This article is taken from The Star, Mind Our English.
QUITE often, we are asked for our first, middle and last names when filling up certain forms. Sometimes, they need our surname. At other times, they want our given name(s). What are all these?
If my name is Abdul Rahim bin Osman, which are the first, middle and last names?
Answered by Fadzilah Amin:
These forms don’t take into account people from cultures that don’t have family names, e.g. the Malays.
“Last name” and “surname” refer to one’s family name, such as Alattas (for an Arab), Lee (for a Chinese) or Brown (for an Englishman).
Since you don’t have a family name, just write your father’s name whenever you are asked to write your “last name” or “surname”.
The term “given name/names” refers to the name or names that you are given by your parents after birth. So, your “given name” would be “Abdul Rahim”.
“First name” refers to the first of your given names if you have more than one, or your given name if you have just one. Since “Abdul Rahim” is really one name, although it looks like two to those who don’t know what it means, your “first name” would be “Abdul Rahim”.
You don’t have a “middle name”, which is the second of your given names if you have two. So you can leave that space blank.
As for the “bin” in your name, I don’t really know where you should put it, since it is not really a name. Perhaps you should just leave it out, and if you’re visiting another country, explain to the relevant immigration officer what it means if he asks you.
But don’t be shocked if he calls you “Mr Osman”! I was called “Miss Amin” very often when I was a student in England.