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In official British culture, everyone has a name with at least two parts. The most important official name is the surname. The other part of a person's [nearly] unique name is most usually called the forename or first name nowadays. In ordinary talk it is always said first, before the surname. (Up to the middle of the twentieth century, it was usually called the Christian name, but it is now realised that many people in Britain, and other parts of the English-speaking world, are not Christians. So this term is no longer much used.)

The forename is the name that distinguishes someone from the other members of the family; it is the name usually used inside the family, at home. (In European countries, most natives know immediately, without having to be told, which name is a first name - there isn't a great variety of names used for this purpose in most countries. Equally, we can usually be fairly confident as to whether the name belongs to a male or a female - though there are exceptions. Recognising the first name, and the gender to which it belongs, is not restricted to any single country in Europe; generally speaking, those who live in Western Europe can recognise these, wherever the person comes from in Western Europe.) For further details see Forenames common to males and females.

For a brief note on the [[etymology of forenames, see Forename - onomastics.