Vietnamese Names // A Super Simple Guide
Foreigners may find it difficult to understand the structure and meaning of Vietnamese names, however, the good news is it is not that complicated.
Vietnamese names actually have many common features that are easy to get to grips with.
Before we start teaching you more about Vietnamese names, we also wanted to share some other interesting topics we’ve already written about which are proving really popular with our students!
- The Vietnamese Alphabet // A Complete Guide (+ FREE Quiz)
- Commonly Used Sino-Vietnamese Words // 10 You Should Know
- Vietnamese Numbers // The Super Simple Guide
OK back to it!
Understanding how Vietnamese names are set up and pronounced will be helpful for you to get to know Vietnamese culture a little bit better, and it all helps!
So, let’s learn about Vietnamese names and how to get your very own name in Vietnamese.
Vietnamese Names #1 | The Story Behind Vietnamese Names
Vietnamese Names #2 | Structures of Vietnamese Names
Vietnamese Names #3 | What Do They Mean?
Vietnamese Names #4 | Creating Your Own Vietnamese Name
Vietnamese Names #5 | Popular Vietnamese Names
Vietnamese Names | FAQ’s
The Story Behind Vietnamese Names
First and foremost, with Vietnamese names, we will always say our given name first, even though when written, it appears last.
Let’s take the name Nguyễn Thị Vy as an example, people will address this person as Vy and she also introduces herself as Vy.
In Vietnamese, names work like this:
Nguyễn – the family name first
Thị – middle name next
Vy – finally the given name
Not too difficult right, it’s just backwards compared to English where you say “given name, middle name, family name”.
The full Vietnamese name is only used during more formal conversations such as weddings and ceremonies.
One important note is that we avoid linking names and occupations (like Teacher Linh).
Particularly, when you are working at a lower level or are younger, calling someone by their name with the occupation is considered rude in Vietnam.
For instance, to greet your teacher whose name is Vy…
✅ Chào cô (Hello Miss/Teacher)
🚫 Chào cô Vy (Hello Miss Vy)
However, you can call a person by name with the occupation if you are close to them, the same age or older than them.
Going back many years, Vietnamese people held a belief that giving children a name with a bad meaning could hold off evil spirits, therefore their children could grow up healthily.
Therefore, as you become more familiar with Vietnamese names, you will notice that the names of baby boomers and generation X are quite awkward such as…
Qua, Cầu, Kẻo, Té – are the names of four children in one family. Putting these names together to make a sentence can be translated as… “cross the bridge carefully or you will fall”
- Qua is the first-born child
- Cầu is the second-born child
- Kẻo is the third-born child
- Té is the forth-born child
Another interesting example here that might fascinate you!
Nhất, Hai, Ba, Tư, Năm – is a popular way to name children if the family have many children. These names are actually the Vietnamese numbers, and children are named in number order bizarrely!
- Nhất is the first-born child
- Hai is the second-born child
- Ba is the third-born child
- Tư is the forth-born child
- Năm is the fifth-born child
Thìn, Mùi, Ngọ – are the names given with the Zodiac signs
- Thìn – is a Vietnamese name for anyone born during the year of dragon
- Ngọ – is a Vietnamese name for anyone born during the year of horse
On the other hand, kids of generation Y and Z are given more beautiful names which carry parental hopes and wishes for their children’s future.
Moreover, they also have family nicknames which is a way to express the love of parents.
Family nicknames are usually associated with animals or vegetables such as:
- Thỏ – rabbit
- Cừu – sheep
- Bắp – corn
FUN FACT – In Vietnam nowadays, people often name their business with their own name.
Quán ăn Lan Hương – Lan Huong restaurant
Lan Hương is the restaurant owner’s name
Vietnamese Alphabet // A Complete Guide (+ FREE Quiz)
29 letters, 17 consonants and 12 vowels make up the Vietnamese Alphabet. We break down the alphabet and provide you with a quiz to test your skills also.
Structure of Vietnamese Names
As stated above, typically a Vietnamese name consists of three main parts arranged in order:
Family name + Middle name + Forename/Given name
Let’s take the name “Nguyễn Thanh Hoa” as an example:
Nguyễn = Family name
Thanh = Middle name
Hoa = Forename/Given name
DID YOU KNOW – In writing, the first letter of each family name, middle name, forename must be capitalized. Although this is the case in English, it’s not something that every language adopts.
The family name and surname are compulsory parts while the middle name is optional.
Most Vietnamese people have one middle name, but some may have two, three, or no middle name at all depending on the family’s naming tradition or parental preference.Again this matches how things would work in the West to the most part.
Middle names are also used as indicators for a person’s family or generation, for instance…
- Nguyễn Công Nam – the grandfather’s name
- Nguyễn Công Trung – the father’s name
- Nguyễn Công Huy – the son’s name
The tradition that uses the middle name Công implies those three people are three generations in the same family. This naming tradition is usually applied to males only.
BEWARE – If you married (or will marry) a Vietnamese partner, you should be careful in naming your children because the forenames of the latest generation are not allowed to be similar to the forenames of the elder generation since this is considered taboo!
“Thị” and “Văn” are the two most popular middle names you may see in Vietnam:
Thị – The middle name for femalesTrần Thị Hà
Văn – The middle name for malesNguyễn Văn An
To write and say someone’s name, traditionally you must follow the order Family name + Middle name + Forename which is used in official documents.
However, nowadays people use the Western name-written order of Forename + Family name which is used in unofficial documents, and in conversation with foreigners.
Trần Thị Hà – Traditional order
Hà Trần – Western order
The forename can be in Vietnamese or English depending on where a person was born or is living. For example…
Tracy Nguyễn – the name of a person who lives in Western countries.
Thanks to global integration many Vietnamese now also have English names. These are generally only used in casual situations though.
There is an abundance of family names in Vietnam.
However, there is one absolutely dominant surname, and 13 others which combined, account for well over 90 percent of the Vietnamese population.
Nguyễn is the most common Vietnamese family name.
The existence of the family name Nguyễn in Vietnam extends well outside the country. Many Vietnamese have emigrated to various countries around the world and therefore it wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve come across the Vietnamese surname Nguyễn before!
What Do Vietnamese Names Mean?
Most Vietnamese names aim to bring luck and positive meaning.
The names for girls are associated with beauty, peace, and elegance which can be listed…
- Hoài An – Staying safe and peaceful forever.
- Thanh Hà – Thanh is peace or tranquility. Hà is the river. The name therefore wishes for the child to always remain safe and peaceful, like a river.
- Hương Thảo – Hương which means fragrance, and when combined with Thảo, is grass. This name wishes the baby to be as beautiful and as strong as grass.
Vietnamese names for boys are more related to strength, braveness, and intelligence:
- Anh Dũng – Grow up strong and brave to life’s challenges and difficulties.
- Minh Quang – Intelligent and a lucky future.
- Thái Sơn – Thái Sơn indicates a big mountain. This name wishes the baby will stay strong and powerful, like a mountain.
Moreover, there are certain words that convey the meaning of the names.
|Names||Meaning of the Names||Vietnamese Name Examples|
|Peace, tranquility, and safety||An Nhiên|
|Preciousness, dearness||Gia Bảo|
|Charm, beauty, and attractiveness||Mỹ Anh|
|Brilliance, intelligence||Quang Minh|
|Strength, energy, braveness||Chí Dũng|
|Success, wealth||Thành Đạt|
|A kind, good-hearted person||Tâm An|
Creating Yourself a Vietnamese Name
Choose a name that sounds similar to yours.Note that this cannot work for all names, and make sure to check with your Vietnamese friends or teacher before settling with a character purely based on the sound!
- Tracy – Trang
- Laura – Lan
- Daniel – Đạt
Choose one of the name translations.
|English Mame||Meaning||Vietnamese name|
Or you can pick yourself a Vietnamese name from this next chapter!
Popular Vietnamese Names
Here are some popular names in Vietnamese that you can pick for you, or your children!
Vietnamese Names for Males
- Chí Kiên – Having a brave and courageous mind
- Chí Thanh – Having a strong spirit
- Đăng Khoa – Being a talented, smart person
- Chiến Thắng – Being the winner
- Đức Tài – A warm-hearted and talented person
- Hải Đăng – Being smart, clever
- Hữu Đạt – Achieving success and luck in life
Vietnamese Names for Females
- Gia Linh – Being clever and happy
- Như Ý – Achieving success and good luck in life
- Tuệ Lâm – Being smart, clever
- Mỹ Duyên – Growing up beautiful and charming
- Ngọc Diệp – Preciousness and beauty
- Bích Liên – Elegant and pretty
- Anh Thư – Being a talented, knowledge person
So there we have it, your complete guide to Vietnamese names!
Do you have your own Vietnamese name?
If so, tell us below. Or do you want us to help you with your very first Vietnamese name?
Like learning about how names differ in the east and west? What about a quick lesson in Chinese names too?
Some fun facts to get you started…
In the whole of China, 85% of the population share the same 100 last names.
李 (Li) is the most common surname in China.
Jackie Chan’s Chinese name is Chéng Lóng (成龙).
Come and learn some more!
We’ve even got a guide to Korean names and the traditions they follow in Korea also.
Vietnamese Names // FAQ’s
What is the most popular Vietnamese surname?
Nguyễn is the most common Vietnamese family name.
The existence of the family name Nguyễn in Vietnam extends well outside the country.
Many Vietnamese have emigrated to various countries around the world and therefore it wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve come across the Vietnamese surname Nguyễn before!
What are some great Vietnamese names for boys?
Chí Kiên – Having a brave and courageous mind
Chí Thanh – Having a strong spirit
Đăng Khoa – Being a talented, smart person
Chiến Thắng – Being the winner
Đức Tài – A warm-hearted and talented person
Hải Đăng – Being smart, clever
Hữu Đạt – Achieving success and luck in life
What are the best Vietnamese names for girls?
Gia Linh – Being clever and happy
Như Ý – Achieving success and good luck in life
Tuệ Lâm – Being smart, clever
Mỹ Duyên – Growing up beautiful and charming
Ngọc Diệp – Preciousness and beauty
Bích Liên – Elegant and pretty
Anh Thư – Being a talented, knowledge person
What % of Vietnamese have the surname Nguyễn?
Nguyễn is the surname of over 38% of the Vietnamese population!
How many surnames make up 90% of the Vietnamese population?
Only 14 surnames cover over 90% of the Vietnamese population with Nguyễn taking up almost half of that itself.
Can I choose a Vietnamese name?
In many cases, you can choose a name that sounds similar to yours.
Note that this cannot work for all names, and make sure to check with your Vietnamese friends or teacher before settling with a character purely based on the sound!
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