What is a Suffix in a Name?

Marc McDermott
First Published: | Updated: April 2, 2024

A suffix in a name in the modern English language may follow someone’s name and lead to more information about this person. The most common reasons are twofold; the first represents their position as someone of authority or marking their professional career or education level and honor. These are known as professional suffix or educational suffix.

The second reason someone may have a suffix following their name is that it represents a generational value such as sharing a family name if you were male. Most of the time, a suffix represents the continuation of a family name for male heirs, so a woman would not typically have a suffix in their name even if they used the same name as either of their parents. 

Let’s take an in-depth look at the different reasons and scenarios where a suffix is used in a name. 

What is a Suffix in a Name?

A suffix in a name refers to any element or letters that follow the surname, providing additional information about the individual. For example, in the name ‘Joseph Smith Jr.,’ the ‘Jr.’ part represents the name suffix, short for ‘Junior.’ Name suffixes can denote familial relationships, educational degrees, honors, or professional qualifications. Understanding the name suffix meaning enhances the understanding of a person’s identity or achievements, as it offers insight into their family lineage, educational background, or career.

What is an example of a suffix in a name?

So, we’ve established that a name suffix appears when a professional or educational qualification is used or as a continuation of a family name. 

Examples of this are names in between a father and son, when a Jr and Sr is used to differentiate between the two, but show they share the same first and last names. 

Is Mr or Mrs. a suffix?

Mr and Mrs are not suffixes and are placed at the start of the name. No equivalent goes after the name although the UK uses Esq (Esquire as a professional suffix).

These are both known as honorifics as they describe the title of the person, making them different from suffixes. 

Are Jr and Sr suffixes?

To make matters just that little bit confusing, both Jr and Sr are suffixes. They are usually used to refer to a man named after his father. The son would have the suffix Jr, and the father, Sr. 

When the father dies, the son may remove the suffix Jr to prevent any confusion. These suffixes are descriptive of the first name and not the last name. They are making it obvious that the son has the same first name as the father, otherwise, if based on surname, everyone would be Jr and Sr.

If a son has the same name as another relative such as grandfather or uncle, they can use another suffix “the second” or II, or even “the third, or III, if there are numerous repetitions of the first name that are used in the family. 

So, David Smith Jr. would be the son, and Davis Smith Sr. would be the father. 

When it comes to professional suffixes, typical examples are MBA (Master in Business Administration), Ph.D. (Philosophical Doctor), and J.P (Justice of the Peace) for a level of judgeship to name just a few of many.

Another example of a suffix is II (or the second) to denote someone with the same first and last name as another male in the family, but not referring to that of the father. Royalty uses the same method for similar reasons so King Richard III will be the third King Richard of a country, but not named after his father. 

What is an example of an academic suffix?

These are representative of a level of education earned at University or College. A suffix or prefix is used, but not both. To use an example, Dr. David Smith Ph.D. would be either Dr. David Smith or David Smith Ph. D. 

There are numerous suffixes used to describe academic achievements including bachelor’s degrees (BA (Hons), master’s degrees (MA,) professional doctorates (JD), and academic doctorates (Ph.D.) with a range of suffixes used in each. 

What Is a professional suffix?

A professional suffix is usually linked to an educational achievement but it may also translate into an abbreviation that represents the professional level a person has achieved within their role. 

So, a personal trainer may have the suffix PT at the end of their name, A professional suffix is usually used on a CV or as part of a professional signature, and wouldn’t otherwise be used. 

These suffixes would not typically be used outside of a professional setting. 

Where does the suffix go when listing the last name first?

For admin such as sorting through files, always start with the last name first. 

Then the first name would appear, then the suffix. Its written form can vary depending on preference, but generally, the suffix is separated by a comma after the first name.

So, David Smith Jr would be written, Smith, David, Jr. Any middle name could be included as a capital letter and another comma before the suffix. E.g Smith, David, C, Jr.

Why are suffixes important? 

They are useful when researching your genealogy as they can tell you a lot about a person before you go deeper. 

How much more interesting is it to discover a relative who was a doctor or juror, or any other kind of professional. Suffixes provide a real insight that can otherwise take hours, even days of research. 

It also helps when tracking certain documents as you have a more accurate full name to search. The career, qualifications, and perhaps even the social life of a relative can be described in a few letters when using a suffix. 

Suffixes may be more common in more recent generations, but they can help you unearth a lot of useful information when you stumble across them. 

What does suffix mean on an application?

In the context of a job application, a suffix often refers to additional letters or titles that are placed after the applicant’s name to denote professional or academic qualifications. This can include academic degrees like “Ph.D.” or professional designations like “Esq.”

Including a suffix on a job application can provide potential employers with immediate insight into an applicant’s education or professional background, and it may highlight qualifications that are particularly relevant to the position being applied for. Understanding the meaning of these suffixes is essential for both applicants and recruiters, as it facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of an individual’s qualifications and achievements.

What is the proper way to write name with suffix?

The proper way to write a name with a suffix depends on the context and the type of suffix being used. Generally, the suffix is added at the end of the full name, separated by a comma or space.

For example, a generational suffix like “Jr.” would be written as “John Smith, Jr.” If the suffix represents an academic or professional qualification, it is typically placed after the last name without a comma, such as “Jane Smith Ph.D.” When listing the last name first, such as in formal or administrative settings, the format might be “Smith, Jane, Ph.D.”

Following the correct format ensures that the name is clearly understood and that the significance of the suffix is recognized, whether it represents a familial relationship, educational achievement, or professional status.

About the author

Leave a Comment