In the Anglosphere, most people have more than one given name, typically two, and the second or middle name is usually not the one people use. Those who do typically do it for a specific reason (the main ones I can think of: they like their middle name more than their first name; one of their parents likes their middle name more than their first name and uses/used it with them; the individual was named after a parent and goes by their middle name to distinguish them from their parent; the individual belongs to an ethnic minority and uses an ethnic given name in their language/family/community and their “English” name in public; the person uses their first name with friends and family and their middle name professionally). Thus, while a certain percentage of people do go by their middle names, there’s usually a specific reason for it and most everyone else goes by their first name.
Yet there are countries where, as I understand, it is (or was) common for people to have a string of given names and for the one they go by to be any one of them, perhaps in some cases even for it to be common to use one which is not the first one. (In these countries, there might in fact not be a term equivalent to the English “middle name”). IMHO It makes sense that if you’re going to call your kid something, you might as well give it the place of honor and put it first, putting any “extra” names after it. It would interest me to know why there might be a different practice than that in some cultures.
I know that in some places, the reason may be religious, i.e. to give a religiously-chosen name a place of honor. Examples:
-In Muslim countries, a family might give all their sons the first name Mohammed (after the Prophet, of course - there is an Arab saying: if you have 1000 sons, name them all Mohammed) and then give them different second names by which to refer to different brothers.
-In Quebec, where the predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, it used to be customary, if not ubiquitous, that when a girl was born, she would be baptized with the first name “Marie”, after Jesus’ mother, and that when a boy was born, he would be baptized with the first name “Joseph” after Jesus’ earthly father. I imagine that this is behind the full names of the following two Canadian prime ministers: [Joseph Philippe] Pierre [Yves] Elliott Trudeau and [Joseph Jacques] Jean Chretien.
-Another Roman Catholic example: the full baptismal name of the composer that we know as “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” was entered in (Greco-)Latin as “Joan̅es Chrysost[omus] Wolfgangus Theophilus” in his baptismal register - in a letter upon his birth, his father gave it in German (or Latin and German) as “Joannes Chrisostomus, Wolfgang, Gottlieb”. The first two names are “John Chrysostom” in English, and were given because Mozart was born on that saint’s feast day. However, he doesn’t seem to have used them in everyday life (and he often rendered the “Gottlieb” part, which means “Lovegod”, in French (Amadè) or Italian (Amadeo), and eventually this turned into the form, apparently used more after his death, “Amadeus”, which is Latin. So the saint’s name of the day of his birth was put first, though it ended up disused.
But there are other cultures where I can’t find a reason for why many people may go by a given name other than the first one. Here are some examples:
-In France, it was at one time very common for people to be known by the LAST of their given names. So for example, the pioneer of French haute cuisine, [Georges] Auguste Escoffier. Is this again something related to Catholic naming practices? Even today, it’s common for French people to have a string of multiple given names (even if the family is not necessarily committed to a Catholic lifestyle) and the French national ID card, as I’ve read, makes it possible to mark the name you habitually go by.
-Other examples I know of are from Germanic countries in the broad sense. This example is from a work of fiction, but in the 1972 Swiss-Canadian television show “George” about an eponymous St. Bernard dog, set in Switzerland, one of the main characters, a boy named Freddie, once gets into a bit of a scrape with the law. The police officer investigating gives his full name, as I recall, as “Karl Friedrich Surname”. Assuming his parents called him Freddy from the beginning, is there a reason why they didn’t make Karl the second name?
-Another film example, but clearly one that hints at an underlying reality: In the Swedish film “Fanny and Alexandra”, two of the main characters, who at one point get married, are called Emelie Ekhdahl and Edvard Vergérus. At the wedding ceremony, they state their full names as “Olof Hendrik Edvard Vergérus” and “Elisabeth Emilie Josephine Ekdahl”. What could the obvious pattern represent? Surely it’s not the case that she disliked her parents calling her Elisabeth AND that he disliked his parents calling him Olof, and so both started using a middle name?
Thus, apart from the religious examples given above, are there specific reasons why it might be common in non-Anglo cultures not to be known by the first of your given names? Would there be a culture-specific reason for parents to use a second, third, etc. name when addressing their kids / not to put the name they are going to use for this purpose first in the string of given names? Or is it that people in these cultures habitually choose themselves which of their given names they would like to go by (or that the preference as to name of use typically develops later than at birth in the given culture?