How do Vietnamese last names work?

Why learning some common Vietnamese names is worth your time? When talking or writing an email to a Vietnamese person, it is essential to pronounce and spell their name correctly b

How do Vietnamese last names work?

Why learning some common Vietnamese names is worth your time? When talking or writing an email to a Vietnamese person, it is essential to pronounce and spell their name correctly because no one likes their name to be misspelled.

How you call other people, friends, or colleagues is essential to build a respectful bond. If you pronounce it correctly, Vietnamese people will feel much more appreciated.

In addition, knowing the meaning of some Vietnamese names, Vietnamese nicknames or the way a Vietnamese name should be written may help you learn more about the Vietnamese culture. Let's get started!

The Structure Of Vietnamese Names

Compared to most Western names such as the English or Serbian, Vietnamese names have the opposite order of given, middle, and family names. A Vietnamese name has three parts, in the following order:

FAMILY NAME + MIDDLE NAME + GIVEN NAME

For example, "Hồ Chí Minh" (written in English as "Ho Chi Minh") is a full Vietnamese name. "Hồ" is the family name or surname, "Chí" is the middle name, and "Minh" is the given name or first name.

A Vietnamese name is usually 3-word long but it could have 2, 4, or even more words. For example:

  • Phan Văn Trường (3 words, popular) Play
  • Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai (4 words) Play
  • Lê Hoàng Hiếu Nghĩa Đệ Nhất Thương Tâm Nhân (9 words, aka the longest Vietnamese name so far). Play

How To Use Vietnamese Names?

Now that you know some of the most common names in Vietnam, you should learn how to address someone in different situations. It is always good to learn about this before engaging in conversations with foreigners.

A Vietnamese person will use their first name in casual conversations rather than their family name. However, when it comes to formal situations, such as a conference, a full name will be used and pronounced after a job title. For example:

"Chào mừng Ngài Giám Đốc Điều Hành Nguyễn Văn A!"
("Welcome the CEO Nguyen Van A!")

So, if you talk to a Vietnamese friend, call him or her with the first name which is actually written at the last of a Vietnamese name!

Common Vietnamese Given Names

Because first names (personal names) are usually used in the daily language in Vietnam, we will start first with some common Vietnamese given names and their meaning. Kindly note that some names can be used for both genders, such as Anh, An, Châu, Dương, Giang, Hà, Hải, Khánh, Lan, Liem, Linh, Nhân, Minh, Ninh, Thanh, Tường, Quý, and Xuan.

Follow the examples below:

Vietnamese Names For Females (Women, girls, etc.)

These are the most popular Vietnamese names for women or females in general:

  • An - peace
  • Anh - peace, safety
  • Ánh (high tone) - light
  • Bích /beek/ - jade, jewelry
  • Châu /chou/ - pearls
  • Chi /chee/- a tree branch
  • Cúc /cook/- chrysanthemum
  • Dương /dzuang/ - the ocean
  • Dung /dzoong/ - generous
  • Đào /down/ - pink or red cherry blossoms
  • Hồng - roses
  • Hà - river
  • Hoa /hwa/- flowers
  • Hằng /hung/ - the moon
  • Hạnh - beautiful and moral
  • Hiền /hian/ - gentle; quiet
  • Huyền /hwian/- dark
  • Huệ /hwe/ - lily
  • Hường /huang/ - pink rose
  • Kim - metal
  • Lan - orchids
  • Ly /lee/ - lily
  • Linh - bell
  • Lê - pear
  • Liên /lian/ - lotus
  • Mai /my/ - yellow cherry blossoms
  • My /me/ - Nightingale
  • Mỹ /me/ (high broken tone) - beauty
  • Ngọc - jade
  • Nguyệt /ngwiat/ - the moon
  • Nga - the princess from the moon
  • Nhung /nhoong/ - velvet
  • Phương /fuang/ - destiny
  • Quý /kwee/ (high tone) - precious
  • Tâm - heart
  • Thuỷ /twee/ - water
  • Thanh - bright blue
  • Thảo - respectful of parents
  • Thi /tee/ - poem
  • Thu /too/ - autumn, fall
  • Trúc /trook/- bamboo
  • Tú /too/ - stars
  • Vân - cloud
  • Xuân - spring
  • Yến - Swifts
  • Yên - peaceful

Vietnamese Names For Males (Men, boys, etc.)

The following are the most common Vietnamese names for males:

  • An - peace
  • Anh - peace, safety
  • Bảo - protection
  • Bình - peaceful
  • Cường /kuang/- strength
  • Chiến /chian/- fighter, warrior
  • Chính - righteousness
  • Đại /di/ (heavy tone) - great, big
  • Danh /dzanh/- famous, prestigious
  • Đỉnh - summit
  • Đông - the East
  • Đức - moral, good
  • Dũng /dzoong/ - brave; heroic
  • Dương /dzuang/ - the ocean
  • Duy /dzee/ - moral, only one
  • Gia /dzaa/ - family
  • Hải /hi/ - the sea
  • Hiếu /hiaw/- respectful
  • Hoàng /hwang/ - royal
  • Hùng /hoong/ - spirit of hero; brave
  • Huy /hwee/ - glorious
  • Lâm - full understanding; knowledge
  • Lập - independent
  • Long - dragon
  • Minh - transparent, bright
  • Nam - the south
  • Nghĩa /ngia/ - forever
  • Phong /fong/ - wind
  • Phúc /fook/ - blessings; luck
  • Phước /fuak/ - good luck
  • Quân /kwan/ - soldier; warrior
  • Quang /kwang/ - clear
  • Quốc /kwuak/ - nation
  • Quý /kwee/ - precious
  • Sơn /sern/ - mountain
  • Tài - prosperous; talented
  • Tân - new
  • Thái - many, multiple
  • Thắng /tung/ - victorious
  • Thành - finished
  • Thịnh - prosperous
  • Tiến - move forwards
  • Toàn - complete; secure
  • Trọng - respected
  • Trung /troong/ - middle; central
  • Việt - from Vietnam
  • Vinh - glory

We have learned a lot of first names in Vietnamese. How about middle names in the Vietnamese language? As introduced earlier, a Vietnamese is usually 3-word long, which means that it has a one-word middle name. However, sometimes you can find a Vietnamese that doesn't have a middle name or have more than one word long middle name.

The most common Vietnamese middle names are "Thị" /tee/ (heavy tone) for females and "Văn" for males.

Nowadays, Vietnamese people prefer to not use "Thị" or "Văn" to name their girls or boys, respectively. Instead, they use other different middle names to make a beautiful and meaningful Vietnamese name. For example, "Khánh" - a bell, "Minh" - transparent / bright, "Ngọc" - jade.

First names or Last names can be used as middle names as well. For example, "Đặng Lê Nguyên Vũ" is a name that actually is a combination of four Vietnamese family names (Đặng, Lê, Nguyên, and Vũ).

Most Common Vietnamese Family Names

It is estimated that about 100 Vietnamese family names are commonly used. Among them, "Nguyễn" is the most common surname with about 40% of the population of Vietnam has this name. That's why you should not call someone with their surname in Vietnam, such as "Mr. Nguyen" because many people will be confused if you are calling them.

There are about 14 family names accounting for 90% of the Vietnamese population, according to Wikipedia.org:

Nguyễn 阮 (43.5%)

Trần 陳 (12.3%)

Lê 黎 (10.6%)

Phạm 范 (7.9%)

Huỳnh-Hoàng 黃 (5.7%)

Phan 潘 (5%)

Vũ-Võ 武 (4.3%)

Đặng 鄧(2.4%)

Bùi 裴 (2.2%)

Đỗ 杜 (1.7%)

Hồ 胡 (1.4%)

Ngô 吳 (1.4%)

Dương 楊 (1%)

Lý 李 (0.6%)

In Vietnamese culture, the family name of the father will be used to name his children. Sometimes, the parents will put their surnames in their children's names, but the father's surname is still considered the main family name of the children. For example, "Nguyễn Lê Ngọc Hà" has "Nguyễn" as the family name from the father's side, and "Lê" as the family name from the mother's side.

In addition, it is important to reiterate, that a Vietnamese woman still keeps her family name when she marries.

Do Vietnamese Use Nicknames?

In Vietnam, nicknames are commonly used for boys and girls. Nicknames are usually cute names such as "Mèo" (a cat), "Tít" (small eyes), "Heo" (a pig in Southern Vietnamese dialect), "Tí" (little, tiny) and "Bô Bô" (the sound when a baby starts to speak).

Vietnamese people also add an adjective after a first name to make a nickname. The adjective usually describes something about the name's owner, but sometimes it is used just because the first consonant of the adjective matches the first consonant of the name.

For example, "Trang trọc", "Trang" is a girl's name, "trọc" means not much hair. The girl whose name is Trang might not have a lot of hair when she was a baby.

Here are some other nicknames that include an adjective: Cường béo (a chubby guy named Cường), Nga Ngố (the consonant "Ng" is used in both the name and the adjective).

In modern life, many people also use an English word as a nickname for their kids, such as "Tôm" (Tom), "Cupid", "Min" (mint), and Bin (Bill).

Do Vietnamese adults use their nicknames? Yes but only in informal cases and when you know them well.

We have learned many Vietnamese first names, family names, middle names, and nicknames. Which names do you like the most and why? Imagine if you travel to Vietnam, would you like to get a Vietnamese name? And if so, what Vietnamese name do you want people to call you? Don't forget to learn how to greet people in Vietnamese or learn more Vietnamese today with Ling App.

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