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Chinese Names

Written by Mike HoUpdated Jan. 24, 2022
Chinese Names

In Chinese culture, name plays an important role in Chinese people's life. Parents have a great responsibility to choose a good name for their baby. Chinese parents believe good names will bring good luck and fortune to their child. 

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Chinese Names: Surname + Given Name

Chinese names consist of a family name and a given name. The family name comes first followed by a given name. Most family names are just one Chinese character. A few have two characters. Most given names have two characters, some have one, and very occasionally three are used.

Chinese nameChinese Name vs English Name

Top 10 Most Common Chinese Surnames

Chinese “surnames” (family name) come first when written, opposite to the Western name order. There are about 2,000 Chinese surnames in use today, but about half of all Han Chinese people share the same 19 surnames!

The most common surnames are Wang and Li (each with about 7% of China’s population, compared to about 0.8% for Smith, the USA’s most common surname). The next 8 in the top 10 most common Chinese surnames are: Zhang, Liu, Chen, Yang, Huang, Zhao, Wu, and Zhou.

Surname Population Percentage
李 (Lǐ) 95,300,000 7.94%
王 (Wáng) 88,900,000 7.41%
张 (Zhāng) 84,800,000 7.07%
刘 (Liú) 64,600,000 5.38%
陈 (Chén) 54,400,000 4.53%
杨 (Yáng) 37,000,000 3.08%
赵 (Zhào) 27,500,000 2.29%
黄 (Huáng) 26,800,000 2.23%
周 (Zhōu) 25,400,000 2.12%
吴 (Wú) 24,600,000 2.05%

Changing Your Name After Marriage? In China, women don’t change their surnames when they get married. And nowadays, kids’ surnames can be the same as their mother’s or father’s (or they could take both, like a double-barreled surname). Traditionally, Chinese children always take their father’s family name.

 

Chinese family names

Chinese Given Names

Almost all Chinese given names are made up of one, two, or three Chinese characters, which are written after the surnames. Two-character given names are by far the most popular for most Chinese. 

Very few people have three characters for their given name. Some of these people have their mother’s family name as the first character of their given names. For example, Daming whose family name is Li is called Lidaming. Chinese given names have many taboos. One of them is using the name of old relatives or just copying the name of a famous person or celebrity. Sons mustn’t have the same names as their fathers.

Chinese Generation Names

A Chinese generation name is one of the characters in a standard two-character Chinese given name, which is shared by the same generation, such as cousins or siblings. The character used can be the first or second one.

In a big traditional Chinese family, you will see many young boys or girls sharing the same generation character in their given names. Sometimes the boys will have one generation name and the girls another.

For example, 李祖阳 and 李祖丽 share the same character '祖'. 

Chinese generation names

Common Chinese Names and Their Meanings

Given names of a certain year often commemorate some important event. Such as Jianguo (‘Establish County’) was used by many babies born during the year that Modern China was founded (1949). Most Chinese given names have meanings of ‘happiness’, ‘beauty’, ‘fortune’, or ‘good wishes.

Popular Chinese Female/Girl Names

Most traditional Chinese female names are related to ‘beauty’, ‘happiness’, ‘flowers’, or ‘jade’. Here are some top female names:

  • 1. Ai 爱 – Love
  • 2. Fang 芳(fang) – Fragrance
  • 3. Jing 静 – calm/quiet
  • 4. Li 丽– pretty
  • 5. Min 敏– nimble/clever
  • 6. Yan 燕– swallow
  • 7. Xiu 秀–elegant/graceful
  • 8. Ya 雅– elegant
  • 9. Hua 花–flower
  • 10. Fen 芬–scent
  • 11. Xiang 香– fragrance
  • 12. Chun 春–spring
  • 13. Mei 美 –beauty

Top 10 Most Popular Chinese Female/Girl Names

According to the surveys of the Ministry of Public Security of China, the top 10 most popular Chinese girl’s names right now are the following:

  • 1. 一诺 (Yī nuò) – one promise
  • 2. 依诺 (Yī nuò) – follow promise
  • 3. 欣怡 (Xīn yí)– happy/quiet
  • 4. 梓涵 (Zǐ hán)– catalpa tree mellow
  • 5. 语桐 (Yǔ tóng)– speak Firmiana Simplex tree
  • 6. 欣妍 (Xīn yán)– vitality/beauty
  • 7. 可欣 (Kě xīn)–merit admiration
  • 8. 语汐 (Yǔ xī)– speak night tide
  • 9.  雨桐 (Yǔ tóng)–rain Firmiana Simplex tree
  • 10.  梦瑶 (Mèng yáo)–dream/jade

30 More Chinese Baby Girl Names to Inspire You

  • 1. 婵娟 (chán juān) – the moon
  • 2. 春华 (chūn huá) – spring grace
  • 3. 冬梅 (dōng méi)– winter plums
  • 4. 慧颖 (huì yǐng)– clever beauty
  • 5. 慧芬 (huì fēn)– wise scent
  • 6. 佳丽 (jiā lì)– good and beautiful
  • 7. 佳怡(jiā yí)–auspicious
  • 8. 佳慧 (jiā huì)– good smart
  • 9. 兰芬 (lán fēn)–scent of an orchid
  • 11. 丽华 (lì huá)–beautiful elegant
  • 12. 丽梅 (lì méi)–beautiful plum blossom
  • 13. 丽娜 (lì nà)–beautiful/graceful
  • 14. 美莲 (měi lián)–beautiful lotus
  • 15. 明霞 (míng xiá)–bright glow
  • 16. 明珠 (míng zhū)–bright pearl
  • 17. 巧慧 (qiǎo huì)–Smart wise
  • 18. 小丹 (xiǎo dān)–little dawn
  • 19. 小慧 (xiǎo huì)–little wisdom
  • 20. 玉明 (yù míng)–jade brightness
  • 21. 诗云 (shī yún)–poem cloud
  • 22. 美琪 (měi qí)–beautiful jade
  • 23. 艺桐 (yì tóng)–art firmiana simplex
  • 24. 若瑄 (ruò xuān)–tawny day-lily
  • 25. 欣悦 (xīn yuè)–joyful
  • 26. 妍雅 (yán yǎ)–beauty grace
  • 27. 乐琪 (lè qí)–music jade
  • 28. 思语 (sī yǔ)–think and speak
  • 29. 晴怡 (qíng yí)–sunny joy
  • 30. 怡然 (yí rán)–joy and bright

Popular Chinese Male/Boy Names

Traditional Chinese boys’ names are typically related to ‘strength’, ‘greatness’, ‘happiness’, ‘prosperity’, and ‘successes. In Chinese culture, males are considered stronger than females. Popular Chinese characters for boys’ names include:

  • 1. 强(qiáng) – strength
  • 2. 国(guó) – country
  • 3. 安(ān) – security
  • 4. 刚(gāng) – strong
  • 5. 博(bó) – abundant
  • 6. 文(wén) – literate
  • 7. 超(chāo) – surpass
  • 8. 成(chéng) – success
  • 9. 豪(háo) – prosperous
  • 10. 明(míng) – Bright
  • 11. 伟(wěi) – greatness
  • 12. 达(dá) – attainment
  • 13. 德(dé) – virtue
  • 13. 福(fú) – luck
  • 14. 富(fù) – wealth

the top 10 most popular Chinese boy’s names right now are the following:

  • 1. 奕辰 (Yìchén) – grand sun, moon
  • 2. 宇轩 (Yǔxuān) – universe high
  • 3. 浩宇 (Hàoyǔ)– vast universe
  • 4. 亦辰 (Yìchén) – also universe
  • 5. 宇辰 (Yǔchén) – universe, sun, moon
  • 6. 子墨 (Zǐmò) – refined ink
  • 7. 宇航 (Yǔháng) – universe cruise
  • 8. 浩然 (Hàorán) – vastness
  • 9. 梓豪 (Zǐháo) – catalpa tree heroic
  • 10. 亦宸 (Yìchén) – also celestial abode

30 More Chinese Baby Boy Names to Inspire You

  • 1. 明涛 (míng tāo) –bright large wave
  • 2. 浩然 (hào rán) – vast
  • 3. 俊杰 (jùn jié)– outstanding
  • 4. 梓涵 (zǐ hán)– catalpa tree
  • 5. 明哲 (huì fēn)– bright philosophy
  • 6. 泽宏 (jiā lì)– paradigm vast
  • 7. 嘉豪(jiā háo)–wonderful heroic
  • 8. 梓睿 (zǐ ruì)– clever
  • 9. 博文 (bó wén)–vast literate
  • 11. 一铭 (yī míng)–one imprint
  • 12. 俊德 (jùn dé)–handsome virtue
  • 13. 皓宇 (hào yǔ)–bright universe
  • 14. 浩洋 (hào yáng)–vast sea
  • 15. 永乐 (yǒng lè)–forever happy
  • 16. 宇泽 (yǔ zé)–universe paradigm
  • 17. 家伟 (jiā wěi)–family great
  • 18. 建豪 (xiǎo dān)–build greatness
  • 19. 伟国 (wěi guó)–great country
  • 20. 明煜 (míng yù)–bright shine
  • 21. 子鑫 (zǐ xīn)–son prosperity
  • 22. 石磊 (shí lěi)–stone rocks
  • 23. 智鹏 (zhì péng)–a wise legendary bird
  • 24. 子轩 (ruò xuān)–refined high
  • 25. 沐阳 (mù yáng)–bathe the sun
  • 26. 乐洋 (lè yáng)–happy sea
  • 27. 博成 (bó chéng)–great success
  • 28. 建宇 (jiàn yǔ)–build universe
  • 29. 天阔 (tiān kuò)–vast sky
  • 30. 东阳 (dōng yáng)–eastern sun

30 Gender-neutral Chinese baby names

  • 1. 慧 (huì) – Clever
  • 2. 安 (ān) – peace
  • 3. 晨 (chén)– break of the day
  • 4. 春 (chūn) – spring
  • 5. 柳 (liǔ) – willow tree
  • 6. 江 (jiāng) – river
  • 7. 明 (míng) – brightness
  • 8. 平 (píng) – peaceful, stable
  • 9. 善 (shàn) – moderate
  • 10. 翔 (xiáng) – flying like a bird
  • 11. 恒 (héng) – eternal
  • 12. 光 (guāng) – glorious
  • 13. 欢 (huān) – happiness
  • 14. 波 (bō) –wavelike
  • 15. 秋 (qiū) – autumn
  • 16. 宝 (bǎo) –treasure, gem
  • 17. 林 (lín) – forest
  • 18. 可 (xiáng) – able
  • 19. 聪 (cōng) – clever
  • 20. 灵 (líng) – smart
  • 21. 文 (wén) – literate
  • 22. 诺 (nuò) – promise
  • 23. 新 (xīn) – new
  • 24. 阳 (yáng) –sun
  • 25. 鑫 (xīn) – wealth
  • 26. 详 (xiáng) – peaceful
  • 27. 英 (yīng) –flower, wise
  • 28. 熙 (xī) – happy, bright
  • 29. 晶 (jīng) – brightness
  • 30. 畅 (chàng) – smooth

The Most Beautiful Chinese names

There are many beautiful Chinese names with good wishes and phonetic harmony. The Chinese characters are combined in a pleasing way and have beautiful meanings. Here are some of the most beautiful names:

  • 映月 Yingyue: Girls’ names containing ‘moon’ have the cherished meanings of beauty and harmony. The name Yingyue means ‘reflection of the moon’.
  • 芷若 Zhiruo: The Chinese characters 芷 and 若 are two herbal plants. In ancient China, many parents give their baby’s name by the name of herbal plants. 
  • 望舒 Wangshu: Wang means ‘hope’ and shu means ‘comfortable’.
  • 莫愁 Mochou: Mochou means ‘free of sadness’.

Funny Chinese Names

Many Chinese characters have the same pronunciation but different meanings. When a family name and a given name combine, some of them can be very funny. For example, a man whose family name is 钱 (‘Money’) could have the full name 钱多 (Qian Duo — ‘Money Much’), which means ‘too much money’!!

Someone with the family name 周 (‘Week’ is one of several meanings for Zhou) could have the given name 末 (Mo — ‘end’), then his name would mean ‘weekend’!!

How to Choose Your Chinese Name

1. Choose a name that sounds similar to your English name.

For most people, choosing a common Chinese name that sounds similar to your English name is fine. For example, if your name is Johnson, your Chinese name can be 强生 Qiangsheng /chyang-shng/ or 约翰逊 Yuehansun /ywair-han-swn/. Using translation software might help to find a good name.

2. Pick a common or popular Chinese name!

It is an easy way to have a nice Chinese name.  Check the above popular names. 

3. Pick some characters you like, or you can write. 

Pick the characters that are easy to read and write for yourself. 

4. Ask your Chinese friends’ advice. 

One of the best ways to choose a Chinese name is to ask your Chinese friends’ advice. They will be more familiar with the Chinese characters’ meanings and suitability. 

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