabriel García Márquez. His "last name" is not Márquez, it's García Márquez.

If you're working with a webform that's too stupid to accept spaces in a last name...I guess just use Gad.

As for middle names, fortunately, these are rarely required. If you decide that Gad is your family name, you could use both Adel and Mahmoud as your middle name. Again, if it's a webform, and inflexible, you'll just have to pick one. For official documents, it doesn't really matter what you use as a middle name, but just be consistent.

  • Thank you. My family name is probably my great-grandfather's name, and yes Adel Mahmoud Gad is part of my brothers' names as well.
    – Sara
    Oct 25, 2018 at 22:47
  • I also have a last name with a space in it (although not one with multiple parts, like @Sara's) and what I do when I can't write the space is to write it as one word, without spaces. Another protip: just because a web form accepts a name with spaces doesn't mean it won't mess it up. Even if it's something important like plane tickets.
    – Laurel
    Oct 26, 2018 at 3:56

As the comments say, this is not about learning English but rather about the rules for filling out the particular form. In this case you should refer to helpful websites where they answer this and many other questions

Surnames: In this space fill in your last name. If you have multiple surnames, write them as they appear on your passport. If you are a married woman, you may include all of your surnames here, including your maiden name even if it is filled in below.

Given Names: Here, write your first name (and middle names if applicable) as they appear on your passport.

Full Name in Native Alphabet: write your first name(s) including special characters and accents where applicable. This is the only field in the application where you may use special characters.

Note that this is not the official website for the US State Department, so I can't guarantee this information is accurate. This is what the official website has to say:

Help: Surnames Enter all surnames (or family names) exactly as they are written in your passport. If only one name is written in your passport, enter that as your “Surname.”

Help: Given Names If your passport does not include a first or given name, please enter 'FNU' (meaning “first name unknown”) in the space for “Given Names.”

Help: Other Names Other names used include your maiden name, religious name, professional name, or any other name by which you are or have been known. Make sure to enter the other names you have used in full. Thus, if you have only used another surname, enter it along with your usual given name. If you have only used another given name, enter it along with your usual surname.

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    The bureaucrats who design forms generally lack imagination or even knowledge of how the rest of the world uses names. Who knows what they want? There are no rules. I once went on a business trip with a colleague whose name on his passport was "The Master of Lauderdale", a name that would only make sense to someone versed in Scottish heraldry - but it was his name. In short, you just have to ask the bureaucrats what is that they want to know.
    – JeremyC
    Oct 26, 2018 at 20:14

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