Vietnam Personal Names

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Understanding customs used in surnames and given names can help you identify your ancestors in records. Learn to recognize name variations and see clues in names.

Online Tools[edit | edit source]

Surnames[edit | edit source]

  • Vietnamese personal names generally consist of three parts: one patrilineal family name, one or more middle name(s) (one of which may be taken from the mother's family name), and one given name, used in that order. The "family name first" order follows the system of Chinese names.The family name is positioned first and is passed on by the father to his children.
  • In Vietnamese cultural practice, women always keep their family names once they marry.

Distribution of Vietnamese family names[edit | edit source]

  • 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 used by almost 40% of the Vietnamese population. 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.
  • The most common family names among the Vietnamese are the following with their respective Chữ Quốc Ngữ and their Hán tự (Chinese Character). Altogether, these 14 names account for 90% of the Vietnamese population. [1]
Nguyễn 阮 (39%)
Trần 陳 (11%)
Lê 黎 (9.5%)
Phạm 范 (7.1%)
Huỳnh-Hoàng 黃 (5.1%)
Phan 潘 (4.5%)
Vũ-Võ 武 (3.9%)
Đặng 鄧(2.1%)
Bùi 裴 (2%)
Đỗ 杜 (1.4%)
Hồ 胡 (1.3%)
Ngô 吳 (1.3%)
Dương 楊 (1%)
Lý 李 (0.5%) [1]

Middle Names[edit | edit source]

  • Most Vietnamese have one middle name, but it is quite possible to have two or more of them or to have no middle name at all. The middle name can have three uses:
  • To indicate a person's generation. Brothers and sisters share the same middle name, which distinguish them from the generation before them and the generation after them (see generation name).
  • 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 – discuss][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]
  • To indicate a person's position (birth order) in the family. This usage is less common than others.
  • In the past, the middle name was selected by parents from a fairly narrow range of options. Almost all women had Thị (氏) as their middle name, and many men had Văn (文). [1]

Given Names[edit | edit source]

  • 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).
  • Vietnamese Catholics are given a saint's name at baptism. 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.<ref name="VN">

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Vietnamese name", in Wikipedia,, 8 March 2021.