Vietnamese name

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Traditional Vietnamese personal names generally consist of three parts, used in Eastern name order.


But not every name is conformant. For example:

The "family name first" written order follows the system of "Chinese names" and common in the "Sinosphere". However, it is different from Chinese, Korean, and Japanese names in the usage of a "middle name," which is less common in China and Korea and uncommon in Japan. Persons can be referred to by the whole name, the given name, or a hierarchic pronoun, which usually connotes a degree of family relationship or kinship – but referring via given name is most common, as well as if degree of family relationship or kinship is unknown. In more informal contexts or in the Western world, given name can be written first then family name e.g. Châu Bùi or Thanh Trần.

The Vietnamese language is tonal and so are Vietnamese names. Names with the same spelling but different tones represent different meanings, which can confuse people when the diacritics are dropped, as is commonly done outside Vietnam (e.g. Đoàn ( [ɗʷà:n]) vs Doãn ( [zʷǎ:ˀn]), both become Doan when diacritics are omitted). Additionally, some Vietnamese names can only be differentiated via context or with their corresponding chữ Hán, such as 夏 (Hạ) or 賀 (Hạ). Anyone applying for Vietnamese nationality must also adopt a Vietnamese name. [2] Vietnamese script is fully transliterated (romanized), because Hán-Nôm was replaced by Chữ Quốc ngữ , which was made compulsory during the French colonial era.

Surname or Family name

Due to historical contact with Chinese dynasties, Vietnamese names originated from Middle Chinese.[ citation needed ] The family name is positioned first and is passed on by the father to his children in a traditionally patrilineal order, but exceptions are possible. It is estimated that there are around 100 family names in common use, but some are far more common than others. The name Nguyễn was estimated to be the most common (40%) in 2005. [3] The reason the top three names are so common is that people tended to take the family names of emperors, to show loyalty to particular dynasties in history. Over many generations, those family names became permanent.

The following are the most common family names among Vietnamese, with their Chữ Quốc Ngữ spelling, and their corresponding Hán-Nôm (Han-Nom Characters), which are now obsolete. [4] The figures are from 100 họ phổ biến ở Việt Nam (100 most popular Vietnamese surnames/family names) from Nhà xuất bản Khoa học Xã hội (Social Science Publishing House).

Statistics of surname/family name of Vietnamese people based on ratio of population, 2022 (Thong Ke ho nguoi Viet theo ty le % dan so 2022). "Ho khac" means "other". Cac ho VN.jpg
Statistics of surname/family name of Vietnamese people based on ratio of population, 2022 (Thống Kê họ người Việt theo tỷ lệ % dân số 2022)."Họkhác" means "other".
Frequency of Vietnamese surnames 2022
RankSurname/Family nameChữ Hán-NômPercentage
1 Nguyễn 31.5%
2 Trần 10.9%
3 8.9%
4 Phạm 5.9%
5 Hoàng / Huỳnh 5.1%
6 Vũ / Võ 4.9%
7 Phan 2.8%
8 Trương 2.2%
9 Bùi 2.1%
10 Đặng 1.9%
11 Đỗ 1.9%
12 Ngô 1.7%
13 Hồ 1.5%
14 Dương 1.4%
15 Đinh 1.0%
Distribution of Vietnamese family names (2005) Common Viet Surnames.png
Distribution of Vietnamese family names (2005)
Frequency of Vietnamese surnames 2005
RankSurname/Family nameChữ Hán-NômPercentage
14 0.5%

In 2005, these 14 names had accounted for around 90% of the Viet population.

The following list includes less-common surnames in alphabetical order which make up the other 10% (2005), now 16.3% (2022):


In Vietnamese culture, women tend to keep their family names once they marry, whilst the progeny tend to have the father's family name, although names can often be combined from a father's and mother's family name, e.g. Nguyễn Lê, Phạm Vũ, Kim Lý etc. In formal contexts, people are referred to by their full name. In more casual contexts, people are always on a "first-name basis", which involves their given names, accompanied by proper kinship terms.

In a few localities of Vietnam, for examples, Sơn Đồng commune (Hoài Đức district), Tân Lập commune (Đan Phượng district), Cấn Hữu, Tân Hoà, Cộng Hoà, commune (Quốc Oai district) of Hanoi, and Liên Khê commune, Khoái Châu district, Hưng Yên province, there is a custom of daughters taking the fathers' middle names, not family names, as their surnames; therefore arise such female surnames such as Đắc, Đình, Sỹ, Tri, Ngọc, Văn, Tiếp, Doãn, Quế, Danh, Hữu, Khắc, etc. Sons, in contrast, bear their fathers' family names as surnames. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] There exist several explanations for this custom:

Middle name

Most Vietnamese have one middle name, but it is quite common to have two or more or to have no middle name at all. Middle names can be standalone (e.g. Văn or Thị), but is often combined with the given name for a more meaningful overall name, where the middle name is part of the overall given name.

In the past, the middle name was selected by parents from a fairly narrow range of options. Almost all women had Thị () as their middle name, and many men had Văn (). More recently, a broader range of names has been used, and people named Thị usually omit their middle name because they do not like to call it with their name.

Thị is a most common female middle name, and most common amongst pre-1975 generation but less common amongst younger generations. Thị () is an archaic Sino-Vietnamese suffix meaning "clan; family; lineage; hereditary house" and attached to a woman's original family name, but now is used to simply indicate the female sex. For example, "Trần Thị Mai Loan" is a person who has the given name "Mai Loan" and comes from the "Trần" family; altogether, the name means "Mai Loan, a female person of the Trần family". Some traditional male middle names may include Văn (), Hữu (), Đức (), Thành (), Công (), Minh (), and Quang ().

The middle name can have several uses, with the fourth being most common nowadays:

  1. To indicate a person's generation. Brothers and sisters may share the same middle name, which distinguish them from the generation before them and the generation after them (see generation name).
  2. To separate branches of a large family: "Nguyễn Hữu", "Nguyễn Sinh", "Trần Lâm" (middle names can be taken from the mother's family name). However, this usage is still controversial[ dubious ][ citation needed ]. Some people[ who? ] consider them to be a part of their family names, not family name + middle name. Some families may, however, set up arbitrary rules about giving a different middle name to each generation.[ clarification needed ]
  3. To indicate a person's position (birth order) in the family. This usage is less common than others.
  4. To provide a poetic and positive meaning e.g. "Trần Gia Hạnh Phúc" meaning "Happiness to the Trần family".

The first three are no longer in use, and seen as too rigid and strictly conforming to family naming systems. Most middle names utilise the fourth, having a name to simply imply some positive characteristics.

Given name

In most cases, the middle name is formally part of the given name. For example, the name "Đinh Quang Dũng" is separated into the surname "Đinh" and the given name "Quang Dũng". In a normal name list, those two parts of the full name are put in two different columns. However, in daily conversation, the last word in a given name with a title before it is used to call or address a person: "Ông Dũng", "Anh Dũng", etc., with "Ông" and "Anh" being words to address the person and depend on age, social position, etc.

The given name is the primary form of address for Vietnamese. It is chosen by parents and usually has a literal meaning in the Vietnamese language. Names often represent beauty, such as bird or flower names, or attributes and characteristics that the parents want in their child, such as modesty (Khiêm, 謙).

Typically, Vietnamese will be addressed with their given name, even in formal situations, although an honorific equivalent to "Mr.", "Mrs.", etc. will be added when necessary. That contrasts with the situation in many other cultures in which the family name is used in formal situations, but it is a practice similar to usage in Icelandic usage and, to some degree, Polish. It is similar to the Latin-American and southern European custom of referring to women as "Doña/Dona" and men as "Don/Dom", along with their first name.

Addressing someone by the family name is rare. In the past, women were usually called by their (maiden) family name, with thị (氏) as a suffix, similar to China and Korea. In recent years, doctors are more likely than any other social group to be addressed by their family name, but that form of reference is more common in the north than in the south. Some extremely famous people are sometimes referred to by their family names, such as Hồ Chí Minh (Bác Hồ—"Uncle Hồ") (however, his real surname is Nguyễn), Trịnh Công Sơn (nhạc Trịnh—"Trịnh music"), and Hồ Xuân Hương (nữ sĩ họ Hồ—"the poetess with the family name Hồ"). Traditionally, people in Vietnam, particularly North Vietnam, addressed parents using the first child's name: Mr and Mrs Anh or Master Minh.

When being addressed within the family, children are sometimes referred to by their birth number, starting with one in the north but two in the south. That practice is less common recently, especially in the north.

Double names are also common. For example, Phan Thị Kim Phúc has the given name Kim Phúc.


Saints' names

Vietnamese Catholics are given a saint's name at baptism (Vietnamese : tên thánh (holy name) or tên rửa tội (baptism name). Boys are given male saints' names, while girls are given female saints' names. This name appears first, before the family name, in formal religious contexts. Out of respect, clergy are usually referred to by saints' name. The saint's name also functions as a posthumous name, used instead of an individual's given name in prayers after their death. The most common saints' names are taken from the New Testament, such as Phêrô (Peter, or Pierre in French), Phaolô (Paul), Gioan (John), Maria (Mary), and Anna or they may remain as they are without Vietnamisation. [10]

Saints' names are respelled phonetically according to the Vietnamese alphabet. Some more well-known saints' names are derived further into names that sound more Vietnamese or easier to pronounce for Vietnamese speakers.

Etymologies of some saints' names [11]
SaintName in Romance LanguageVietnamese Name
Alexander Alexandre (Portuguese)A Lịch Sơn, Alexanđê
Anthony Antônio (Portuguese)Antôn, An Tôn, Antôniô
Benedict Benedictus (Latin)Biển Đức, Bênêđictô
Clement Clemente (Portuguese)Clêmêntê, Lê Minh
Constantine Constantino (Portuguese)Constantinô, Công Tăng
Dominic Domingos (Portuguese)Đa Minh, Đaminh
Helena Helena (Portuguese)Hà Liên
Ignatius Inácio (Portuguese)Inhaxiô, Y Nhã
John the Baptist Juan Bautista (Spanish)Gioan Baotixita
Joseph Giuseppe (Italian)Giuse
Martin Martinho (Portuguese), Martín (Spanish)Martinô, Máctinô, Mạc Tính, Mạc Ty Nho
Paul Paulus (Latin), Paulo (Portuguese)Phaolô, Bảo Lộc
Thaddaeus Tadeu (Portuguese)Tađêô, Thanh Diêu
Urban Urbano (Portuguese)Urbanô, Ước Bang

Near-homonyms distinguished by vowel or tones

Some names may appear the same if simplified into a basic ASCII script, as for example on websites, but are different names:

Typically, as in the above examples, it is middle or the last personal given name which varies, as almost any Hán-Nôm character may be used. The number of family names is limited.

Further, some historical names may be written using different chữ Hán (Chinese characters), but are still written the same in the modern Vietnamese alphabet.

Indexing and sorting in English

According to the English-language Chicago Manual of Style , Vietnamese names in are indexed according to the "given name, then surname + middle name", with a cross-reference placed in regards to the family name. Ngô Đình Diệm would be listed as "Diệm, Ngô Đình" and Võ Nguyên Giáp would be listed as "Giáp, Võ Nguyên". [12] In Vietnamese, Vietnamese names are also typically sorted using the same order. [13]

But at the present, Vietnamese names are commonly[ when? ] indexed according "middle-namegiven-name then SURNAME" in Western name order, or "SURNAME then middle-name given-name" in Eastern name order, to determine exactly the part of surname, especially in media (TV, website, SNS) at events of sports games. This method is similar to Chinese names or Korean names in events. For example:[ citation needed ]

Have single family name
Name in Vietnamese (Eastern name order)Name in English
FullnameFamily nameMiddle name + Given nameAbbreviated Eastern name order Western name order
Phạm Tuân Phạm Tuân (no middle name)P. TuânPHAM TuanPHAM T.Tuan PHAMT. PHAM
Hoàng Xuân Vinh Hoàng Xuân Vinh (no middle name)H. Xuân VinhHOANG Xuan VinhHOANG X. V.Xuan Vinh HOANGX. V. HOANG
Nguyễn Văn Toàn Nguyễn Văn ToànN. Văn ToànNGUYEN Van ToanNGUYEN V. T.Van Toan NGUYENV. T. NGUYEN
Lê Quang Liêm Quang Liêm (no middle name)L. Quang LiêmLE Quang LiemLE Q. L.Quang Liem LEQ. L. LE
Nguyễn Ngọc Trường Sơn Nguyễn Ngọc Trường SơnN. Ngọc Trường Sơn
N. N. Trường Sơn [upper-alpha 1]
NGUYEN Ngoc Truong SonNGUYEN N. T. S.Ngoc Truong Son NGUYENN. T. S. NGUYEN
Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên Nguyễn Thị Ánh ViênN. Thị Ánh Viên
N. T. Ánh Viên [upper-alpha 2]
Nguyễn Thị Liễu Nguyễn Thị LiễuN. Thị Liễu
N. T. Liễu [upper-alpha 2]
Have compound family name
Name in Vietnamese (with Eastern name order)Name in EnglishNotes
FullnameFamily nameMiddle name + Given nameAbbreviate Eastern name order Western name order
Tôn Thất Thuyết Tôn Thất Thuyết (no middle name)T. T. ThuyếtTON THAT ThuyetTON THAT T.Thuyet TON THATT. TON THAT [upper-alpha 3]
Trần Lê Quốc Toàn Trần Quốc ToànT. L. Quốc ToànTRAN LE Quoc ToanTRAN LE Q. T.Quoc Toan TRAN LEQ. T. TRAN LE [upper-alpha 4]
Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh (no middle name)B. H. Việt AnhBUI HOANG Viet AnhBUI HOANG V. A.Viet Anh BUI HOANGV. A. BUI HOANG [upper-alpha 5]
Tôn Nữ Thị Ninh Tôn Nữ Thị NinhT. N. Thị Ninh
T. N. T. Ninh [upper-alpha 2]
  1. For people have length of fullname that is more than 3 single words, sometimes middle name is also abbreviated, to make the part of given name that unabbreviated is become 2 single words and not too long.
  2. 1 2 3 Because Thị (氏) is meaning "person of this (surname) family line" (same as the particle da in Portuguese name like da Silva, or van in Dutch name), and more recently almost modern Vietnamese women do not like it, a lot of them named Thị usually abbreviate it when writing fullname (e.g. Nguyễn T. Ánh Viên, N. T. Ánh Viên), or omit Thị when writing fullname and call themself (e.g. Nguyễn Ánh Viên).
  3. To determine exactly his surname is Tôn Thất, and avoid confusing with Tôn.
  4. To determine exactly his surname is combined from Trần and .
  5. To determine exactly his surname is combined from Bùi and Hoàng.


Due to the high frequency of the same surnames in Vietnamese names, it has also become more popular to refer by middle and given name, which together officially is the given name e.g. Lê Mạnh Cường can be referred to as Mạnh Cường as given name or as Cường.

Presentations of Vietnamese name
SurnameMiddle NameGiven Name
SurnameGiven name
Mạnh Cường

See also

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