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How to Choose a Nice Chinese Name

In this post, I am going to talk about how to come up with a nice Chinese name.

There is a Chinese saying: 入乡随俗 ( rù xiāng suí sú ). It means: Follow the customs where you live. If you live in Chinese speaking areas, having a Chinese name is always a good idea.

Just let you know, a common Chinese name usually contains three or two Chinese characters. One is your last name, one or two Chinese characters are for your first name.

You might find some Chines people’s names have four characters. Mostly, it is because their uncommon last names have two characters.

If you wish to have a Chinese name, you had better follow the customs, otherwise your Chinese name might look odd.

If you are learning Mandarin Chinese now, I assume you have a Chinese name already? If not, in this post, I will give you some ideas on this topic.

First, you have to know, in Chinese culture, having a good name is very important.

Chinese people believe, a good name brings someone good luck. A bad name brings bad luck.

However, if a child was born with bad health, some parents, especially, in rural areas, might give the child a bad name with a wish that the bad name will bring a child good health.

Usually, when parents give their child a name, they always try to choose a name with a good meaning.

As I mentioned, my name “Lin” has a nice meaning of “a beautiful jade”.

One interesting thing is, many times, a Chinese name is also a mirror of an era.

A long time ago, a Chinese girl from ordinary families usually had no a formal name. When a girl got married, her name usually looked like this: Her last name + her husband’s last name + ( shì ).

For example, if a girl’s last name is ( zhāng ),her husband’s last name is ( lǐ ),her name will be: 张李氏.

Later, girls started to have their own names. From these names, you can get an idea about Chinese parents’ expectation from their daughters.

For a long time, names like “” ( ài )  ( love ) “”  ( lán ) ( orchid ) “” ( fāng ) ( fragrant) “” ( shū ) ( kind) “” ( jìng ) ( calm ) “” ( méi ) ( plum flower ) “” ( lì ) ( pretty ) etc were very popular Chinese girls’ names.

Now, more and more parents start to give their child an unusual name with a good wish behind.

If you have an English name, how to choose a nice Chinese name then?

My suggestion is: Based on the Chinese translation of your English name, Choose one or two Chinese characters with nice meaning.

For example, 玛丽 ( mǎ lì ) is Chinese translation of the English name “Mary”. 马克 (mǎ kè ) is Chinese translation of the English name “Mark”.

Some people might say: Since I have a Chinese name already from the translation, why do I still need a special Chinese name?

My answer is: Up to you. If you are happy with Chinese translation of your English name, it is OK.

However, as I said, Chinese people tend to have a nice name with a good meaning.  In Chinese culture, having a beautiful name is very important.

Unfortunately, many times, the Chinese translation of an English name is meaningless.

If your English name is “Mary” and Chinese name is “玛丽”, we Chinese assume you are not a Chinese expert even your Mandarin Chinese might be very good.

If you have a nice typical Chinese name, guess what, we Chinese people will take you as an insider seriously.

If you do wish to give yourself a nice Chinese name, you can follow these rules.

1, Choose a typical Chinese last name based on the pronunciation of your English last name.

For example, if your last name is “Smith”, the Chinese translation will be: 史密斯 ( shǐ mì sī ). ( shǐ ) is a typical Chinese last name, which can be used as the last name of your Chinese name.

For more information about Chinese last name. please visit Wiki link.

For the list of 100 most popular Chinese last names, please visit Wiktionary link.

2, Choose a Chinese name based on the pronunciation of your English name, however, try to be creative to come up with a name with a nice meaning.

For example, my friend “Danny”‘ has a nice Chinese name “丹妮” ( dān nī ).  丹: red, 妮: girl.

If your English name is “Ellen”, it is usually translated into Chinese as: 埃伦 ( āi lún ). If you wish your name sounds more like a Chinese name, you can twist your name as: 爱兰 ( ài lán ).

Actually, “Ellen” can be translated into any Chinese characters with similar pronunciation. For example, it can be: 爱仑 ( ài lún ) or other characters.

However, we usually follow the official or popular translation of an English name for the convenience.

The interesting thing is, different countries and areas might have different translations for one same English name.

For example, Hillary is translated into “希拉里” ( xī lā lǐ ) in Mainland China but it is translated into ” 希拉蕊 ” ( xī lā ruǐ ) in Taiwan, in Hong Kong, the translation becomes “希拉莉 ” ( xī lā lì  ).

If you have a Chinese name, the situation will be very different.

For example, Kevin Michael Rudd, the former Australian politician who was twice Prime Minister of Australia, has a Chinese name ” 陆克文” ( lù kè wén ).

All Chinese medias uses his Chinese name without any confusion.

As I mentioned, when you choose Chinese characters, you had better pick up characters with good meanings.

If your Chinese name looks more like a typical Chinese name, even better.

For example, “Mary” can also be translated as: 马立 ( mǎ lì ) or 码瑞 ( mǎ ruì ) or other Chinese characters.

The reason why “玛丽” is more popular is because 玛丽 has a better meaning compared to other translations. 玛: jade, 丽: beautiful.

However, 玛丽 still sounds very foreign to us Chinese. We Chinese rarely have a name as “玛丽”.

If your English name is “玛丽”, I suggest you to just choose one character “丽” or choose another name as “美丽” ( měi lì ) ( beautiful ) or “梅丽” ( méi lì ) ( pretty like a plum flower).

So your Chinese name will sound more Chinese and natural.

If you are a woman, try to choose a name that sounds more feminine.

For example, these characters such as”丽” “” ( qí ) ( a beautiful jade) “嘉” ( jiā ) ( excellent) “静” are very popular.

If you are a man, try to have a name to express your personality as a man.

For example, characters like “”  ( qiáng ) ( strength ) “” ( gāng  ) ( firm ) “” ( lěi ) ( rocky ) “” ( lóng ) (dragon) “” ( hǔ ) (tiger) are very ideal for a man’s name.

Of course, you don’t need follow these rules at all. You can choose whatever Chinese name you like.

By the way, do you know, in a Chinese name, family last name comes first? Yes, in Chinese culture, family always comes first.

I wonder what is the story behind your Chinese name if you have one?

If you think about giving yourself or your child  a Chinese name, I hope this post is helpful.

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