I know this session might seem absurd.

I don't like the family name appearing in my passport and will likely change it in a bureaucratic procedure in an interior ministry affiliated consulate (outside the borders of the state of which I hold citizenship) or in a population bureau branch (inside the borders of the state of which I hold citizenship) sometime in the future.

My problem

I know that in the past, before states became existent generally everywhere besides Antarctica,
some people didn't always used family names (people would have been named by a nickname or by one or more parents or by town of origin).

My problem is that I never came across a modern state that allows issuing a passport without a family name (let alone a country that accepts a person from such a state, as an expat); so just a personal name would appear there alongside some identification number.

My questions

Regarding my problem, I (exceptionally) have two questions:

  • Are there states that don't require having a family name in passport?

  • Are there states that allow a family name to be a number (say, 0, and not as the word zero but as in integer only)?

  • 1
    Many Indonesians, for example, have only one name. I am sure there are other modern states where the practice is unexceptional.
    – phoog
    Feb 18, 2020 at 17:25
  • Hello @phoog please consider to further detail about this in an answer ; in appreciation,
    – user29977
    Feb 19, 2020 at 22:54
  • Unfortunately I don't have much specific information about it, and I don't have time to do any research, nor am I likely to in the next couple of weeks.
    – phoog
    Feb 20, 2020 at 3:54
  • Do Scandinavians have real surnames anyway? They're often just Eriksson or Andersdotter, which just means "Son of Erik" or "Daughter of Ander". I mean, they do stand in a passport, but do they have them as real surnames, or do they keep the tradition to call them "Son of [Fathername]" and "Daughter of [Fathername]"? I know there are many more, I just mean, if I'm a Scandinavian, and my father is called Erik, would I be called Eriksson then? Or if their surname is Andersson, would I be called Andersson too, cause it's just a static surname now? Feb 25, 2020 at 6:51
  • @DudeWhoWantsToLearn you're describing the situation in Iceland, where Sven Larsson's son Leif will be Leif Svensson, and his daughter Anna will be Anna Svensdottir (with apologies if these are not the proper Icelandic forms of the names). In the rest of Scandinavia, as far as I'm aware, the names are typically true surnames, as in English, so they would be Leif Larsson and Anna Larsson instead, just as Don Johnson's daughter is Dakota Johnson.
    – phoog
    Feb 25, 2020 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


There is no limitation on the number of names you can have so long as it is at least 1. You cannot have a prohibited name (NSW Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995, other states are similar):

"prohibited name" means a name that--

(a) is obscene or offensive, or

(b) could not practicably be established by repute or usage--

(i) because it is too long, or

(ii) because it consists of or includes symbols without phonetic significance, or

(iii) for some other reason, or

(c) includes or resembles an official title or rank, or

(d) is contrary to the public interest for some other reason.

(b)(ii) prohibits you from having the name "0".

However, having any particular name does not mean that a passport will be issued in that name. The Australian Passports Act 2005 says:

(4) The Minister may refuse any name or signature of the person that the Minister considers to be unacceptable, inappropriate or offensive.

If the Minister decides that you need 2 or more names to get a passport - you need 2 or more names. AFAIK, no Minister has ever decided that.

  • Also the Passport Conventions, on which the present day passports are based on, is a surname (whether patrilineal / matrilineal / patronymic or matronymic) a mandatory entry. '0' will not fullfil any of the 4 basic naming conventions prevailent in the world today. Feb 18, 2020 at 6:46
  • 1
    @MarkJohnson PMO this is extremely viable information that should appear in an answer ; just saying.
    – user29977
    Feb 18, 2020 at 10:02
  • @JohnDoa Maybe as an extra law question: General overview of legel requirements of Surnames prevailent in the world today? This artical give a nice summary of how Surnames based on the Givename of a parent work. How Did Iceland Become a Nation with No Surnames?. For this question it would probably be considered off-topic. Feb 18, 2020 at 12:13
  • @MarkJohnson the International Civil Aviation Organization maintains a standard for travel documents with which almost every country's passports comply. This standard does not require a surname as such. It requires only a primary identifier, which, for a person who has only one name, is the person's one name. It also allows a secondary identifier. The primary identifier is typically the family name or names, while the secondary identifier is typically the given name or names, but this is not necessary, and countries can use these fields differently if they want to.
    – phoog
    Feb 18, 2020 at 17:31
  • 1
    @phoog The ICAO standard is based (started from and has envolved from) the League of Nations Passport Conferences of the 1920's. It was there where certain mandatory entries were defined and in some cases how they were to filled (height had to be a measurement and 'tall' etc.) The form of 'Name' and Christian Name' was left to the laws of the issuing country. Before that passports were issued in what ever form each country sought fit. Feb 18, 2020 at 20:54

I don't like the family name appearing in my passport and will likely change it in a bureaucratic procedure in an interior ministry affiliated consulate (outside the borders of the state of which I hold citizenship) or in a population bureau branch (inside the borders of the state of which I hold citizenship) sometime in the future.

Almost all jurisdictions allow you to legally change your name for a proper purpose (what constitutes a proper purpose varies from country to country). Marriage, adoption, taking on holy orders (as a priest, monk, or nun), joining a foreign legion, and immigration and naturalization from a country with names not easily transliterated into the local languages, are among the most common proper reasons. Some jurisdictions allow you to legally change your name for any reason that is not improper (identity theft, for example, might be an improper reason).

You generally don't get to choose which country issues your passport. Only a country in which you are a citizen or national will do so, and you have to follow their laws and regulations. Often you are only a citizen or national of one country, although dual citizenships are not uncommon and three citizenships are not unheard of.

The United States affords people great freedom in choosing and changing their names. Most countries have rather strict regulation of naming practices for both bureaucratic purposes and to enforce a national identity.

In principle many U.S. states allow their residents to adopt single word names, or to adopt names with atypical forms, such as numbers. In bureaucratic practice, it is very hard to deal with many kinds of businesses and government agencies if you do that even though it is in theory permitted, and even slight complications like hyphenated names or double barreled names separated by a space that are common place in some cultures are difficult to manage.

For example, many countries have a list of approved names for citizens of their country and this can only be deviated from with government permission approved on a case by case basis subject to various legal standards. For example, a naturalized citizen might be allowed to retain a name received at birth even though it would ordinarily not be on the approved list for citizens of that country.

It would be more fruitful to examine the laws and rules of the one or two or three countries than to try to consider this question in the abstract. There is no point in knowing that the practices you desire might be available in the United States or Indonesia, if you are a dual citizen of France and South Korea, for example.

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