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Where births are officially registered, a name entered into a birth certificate may by that fact alone become a legal name. The assumption in the Western world is often that the name from birth, or perhaps from baptism, persists to adulthood in the normal course of affairs. Some possible changes concern middle names, uses of diminutive forms, adoption, choice of surname as parents divorce or were not married. Matters are very different in some cultures, where a name at birth is only a childhood name rather than the default choice for later life.
The French and English-adopted term "née" (pron.: or ; French: ), meaning "born as," can be applied to a woman's name at birth that has been replaced for any reason. The French masculine inflection corresponding to née is "né"; while less readily recognized by non-French-speakers, it is likewise applied to masculine family names changed for any reason. (The diacritics are sometimes omitted.)
Birth name, or now sometimes birthname, can mean name at birth, or the more elusive concept of personal name (that is, name before taking a professional name such as stage name, pen name, ring name, assumed name, alias name, nickname, or some recognised name change process that de jure alters names). This is sometimes used for name before marriage of a woman – in cultures where a married woman's name customarily changes – by those who find maiden name to be an old-fashioned usage with the wrong connotations. It is also applied to mean the family name of the mother of a child adopted at birth, and is thus likely to be used with more flexibility than the loan-words née and né, accepting it even when the name being referred to was acquired by adoption (at or long after birth), or made in connection with a change of nationality, or changed in any of the variety of other, rarer circumstances.