Usually, when people first start dealing with user input, they have to parse information such as a person’s name. I know I have had to do this at some point in almost every language that I have programmed in. One of the best ways to go about parsing a full name to get the first name, middle name (if available), and last name is to use a regular expression. Let’s say that we have John J. Jinklehiemer-Smith in a variable called fullName. In order to separate the different parts of the name we could use the following code in JavaScript:

var fullName = "   John J. Jinklehiemer-Smith ";
var reName = /(\w+)\s+(?:(\w(?=\.)|\w+(?:-\w+)?)\s+)?(\w+(?:-\w+)?)/;
var matches = fullName.match(reName);
var firstName = matches[1];  // "John"
var middleName = matches[2];  // "J."
var lastName = matches[3]; // "Jinklehiemer-Smith"

Basically, the regular expression searches for at least a first name followed by a last name that may or may not be hyphenated. If a middle name (which may also be hyphenated or abbreviated) was specified, it will also be captured. One issue that I have with the above solution is the fact that names in the last_name, first_name [middle_name] format will not be parsed correctly. The following JavaScript code shows how you can use one regular expression to parse a full name in both ways:

var reName = /(\w+(?:-\w+)?),\s*(\w+)(?:\s+(\w(?=\.)|\w+(?:-\w+)?))?|(\w+)\s+(?:(\w(?=\.)|\w+(?:-\w+)?)\s+)?(\w+(?:-\w+)?)/;

var fullName = prompt("Full name #1:", "  David Richard Wade  ");
var matches = fullName.match(reName);
var firstName = matches[2] || matches[4];  // "David"
var middleName = matches[3] || matches[5];  // "Richard"
var lastName = matches[1] || matches[6]; // "Wade"

fullName = prompt("Full name #2:", "Smith, Carmen Bea-paz");
matches = fullName.match(reName);
firstName = matches[2] || matches[4];  // "Carmen"
middleName = matches[3] || matches[5];  // "Bea-paz"
lastName = matches[1] || matches[6]; // "Smith"

Ok, I know that regular expression is long, but it definitely beats parsing the string with indexOf() and substring().

Categories: BlogJavaScriptJScript


James London · December 20, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Thanks for the regex, works great, but I’m having trouble adjusting it. it does a great job ignoring prefixes and suffices. Curious how I would adjust to capture them, if present.

stat · December 10, 2014 at 7:53 AM

Won’t quite work with names that contain apostrophes, such as O’Connor and O’Neil.

Chris West's Blog » Parsing A Name In JavaScript · August 3, 2011 at 8:04 PM

[…] Th&#1077 rest &#1110&#1109 here: Chris West's Blog » Parsing A Name In JavaScript […]

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