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BibTeX can abbreviate first names, e.g. change Smith, John to J. Smith. In some languages, certain (not all) first names must be abbreviated with more than one letter (it's not optional as in the case of Ch. for Charles). How can I force BibTeX to do this for particular first names?

EDIT: I encounter this all the time, including for my own name which should be abbreviated Sz rather than S. I used to work around the problem by hand editing the reference list in the final version of the paper, but I'd prefer using BibTeX for everything if possible.

Requested example:

.tex file:

Text \cite{kovacs, smith}.


.bib file:

  author  = "Peter Smith",
  title   = "Title 1",
  year    = 1980,
  publisher = "Addison-Wesley"

  author  = "Csaba Kov\'{a}cs",
  title   = "Title 2",
  year    = 1986,
  publisher = "Addison-Wesley"

The output I get:

Text [1, 2].


[1] C. Kovács. Title 2. Addison-Wesley, 1986.

[2] P. Smith. Title 1. Addison-Wesley, 1980.

I need to tell bibtex that for Csaba Kovács I need to get Cs. Kovács in the output, and not C. Kovács, as this is incorrect. The document is in English, so this is not a babel-issue. This applies only to certain author names, and it's because in Hungarian C and Cs are considered to be distinct units of the alphabet.

share|improve this question
Please add a minimal working example (MWE) that illustrates your problem. – N.N. Aug 23 '11 at 12:22
Do you require a bibtex style where all first names are to be abbreviated to 2 or 3 letters (instead of 1), or are you looking to put markers on just some names? – Mico Aug 23 '11 at 12:29
@Mico, only certain names. The rules of certain languages require that names beginning with certain letter combinations be abbreviated to those combinations (since both S and Sz are considered to be units in the alphabet, a name starting with Sz must always be abbreviated to Sz in this language) – Szabolcs Aug 23 '11 at 12:37
@N.N. see example, please ask about what exactly is not clear in the question – Szabolcs Aug 23 '11 at 12:41
@Mico, there are no rules that BibTeX can use to determine how to abbreviate the name. It's too complicated, language dependent, etc. I am looking for a way to tell it explicitly to abbreviate this particular name in this particular way. – Szabolcs Aug 23 '11 at 12:44
up vote 48 down vote accepted

Just replace the first name in question, say Csaba, with {\relax Cs}aba.

More generally, place the part of the name that is to be unaffected by the abbreviation inside a TeX group, which is a field that's delimited by { and }, and insert the command \relax at the beginning of that group.

Another example of how to make use of this method: To help one's readers distinguish the works authored by "Timothy Jones" and "Thomas Jones", one could set the respective author fields to "{\relax Tim}othy Jones" and "{\relax Th}omas Jones".

Here's an MWE that suggests how to deal with four authors whose last name is "Kovács" and first names begin with "C".

enter image description here

  author  = "Carla Kov{\'a}cs",
  title   = "Title 1",
  year    = 1986,
  publisher = "Addison-Wesley"
  author  = "{\relax Ch}arles Kov{\'a}cs",
  title   = "Title 2",
  year    = 1987,
  publisher = "Addison-Wesley"
  author  = "{\relax Cs}aba Kov{\'a}cs",
  title   = "Title 3",
  year    = 1988,
  publisher = "Addison-Wesley"
  author  = "{\relax Cyr}ill Kov{\'a}cs",
  title   = "Title 4",
  year    = 1989,
  publisher = "Addison-Wesley"


share|improve this answer
This is what I've been looking for. – Szabolcs Aug 23 '11 at 15:20



in your .tex document and use

author="{\Cs}aba Kov{\'{a}}cs"

in the .bib file.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, however I'd prefer a solution which does not require author-specific modifications in the .tex (not .bib) file – Szabolcs Aug 23 '11 at 15:21
The \newcommand bit can go in the .bib file: @preamble{"\newcommand{\Cs}{Cs}"}; however this can conflict with user defined commands. – egreg Aug 23 '11 at 15:26
I did not know it could go in the .bib – Szabolcs Aug 23 '11 at 15:36
To avoid the conflicts, what about \newcommand{\CsSeriouslyNoOneElseIsUsingThisCommandNameEver}{Cs}? – Federico Poloni Oct 18 '12 at 7:04
@FedericoPoloni This might be a good idea. :-) But probably this is more easily solvable with biblatex – egreg Oct 18 '12 at 7:28

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