Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's your Chinese name?

As you all must know by now, Mǎ Sī Wén (马思文) is my Chinese name. It was given to me by my Chinese language teachers in China, and seems like some of you have struggled with it. I have been called Ma, Ma Si, Si Wen, Ma Si Wen, and few other combinations of these three words. So what is my family name and what is my given name? Here is the breakdown:

(Mǎ) : Family Name

思文(Sī Wén): Given Name

As you can see, family names are written first in China. And Chinese people usually have two given names, which are written after the family name. So next time you see a Chinese name, the first one is the family name and the next two (or one in some cases) are the given names.

Below are the five most common Chinese surnames according to a study published in 2006.






It is more common to call people by their full names in China, rather than just use the given name or the family name by itself. When using family names, make sure that you use the right form of address:

Forms of address


先生(xiānshēng): Mr

王先生 (Wáng xiānshēng)

(nǚshì): Ms

(Li nǚshì)

(lǎo): Old

老张 (lǎo Zhāng)

(xiǎo): Young/Small

小陈 (xiǎo Chén)

老师(Lǎoshī): Teacher

老师 (Liú lǎoshī)

Do you want a Chinese name too? Get yourself a Chinese name here. Please leave a comment and post your Chinese name.


  1. My name is Shen Mu (long for, desire, admire) tou (penetrate, pass through). Shen Mu tou. I like it.

  2. My family name is - 宛. Have you ever seen it in the course of your studing Chinese culture?

  3. My name is Song Ao (mysterious, obscure, profound) Rui (sharp). I like it :)

  4. I am a native Mandarin speaker and I grew up in China. 宛 is not a common last name. For more information on Chinese names,check out my blog post:

  5. Alice, I agree 宛 is not a very common last name. Maybe that's why it didn't make it to the "most common last names" list above.

  6. My Chinese name is luo de bo er 罗得波尔 = Rod Pohl the chinese is written family name last

  7. Thanks for the comment Rod Pohl. It seems like your Chinese name was picked such that it sounds like your actual name. That might be the reason why your family name is written last, unlike other Chinese names.

  8. Mine is 林小玉, which I was given long before I took Chinese classes, so I didn't have to go through the trouble of choosing one or using a generator ^^

  9. My chinese name is Ai mi li. My friend gave it to me. It shoulld be a rough translation of my name Emily.

  10. Hi. can u help me please.
    My name is Lidia . But my grandma has give me name (chinese name ) : Mei Jin

    and my family name : Fang.

    so how to write Fang Mei Jin?

  11. my name is Ai Ta, taken from my language name, Eita and translates directly to love tower, cool huh?

  12. My Chinese name is Han Shun shu.