Ask Difference

Surname vs. Maiden Name — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on October 28, 2023
Surname is a family name shared by members of a family, while Maiden Name is the surname a person had before marriage.
Surname vs. Maiden Name — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Surname and Maiden Name


Key Differences

A surname, often referred to as a last name or family name, is shared by members of the same family lineage. It's typically passed down from generation to generation, and it identifies individuals as belonging to a specific family group. Conversely, a maiden name specifically pertains to the surname a person, often a woman, had before they got married. This term recognizes the tradition where one may change their surname post-marriage.
The tradition of surnames varies globally, with some cultures placing the surname before the given name, while others do it the other way around. They can offer insight into ancestry, geographical origins, or even professions. The maiden name, on the other hand, serves as a link to an individual's birth family or pre-marital identity, often retained as a middle name or used professionally.
While the concept of surnames is widespread and is seen in almost all cultures around the world, the idea of a maiden name and changing one's surname after marriage is not universal. In many cultures, especially Western ones, it's common for women to adopt their spouse's surname, making their birth surname their maiden name. However, this is a cultural practice and is by no means obligatory.
In modern times, the usage and importance of surnames remain consistent for official documents, records, and identity. The maiden name, with evolving societal norms, has seen diverse applications. Some choose to hyphenate their maiden name with their spouse's surname, while others retain their maiden name for professional or personal reasons.

Comparison Chart


Family name shared by members of a family
Surname held before marriage


Common in all cultures
Primarily in cultures with marital name change


Family lineage or ancestry
Pre-marital identity


Generally consistent
May change post-marriage

Relation to Marriage

Not specifically tied to marriage
Directly related to marital status

Compare with Definitions


Can indicate geographic or occupational origin.
The surname 'Baker' might indicate an ancestor was a baker.

Maiden Name

The surname a woman had before marriage.
Her maiden name was 'Jones' before she got married.


A name representing a specific lineage.
Their surname has been passed down for generations.

Maiden Name

A pre-marital family name.
She chose to retain her maiden name professionally.


The last name shared by family members.
All siblings have the same surname in their family.

Maiden Name

Indicates an individual's birth family.
She's known by her maiden name in her hometown.


Typically follows the given name in Western cultures.
In the name 'John Doe', 'Doe' is the surname.

Maiden Name

The surname before a name change.
Her documents still carry her maiden name.


A name shared in common to identify the members of a family, as distinguished from each member's given name. Also called family name, last name.

Maiden Name

Often used in conjunction with a married surname.
She hyphenated her maiden name with her husband's surname.


A nickname or epithet added to a person's name.


To give a surname to.


(obsolete) An additional name, particularly those derived from a birthplace, quality, or achievement; an epithet.


(obsolete) An additional name given to a person, place, or thing; a byname or nickname.


The name a person shares with other members of that person's family, distinguished from that person's given name or names; a family name.
James is my first name, and Smith is my surname.


(Classical studies) The cognomen of Roman names.


A clan.


(transitive) To give a surname to.


(transitive) To call by a surname.


A name or appellation which is added to, or over and above, the baptismal or Christian name, and becomes a family name.


An appellation added to the original name; an agnomen.


To name or call by an appellation added to the original name; to give a surname to.
Another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
And Simon he surnamed Peter.


The name used to identify the members of a family (as distinguished from each member's given name)


A person's family name.
Her surname is 'Smith'.

Common Curiosities

Can a man have a Maiden Name?

The term typically refers to women, but it can be applied if a man changes his name after marriage.

What is a Surname?

A surname is a family name shared by members of a family.

Is a Maiden Name only relevant to women?

Traditionally, yes, but societal norms are evolving.

What does Maiden Name mean?

Maiden Name refers to the surname a person had before they got married.

Why do some people change their Maiden Name after marriage?

It's a cultural tradition, especially in Western societies.

Can you have two Surnames?

Yes, some people hyphenate surnames or have multiple for various reasons.

Why is it called a 'Maiden' Name?

The term "maiden" refers to a woman's youth or a time before marriage.

Is a Surname always at the end of a name?

In Western cultures, yes, but some cultures place the surname first.

Do you have to change your Surname when you get married?

No, it's a personal choice and varies by individual and culture.

Are there legal implications to changing a Surname post-marriage?

Yes, name changes typically require legal documentation and updates to IDs and records.

What's the purpose of a Surname?

It identifies family lineage and is used for official documentation and identification.

What happens to the Maiden Name after changing one's Surname?

It might be dropped, retained as a middle name, hyphenated, or used in certain contexts.

Do all cultures have the concept of a Maiden Name?

No, the concept of changing surnames post-marriage is not universal.

If someone doesn't change their name after marriage, is their Surname still called a Maiden Name?

Technically, their surname remains the same, but it could still be referred to as a maiden name contextually.

Can someone have their mother's Maiden Name as their Surname?

Yes, it's up to the family's naming choice.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger

Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms