Vietnamese name

Vietnamese personal names generally consist of three parts: a family name (normally patrilineal,[1] may be combined with the mother's family name to become a compound family name), a middle name (normally a single name, but sometimes no name), and a given name (normally single name, but sometimes a multiple name), used in that order, but not every name is conformant. For example:

  • Nguyễn Trãi has his family name Nguyễn and his given name is Trãi. He does not have any middle name.
  • Phạm Bình Minh has his family name Phạm and his given name is Bình Minh (lit.'dawn'). He does not have any middle name.
  • Nguyễn Văn Quyết has his family name Nguyễn, his middle name is Văn (lit.'literature') and his given name is Quyết (lit.'decide').
  • Nguyễn Ngọc Trường Sơn has his family name Nguyễn, his middle name is Ngọc (lit.'pearl') and his given name is Trường Sơn (lit.'long mountain').
  • Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường (a Vietnamese poet)[2] has his family name Hoàng Phủ (natural compound family name), his middle name is Ngọc and his given name is Tường (lit.'wall'). Sometimes his family name is confused with Hoàng.
  • Trần Lê Quốc Toàn has his compound family name combined from Trần (from his father) and (from his mother), his middle name is Quốc (lit.'country') and his given name is Toàn (lit.'fully').

The "family name first" written order follows the system of Chinese names and is common throughout the East Asian cultural sphere. 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 given name can be written first then family name e.g. Châu Bùi or Thanh Trần.

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 accent marks are dropped, as is commonly done outside Vietnam e.g. Nguyễn vs Nguyên. Anyone applying for Vietnamese nationality must also adopt a Vietnamese name.[3] Vietnamese is also a script that is fully transliterated (romanized), as Hán-Nôm was replaced by Chữ Quốc Ngữ, which was made compulsory during the colonial era for Vietnamese.

Family nameEdit

The family name is positioned first and is passed on by the father to his children. It is estimated that there are around 100 family names in common use, but some are far more common than others. The name Nguyễn is estimated to be the most common (40%).[4] The top three names are so common as people tended to take family names of emperors to show loyalty. Over many generations, family names became permanent.

Distribution of Vietnamese family names

The most common family names among the Vietnamese are the following with their respective Chữ Quốc Ngữ which is commonly in use, and their corresponding Hán-Nôm (Han-Nom Characters) which have become obsolete.[5] Altogether, these 14 names account for around 90% of the Viet population (2005).

The following list includes less-common surnames in alphabetical order which make up the rest of the 10% (2005):

In Vietnamese culture, women keep their family names once they marry, whilst the progeny tend to keep the father's family name, although names can often be combined from 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.

Middle nameEdit

Most Vietnamese have one middle name, but it is quite common to have two or more or to have no middle name at all.

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 Vietnamese suffix meaning surname of the husband for a married woman, 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 the surname "Trần". 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 nameEdit

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.


  • Lê Lợi (a king of the Lê dynasty) has is his family name and Lợi is his given name. He does not have any middle name.
  • Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh San (Emperor Duy Tân) has Nguyễn is his family name, Phúc is his middle name, and Vĩnh San is his given name (a double names). That is similar with the name Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (Emperor Gia Long, the first emperor of Nguyễn dynasty), who is commontly called as Nguyễn Ánh.
  • Tôn Thất Thuyết has Tôn Thất is his family name (a compound surname) and Thuyết is his given name. He does not have any middle name. Sometimes his family name is confused with Tôn.
  • Nguyễn Tấn Dũng (a former Prime Minister) has Nguyễn is his family name, Tấn is his middle name, and Dũng is his given name. In formal usage, he is referred to by his given name ("Mr. Dũng") in English-language text of Vietnamese multimedia, not by his family name ("Mr. Nguyễn").
  • Likewise, the famous general and military leader, Võ Nguyên Giáp, is referred to by his given name, i.e. "General Giáp".

Saints' namesEdit

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.[6]

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[7]
Saint Name in Romance language Vietnamese 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 tonesEdit

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 Sino-Vietnamese 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 EnglishEdit

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".[8] In Vietnamese, Vietnamese names are also typically sorted using the same order.[9]

But at the present, Vietnamese names are commonly[when?] indexed according "middle-name given-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
Fullname Family name Middle name + Given name Abbreviated Eastern name order Western name order
Fullname Abbreviated Fullname Abbreviated
Phạm Tuân Phạm Tuân (no middle name) P. Tuân PHAM Tuan PHAM T. Tuan PHAM T. PHAM
Hoàng Xuân Vinh Hoàng Xuân Vinh (no middle name) H. Xuân Vinh HOANG Xuan Vinh HOANG X. V. Xuan Vinh HOANG X. V. HOANG
Nguyễn Văn Toàn Nguyễn Văn Toàn N. Văn Toàn NGUYEN Van Toan NGUYEN V. T. Van Toan NGUYEN V. T. NGUYEN
Lê Quang Liêm Quang Liêm (no middle name) L. Quang Liêm LE Quang Liem LE Q. L. Quang Liem LE Q. L. LE
Nguyễn Ngọc Trường Sơn Nguyễn Ngọc Trường Sơn N. Ngọc Trường Sơn
N. N. Trường Sơn[A]
NGUYEN Ngoc Truong Son NGUYEN N. T. S. Ngoc Truong Son NGUYEN N. T. S. NGUYEN
Nquyễn Thị Ánh Viên Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên N. Thị Ánh Viên
N. T. Ánh Viên[B]
Nguyễn Thị Liễu Nguyễn Thị Liễu N. Thị Liễu
N. T. Liễu[B]
Have compound family name
Name in Vietnamese (with Eastern name order) Name in English Notes
Fullname Family name Middle name + Given name Abbreviate Eastern name order Western name order
Full Abbreviate Full Abbreviate
Tôn Thất Thuyết Tôn Thất Thuyết (no middle name) T. T. Thuyết TON THAT Thuyet TON THAT T. Thuyet TON THAT T. TON THAT [C]
Trần Lê Quốc Toàn Trần Quốc Toàn T. L. Quốc Toàn TRAN LE Quoc Toan TRAN LE Q. T. Quoc Toan TRAN LE Q. T. TRAN LE [D]
Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh (no middle name) B. H. Việt Anh BUI HOANG Viet Anh BUI HOANG V. A. Viet Anh BUI HOANG V. A. BUI HOANG [E]
Tôn Nữ Thị Ninh Tôn Nữ Thị Ninh T. N. Thị Ninh
T. N. T. Ninh[B]
TON NU Thi Ninh TON NU T. N. Thi Ninh TON NU T. N. TON NU
  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. ^ a b c 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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Matrilineal can be also possible, in some cases like divorce, single mother's child, or the child hate father and don't want to be named with father's surname.
  2. ^ News, V. T. V. (2019-04-06). "Trinh Cong Son's music connects people". (in Vietnamese). Retrieved 2021-06-23.
  3. ^ Viet name is mandatory for citizenship
  4. ^ Huy Quoc To, Kiet Van Nguyen, Anh Gia-Tuan Nguyen, Ngan Luu-Thuy Nguyen, Gender Prediction Based on Vietnamese Names with Machine Learning Techniques,
  5. ^ Lê Trung Hoa, Họ Và Tên Người Việt Nam (Vietnamese Family and Personal Names), Social Sciences Publishing House (2005) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 31, 2008. Retrieved March 26, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Nguyễn Long Thao (7 June 2012). "Tìm Hiểu Tên Thánh Của Người Công Giáo Việt Nam" [Understanding the Saint's Names of Vietnamese Catholics]. VietCatholic News (in Vietnamese). Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  7. ^ Đỗ Quang Chính (1972). Lịch sử chữ Quốc ngữ [History of the Vietnamese alphabet]. Saigon: Ra Khơi. pp. 69, 77, 88, 89, 97, 98, 105.
  8. ^ "Indexes: A Chapter from The Chicago Manual of Style" (Archived 2015-02-18 at WebCite). Chicago Manual of Style. Retrieved on December 23, 2014. p. 28 (PDF document p. 30/56).
  9. ^ Ngọc Anh (August 8, 2018). "Sắp xếp tên theo thứ tự ABC trong Word". Học viện Đào tạo Kế toán Đức Minh. Retrieved November 25, 2019.

External linksEdit