Beckham baby: Why the middle name Seven?

Pregnant woman

David and Victoria Beckham have named their fourth child Harper Seven. Does their unusual choice of middle name reflect a modern trend?

The Beckhams' sons are Brooklyn Joseph, Romeo James and Cruz David, but for their first daughter, the celebrity couple have decided to hold back on her first name and go freestyle for her second.

As with the birth of their boys, the papers and internet are buzzing with theories on why the Beckhams chose Harper Seven.

Harper has become an increasingly popular name in the US, where the family are now based. It was the 887th most popular for a girl in 2004 but rose to 119 last year.

Victoria and David Beckham at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge The Beckhams knew they were having a girl

Seven has been the focus of speculation. There are suggestions it was because she weighed 7lbs 10oz, arrived at 0755 LA time and was born in the seventh month, but the number also has great significance for her father, who played number seven shirt for Manchester United and England.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a middle name is a forename other than a first name, occurring between a person's first name and surname. So "middle name" embraces both a maiden name retained in the child's name as well as an additional "Philip" or "John" after the first name.

Naming conventions vary from country to country but in the English-speaking world, middle names are often a relative's name, usually old-fashioned and highly embarrassing, or a family surname.

There can be more than one. British musician Brian Eno is actually Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, while Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland is Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland.

Julia Cresswell, author of several books including Naming Your Baby, says middle names were not as common in the past. She says they were a "status thing" and if a husband married a better-connected wife for instance, they made sure her surname passed to their child.

"It tended to be used by those who had family connections.

"It then became a classy thing to do to give more than one name to your child. People have had middle names for centuries but it is only since the 20th Century that it's become the norm for nearly everybody."

Celebrity middle names

  • Elton Hercules John - British singer/songwriter
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt - US actress
  • Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey - English footballer
  • Hugh John Mungo Grant - British actor
  • Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson - Harry Potter actress

She points to the Royal family, with their "stream of names", as a good example of it being an "upper-class thing" - Prince Charles is followed by Philip Arthur George, while Prince William also has the names Arthur Philip Louis.

But Cresswell says their purpose has now changed.

"Growing populations and growing mobility mean you need to distinguish yourself. That's why we use so many different first names these days. There were only a dozen names in regular use in the distant past.

"If you Google John Smith, you get hundreds of hits. Google John Seven Smith and you are not likely to find more than one."

A middle name can be a good safety net if a child hates their first name. And sometimes the initial letter of a middle name becomes very much part of the person, such as former US President George W Bush.

David and Victoria Beckham, with sons (from left to right) Brooklyn, Cruz and Romeo Lucky number Seven? A girl after three boys

Family psychologist Dr Pat Spungin says some people adopt their middle name to mark a new chapter in their life or because it is a better representation of "the new them".

The Beckhams are not the first to call their child after the lucky number Seven - US rapper and actor Andre 3000, also known as Dre, has a son called Seven. In the TV comedy Seinfeld, George Costanza wanted to call his baby Seven.

And Cresswell points out that there was a character called Seven of Nine in Star Trek Voyager, but she doesn't "have the Beckhams down as Trekkies".

Here is a selection of your meaningful middle names.

My Japanese wife and I almost called our son (born 1997) "Seven". At the time, we weren't aware of anyone else using it as a name. No deeper personal meaning for us, beyond the usual "seven stars, seven planets, seven days" etc, ubiquity of the number, and we both liked the sound of it. The only thing that stopped us was that my wife's parents couldn't pronounce the V sound: in Japanese, it comes out like a B. In the end, we opted for a traditional Japanese name.

Rob , London

With a surname beginning with 'D', I wanted my prematurely born youngest daughter to be be called Alexandra Marina and was just not going to agree to my husband's demand that she be named Marina Alexandra... luckily her aunt saved the day by suggesting we name the child after her: Jane. So, instead of being MAD, she is now Marina Alexandra Jane D (and gets called Madge on occasion).

Vertaler, Wales

I dont think anyone but the Inland Revenue know my middle names, but I am named after two antecedents, Robert Surtees, victorian comic novelist and William of Wykeham who built part of Windsor Castle, Hampton Court etc, founded New College, Oxford, Winchester College etc and ended up Chancellor of England, I think, although of relatively lowly birth. I am also a builder and was a teacher for twenty years, and write also - so perhaps it is in my blood.

John Surtees Wykeham Bradford, Leicester

My middle name is Mercedes. It isn't weird, but it is weird that it's my middle name because my dad worked for Mercedes-Benz at the time of my birth. I'm proud of it.

Victoria, Croydon

In India, the middle name is quite often the father's name in order to identify whose son/daughter the person is. For example, my middle name is my father's name and that is how it is registered in my passport. I was also being told that if I introduce myself to any of relatives in India, I must always say my name is Ashok Jethalal or Ashok, Jethalal's son. Otherwise if I only utter my name, it is considered rude.

Ashok Jethalal Chudasama, Blackburn

I have two middle names - the rather generic Louise and then the more unusual Katurah which is from my fathers family bible. I like it, far more so than my cousin likes her middle name Edwina!

Jessiac Lousie Katurah Hollis, Milton Keynes

My daughter chose Ashley James John for her son. Ashley from the village Ashley Green, in Bucks, where my maternal grandparents lived, their surname was James. John is the name of my best friend. She thought it all out without me knowing. I was impressed to say the least.

Barbara Pilgram, Farnborough, Hampshire

My son's middle name is "Daintree" after the Australian rainforest. We visited there whilst I was pregnant and loved it there, so wanted to make sure that we would all have a great excuse to return.

Suzanne, Edinburgh

I am lucky to have two middle names. Edward is in honour of maternal grandfather. Ormonde however is different. I am Ormonde the Third. My paternal grandfather, John Ormonde Knight was given the name after the famous children's hospital. My father, Gary Ormonde Philip Knight inherited from his father and I from him. What puzzles me and my father is how we have acquired and extra 'e'. The hospital is spelt Ormond. I like this enigma of the name's spelling even if it is probably a registrar typo in the 1920s!

David Edward Ormonde Knight, Slough

My middle name is Somerset, even though I and my family have no connection to the county. It is also my mother's middle name. In fact it is a name that has been passed down the generations, regardless of gender for more than a century. My grandfather had an Uncle Somerset (or Uncle Somey as he was known). At least one person in every generation carries it as a first or second name, but I have no idea why.

Fiona Scerri-Headley, Cambridgeshire

My daughter is named Matilda Lillian Happy Turner - shortened to Tilly Lilly Happy occasionally! Her middle names are after her great grandmothers. Lillian is my grandmother's name and Happy is my husband's grandmother's middle name but it is actually his great grandmother's christian name. Incidentally, Tilly lives up to her middle name!

J Turner, Moreton Say, Shropshire

My boy-girl twins have Hudson Beau and Liberty Bella as their middle names. I discovered i was pregnant in New York whilst in a restaurant that overlooked the Hudson river with views of the Statue of Liberty. Beau and Bella mean handsome and beautiful.

Sarah Bowman, Wendover

My nephew's middle name is Xavier, after Charles Xavier aka. Professor X from the X Men. He's already growing in a proud scifi geek. But don't tell his grandmother, she thinks he's named for the Roman Catholic Saint Francis Xavier!

Katie , Aberystwyth

My second daughter is called Zarah Billie. The Billie is for my father whose names where Robert William. My sister is named Roberta after him so I went for his second name, and feminised that.

Joanna Tate, London

My wife and I named our son, born on Mozart's 250th birthday, J. E. Amadeus Stephens. One of our daughters is named Jaina Ruth Eowyn Stephens (yes, it's a Tolkien reference). Our oldest children: Victoria A. and Katherine Elizabeth (our queens). I myself am a Junior, but would not think of naming my child The Third.

Robert Ernest Stephens Jr, Whitley City, Kentucky

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