At ArcGIS 10.8.1, I have a shapefile attribute table containing a text field with names ordered last, first, middle, as in this example:

Smith Sally J
Doe John
Jones William Randolph

I need to reorder the names so that they are listed as first, middle, last:

Sally J Smith
John Doe
William Randolph Jones

I think that moving the first text string (i.e. the last name) to the end would solve the problem.

I've attempted to reorder the names into a second, empty text field using the Field Calculator, without success. In particular, I've looked into the Python .split() function, but am stymied with how to move the first text string to the end.

  • 1
    I think this Python string manipulation question would be better researched at Stack Overflow.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 6:06
  • Reformatting names can be a nightmare. First there's the NMI crowd (no middle initial) and then there's the multiple first name and multiple middle name folks, and the hyphenated and non-hyphenated last name types as well. Finally, there's suffixes to consider ("Jr.", "Sr., "IV",...). The logic to format all these cases is really outside the scope of GIS SE, and attempting to reorder peoples' names without special handling is likely to cause offense, so I'd frame-challenge the wisdom of attempting it.
    – Vince
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


You try the following code in the codeblock of Field Calculator:

def sort_name(n):
    split = n.split()
    if len(split) == 0:
        return ''
    elif len(split) < 3:
        return ('{0} {1}').format(split[1], split[0])
        return ('{0} {1} {2}').format(split[1], split[2], split[0])

enter image description here

The code split the text in the field and create a list of names. If the names in the source field is empty len(split) == 0, it will return empty string. If the length of the list is less than three as the case in John Doe it will rearrange the text taking into consideration only two names. Otherwise it will rearrange the three names in the source field name.

Here is the result:

enter image description here


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