Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Chinese Names

There are over fifty ethnic minorities in China although Han Chinese are in the majority so names can be found in different versions. Transliteration into Pinyin, the system used for writing Chinese in Western script, can also lead to variations.

Most Chinese names consist of three elements, words or characters. The surname or family name comes first, then the generation name. This is given to all children in a family, brothers, sisters and cousins, and is often taken from a poem which has been used by the family for many generations. Last comes the personal name which is carefully chosen to make a favourable meaning when combined with the generation name. Single element names do occur when the generation name is not used. Elements or characters can be used for boys or girls - flower names are not necessarily female, for instance. I have made separate lists for males and females according to which gender the person I've come across with each name belongs.

Name Elements



An - peace Hong - red
Ao - chrysanthemum Hua - flower
Dá - high position Lian - lotus
Dà - big Li - beautiful
De - virtuous Mei - beautiful
Hua - magnificant Qin/Chin - musical instrument
Ju - proud Qing - blue
Qiang/Chiang - strong Shu - good
Tai - peace/healthy Wan - beautiful
Wen - scholar Xia - cloud
Wu - military Xiao - small
Xiong - hero Ying - flower
Zhi - ambitious Yue - moon


y- (as in "yes")
h- (as in "hot") note: slightly more aspirated than in English
ch/zh- (as in "jeweler")
c- (like the "ts" in "it's high", but with a strong puff of breath)
j- (as in "Jeff")
q- (like the "ch" in "cheese")
x- (like the "sh" in "sheep"
-a (as in father)
-an (like the sounds of "John" or "ahn")
-ang (like the sound of "an" above (ahng) with the addition of "g")
-ai (as in "high")
-ao (as in "how")
-ar (as in "bar")
-o (like "aw")
-ou (like the "ow" in "low"
-ong (like the "ung" in "jungle" with a slight "oo" sound)
-e (sounds like "uh")
-en (like "un" in "under")
-eng (like the "ung" in "lung")
-ei (like a long "a" or the "ei" in "eight")
-er (like the "er" in "herd")
-i (like a long "e" or the "i" in "machine")
-in (as in "bin")
-ing (like "sing")
-u (like the "oo" in "loop")
-un (as in "fun")
Ni (sounds like "knee")
Hao (sounds like "how" with a little more aspiration)
Dong (sounds like "doong"
Qi (sounds like "chee")
Gong (sounds like "gung")
Tai (sounds like "tie")
Ji (sounds like "gee")
Quan (sounds like "chwan")

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

tekeli.li home|Onomastikon home