Vietnamese name

Vietnamese name

Naming customs of Vietnamese culture

Traditional Vietnamese personal names generally consist of three parts, used in Eastern name 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)[1] has his family name Hoàng Phủ (natural compound family name), his middle name is Ngọc and his given name is Tường (lit.'deep understanding'). 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 is usual throughout the East Asian cultural sphere or Sinosphere; but "middle names" are less common in Chinese and Korean names and uncommon in Japanese names. 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 names have corresponding Hán-Nôm character adopted early on during Chinese rule. Vietnamese script is fully transliterated (romanized), because the previous script, chữ 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 (tên họ) 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 characters, which are now obsolete.[4] The figures are from a 2022 study 100 họ phổ biến ở Việt Nam (100 Most Popular Surnames/Family Names In Vietnam) from the Vietnamese Social Science Publisher (Nhà xuất bản Khoa học Xã hội).

Statistics of surname/family name of Vietnamese citizens (including other 53 ethnicities) based on ratio of population, 2022 (Thống Kê họ người Việt theo tỷ lệ % dân số 2022). "Họ khác" means "other".
More information Rank, Surname/Family name ...
Distribution of Vietnamese family names (2005)
More information Rank, Surname/Family name ...

In 2005, these 14 names had accounted for around 90% of the Vietnamese 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, in Hanoi's Sơn Đồng commune (Hoài Đức district), Tân Lập commune (Đan Phượng district), Cấn Hữu, Tân Hoà, Cộng Hoà, commune (Quốc Oai district), and in Hưng Yên province's Liên Khê commune (Khoái Châu district), 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:

  • Nghiêm Quốc Đạt, a teacher and Sơn Đồng's village-historian, believes that this custom is a vestige of outdated feudal misogynistic practices: in the past, sons were valued more than daughters; therefore, in the present, a son receives his family's surname as his surname, while a daughter only receives her father's branch-name (Vietnamese: tên chi) as her surname.[5]
  • Others contend that this custom did not stem from misogynistic discrimination:
    • The Sơn Đồng government states that this custom's original purpose was to merely help distinguish the different branches of one same family; however, when a woman bears her father's surname and branch-name, that will still indicate which family and which branch she belongs to.[7]
    • Many Sơn Đồng's elders and people's commissar Nguyễn Chí Mậu state that those families consider the ostensible surnames - given to sons - to be the "additional names" (V.: tên đệm) or "borrowed surnames" (V.: họ mượn) and consider the ostensible branch-names - given to daughters - to be their "original surnames" (V.: họ gốc) or main surnames (V.: họ chính); in fact, many families with the same "borrowed surnames" are not blood-related at all and their current "main surnames" result from their true ancestral surnames being changed in the past.[6][8][9] Therefore, daughters bear the "main surnames" to remind themselves of their origins after getting married, according to Nguyễn Danh Hữu, the keeper of So village's shrine in Quốc Oai.[6]

Middle name

Most Vietnamese have one middle name (tên đệm), 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 (tên gọi). 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.[citation needed] 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.

The Rade people in Vietnam's Central Highlands have a unique first name structure, with male names start with letter Y stemmed from the Tetragrammaton (YHWH), while female names start with letter H. For examples, Y-Abraham, Y-Samuel, H'Mari, H'Sarah.


  • Lê Lợi (a Emperor 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). The name is similar to 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 Vietnamese formal usage, he is referred to as Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, but by his given name ("Mr. Dũng") in English-language text of Vietnamese multimedia, not by his family name ("Mr. Nguyễn"). Informally he is "Ba Dũng" in Vietnamese. He can also be referred to as Tấn Dũng.
  • Trần Kim Liên (MC of the Voice People of Ho Chi Minh City) has Trần is her family name, Kim is her middle name, and Liên is her given name. She can also be referred to as Kim Liên.
  • Likewise, the famous general and military leader, Võ Nguyên Giáp, is referred to in Vietnamese by his full name (Võ Nguyên Giáp) in formal sources, but by his given name in English, i.e. "General Giáp". Informally, he is "Ông Giáp" or "Tướng Giáp" in Vietnamese. He can also be referred to as Nguyên Giáp.

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.

More information Saint, Name in Romance Language ...

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-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]

More information Name in Vietnamese (Eastern name order), Name in English ...
More information Name in Vietnamese (with Eastern name order), Name in English ...
  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. 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. Since 2023, Vietnamese name in passport has been splitted as two lines instead of all in a line, with middle name is also considered part of given name.[14]

More information Surname, Middle Name ...

See also


  1. News, V. T. V. (2019-04-06). "Trinh Cong Son's music connects people". (in Vietnamese). Retrieved 2021-06-23. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  2. Huy Quoc To, Kiet Van Nguyen, Anh Gia-Tuan Nguyen, Ngan Luu-Thuy Nguyen, Gender Prediction Based on Vietnamese Names with Machine Learning Techniques,
  3. Lê Trung Hoa, Họ Và Tên Người Việt Nam (Vietnamese Family and Personal Names), Social Sciences Publishing House (2005) "::Minh Khai Book Store". Archived from the original on January 31, 2008. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
  4. "Kỳ lạ làng con gái không mang họ cha (Peculiar Villages Where Daughters Don't Bear Their Fathers' Surnames)". Báo Pháp Luật TP. Hồ Chí Minh (in Vietnamese). 2014-11-03. Retrieved 2022-09-03.
  5. "Nơi con gái không mang họ cha (Where Daughters Don't Bear Their Fathers' Surnames)". Báo Giáo dục và Thời đại Online (in Vietnamese). 2020-10-03. Retrieved 2022-09-03.
  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 2015-02-26 at the Wayback Machine). 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.
  10. "Từ 1/1/2023, hộ chiếu tách "họ", "chữ đệm và tên" thành 2 dòng" [From January 1, 2023, passports separate "surname", "middle name and first name" into 2 lines]. Dân Trí (in Vietnamese). 2022-12-31.

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