Difference Wiki

Forename vs. First Name: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 17, 2024
A forename is a person's first given name, often used in formal contexts, while a first name is the initial name given to someone, commonly used in everyday settings.

Key Differences

A forename is traditionally the first part of a person's full name, often reflecting family or cultural heritage. The first name, while synonymous in many contexts, is the name by which a person is most commonly addressed.
The term "forename" is more formal and is often used in legal, official, or genealogical contexts. "First name," on the other hand, is more colloquial and widely used in casual and everyday situations.
Forenames can carry significant cultural, familial, or religious meanings and are chosen accordingly. First names, while also culturally significant, are more focused on personal identity and may sometimes be chosen for their popularity or uniqueness.
In some cultures, the forename is deeply rooted in family traditions or religious practices. The first name, while it can also reflect these aspects, is more adaptable and may change or evolve with trends and personal preferences.
The use of "forename" is more prevalent in certain regions, such as the UK, whereas "first name" is a more universally understood term. Both terms refer to the same concept but differ in formality and regional usage.

Comparison Chart


More formal and official.
Less formal, more colloquial.

Usage Context

Legal, official, genealogical documents.
Everyday use, casual settings.

Cultural Significance

Often reflects deep cultural, familial roots.
Also culturally significant but more flexible.


Less prone to change or adaptation.
More adaptable and subject to trends.

Regional Prevalence

More common in specific regions (e.g., UK).
Universally used and understood.

Forename and First Name Definitions


The initial name representing one's family or cultural heritage.
Her forename, Sakura, reflects her Japanese heritage.

First Name

The initial part of a person's name.
Emma's first name is commonly used in many countries.


An individual’s primary identification name.
The passport requires your forename for identification.

First Name

A casual, commonly used personal name.
Her first name, Lily, is also her favorite flower.


The first part of a person's full name.
On the application form, he wrote Michael as his forename.

First Name

A name given to a person at birth, used informally.
His first name is Jack, but everyone calls him Jacky.


A personal name given at birth or baptism.
Her forename, Elizabeth, was chosen to honor her grandmother.

First Name

The name before the surname or family name.
In the name David Johnson, David is the first name.


A given name used in formal or official contexts.
The certificate listed his forename as Jonathan.

First Name

A personal name used in day-to-day life.
She prefers to be called by her first name, Maya, rather than her formal title.


A name before one's surname; a first name.


A name that precedes the surname.


A name that precedes the family name or surname; a first name.


To name or mention before.


The name that precedes the surname


What is a first name?

A first name is the initial name given to someone, used informally.

Are forename and first name interchangeable?

They often are, but "forename" is more formal and "first name" more casual.

Can a first name be different from a forename?

Rarely, as they usually refer to the same name.

What is a forename?

A forename is a person's given name, often used in formal contexts.

Why use the term forename instead of first name?

Forename is often used in formal, legal, or genealogical contexts.

Can someone have multiple forenames?

Yes, it's common in many cultures to have more than one forename.

Is a forename always a person's official name?

Yes, it's the official given name of a person.

Is the first name always the name used daily?

Typically, yes, it's the name used in everyday interactions.

Can a first name be changed?

Yes, people often legally change their first names.

Do forenames carry any legal implications?

Yes, they are important for legal identification and documentation.

Do forenames have cultural significance?

Often, they reflect familial, cultural, or religious traditions.

Is the first name important for social identity?

Absolutely, as it's a key component of one's personal and social identity.

Do all cultures use forenames?

Most do, but the concept and naming conventions can vary.

Is the first name always written before the surname?

In most Western cultures, yes, but the order can vary in other cultures.

Is the first name used in formal introductions?

Typically, the first name is used in both formal and informal introductions.

How do forenames differ globally?

The choice of forenames can vary greatly based on cultural and linguistic factors.

Are first names unique to individuals?

While they can be unique, many first names are common within certain cultures.

How important is a forename in legal documents?

Very important, as it's a primary identifier.

How often do first names change?

They usually remain the same, but individuals may choose to change them.

Can forenames reflect personal traits?

Sometimes, they can signify traits or qualities valued by the parents or culture.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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