Interesting Facts about Chinese Names and Surnames

Updated on August 28, 2017 in Learn Chinese
2 on July 11, 2017

Naming is an absolutely integral part of Chinese culture. In the eyes of the Chinese, a child’s name can play a large role in determining his or her future education, career, and even marriage! Unlike English names, each Chinese name is individually created (not choosing a standard James, William, or Michael) and takes into account several factors for bringing good luck or fortune.

Chinese names, in contrast to their English counterparts, are made with family name first and then the given name. Children usually take their father’s family name, though it is legal for a child to follow either their father’s or mother’s family name. When choosing the given name, Chinese tradition places importance worth on the five elements (metal, earth, water, fire, and wood). The idea is that the correct balance of elements is needed to ensure the right name. Read full blog here –

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0 on July 11, 2017

Most Chinese names are made up of three characters. All Chinese names start with the family name, or surname, and then following the given name. Given names are usually 1 or 2 character(s). Most family names are 1 character, but there are some exceptions, some are made up of two characters. For example: 司马sī mǎ, 欧阳ōu yánɡ,长孙zhǎnɡ sūn,公孙ɡōnɡ sūn,东方dōnɡfānɡ,上官shànɡɡuān,etc.

When Chinese parents name their baby boy girl, there are 4 factors they would consider: meaning, Special significance, sound, family connection, expectation. There are some cultural factors. However, choose a Chinese name for foreigners would be easier. The most important issue is not to make your name sound too eerie.

Tips for choosing a Chinese Name

1. Transliteration is a good choice, but not fit everyone.

Some people will care about whether the Chinese in name is phonetic. It’s great if your given name is single syllable or disyllable, your translation is perfect.

For example:
Anthony: 安东尼
Chris: 克里斯
Daniel: 丹尼尔
Jessie: 杰西

If your given name is very long, it’s not suggested to use the transcribed version, since Chinese name only made up 3 Characters. It would be too long for Chinese friends/colleagues to call you.

For example:

Patrice: 帕特里斯
Sebastian: 赛巴斯蒂安
Wilfried: 威尔弗里德

Also, there may be some jokes about some literally transcribed Chinese name, such 夏洛特,xià luò tè, sounds like 杀了他shā le tā, meaning kill him/her

2. Pay Attention to Gender

Some names are specially for girls, some are for boys. For example, for a Spanish name. Juan in Chinese, it’s 娟, a name for girl. So that’s not appropriate.

Chinese Names for Boys

力 lì, “power.”
雄 xióng, “male.”
宏 hóng, “grand.”
子 zǐ, “son.”
成 chéng, “succeed.”

Chinese Names for Girls

梦 mèng, “dream.”
夏 xià, “summer.”
雪 xuě, “snow.”
丽 lì, “beautiful.”
安 ān, “safe.”

3. Choose a simple Name

Choose a name that most Chinese people will recognize, which can avoid the embarrassment of if your Chinese friends could not read it properly. Here are some common Chinese family names for the reference. It’s not recommended to find a character that only appear in ancient history. It’s not easily readable and understandable.

4. Watch the Chinese meaning

Chinese name usually has specific meaning, if you do not choose it well, this will bring some jokes.

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