Choosing a Chinese Name Like a PRO, Tips from Native Speakers // How I Discovered My New Name!

Choosing a Chinese Name | 5 Names From 5 Native Speakers + How You Can Choose Yours

Annie LTL Staff Member
Annie – LTL Staff Member

Have you ever met someone with an unusual English name that made you crack up?

Maybe you’ve come across an Elvis, a Bunny or (as I once did at university) a Window.

That half-amused, half-bemused feeling is exactly how a lot of Taiwanese people responded to my Chinese name: 涵涵 Hánhán...

Therefore I decided to go on a quest.

A quest to find the perfect Chinese name.

This article documents my journey in choosing a Chinese name that didn’t give me that half-amused, half-bemused look!

Choosing a Chinese Name || Chinese Name Structure

Choosing a Chinese Name || Double Character Names

Choosing a Chinese Name || My Mistake!

Choosing a Chinese Name || A Foolproof Method

Choosing a Chinese Name || My Five Options

Choosing a Chinese Name || The Verdict

Choosing a Chinese Name || FAQs

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Choosing a Chinese Name: Chinese Name Structure

TOP TIP || For a simple and easy guide on how Chinese names work, check out our Chinese name blog!

For those of you who don’t know, Chinese names consist of a family name first, followed by one or two characters, which make up the given name.

For example

In the case of Bruce Lee, 李 Lǐ is his family name and 小龙 Xiǎolóng is his given name.

Believe it or not, Bruce wasn’t “Bruce Lee” at birth!

When choosing your Chinese family name, to sound more authentic, you might want to use one of the 10 most common surnames in China.

No worries if you don’t know them, because we do. Check it out:

Choosing a Chinese Name

Did you know? 李 Lǐ, 王 Wáng and 张 Zhāng are so popular that 85% of China’s population has one of these three family names!

Choosing a Chinese Name: Double Character Names

My name, 涵涵 Hánhán, is a double-character name.

A double-character name is just like a regular Chinese name, except that in this case there are two of the same characters, usually following the family name.

Lex the Lion

Now, in mainland China, where I used to live, double-character names are more than acceptable.

As a previous teacher in China, many of my previous students across all age groups had names with repeating characters.

So when it came to choosing a Chinese name for myself, 涵涵 Hánhán felt like a great fit.

I loved this name as it was the nickname of one of my close Chinese friends and just like my English name, Hannah, I could write it backwards and it would still be the same (which felt cool at the time).

BONUS RESOURCE | Discover your Chinese name! If by now you’re feeling curious about what your Chinese name might be, check out our Chinese name generator

Choosing a Chinese Name: My Mistake!

However, in Taiwan, 涵涵 has proven to be pretty controversial.

I’ve received reactions ranging from incredulity to outright dislike. Double-character names are a big no-no here as they sound like nicknames given to young children.

The final straw for me came when someone told me my name sounded like a special kind of ‘masseuse’… after that, I knew it was definitely time to find an alternative!

Although on that note, after some brief inter-web investigations, I was pretty relieved to find out it wasn’t just me who’d made mistakes when choosing a Chinese name…

Choosing a Chinese Name: A Foolproof Method

Choosing a Chinese name was therefore an important task for me, so I needed expert help.

To avoid any similar pitfalls in future, I decided to ask five different native Chinese speakers to give me a Chinese name.

I wanted to have as much variety as possible, so the people I asked included a university classmate, university professors and of course, Chinese teachers!

That way I’d have plenty to choose from and would avoid any less-than-impressed reactions in future.

The time and thought each person put into creating each name left me genuinely touched, and a little spoiled for choice!

On that note, here they are:

Choosing a Chinese Name: My Five Options

Name 1: 栩葵 Xǔkuí

Who?

Annie, LTL Director of Studies

Why

“I gave you this name because 栩 means lively and I think you’re very 活泼 (huópō, lively).

葵 means sunflower, which I chose because I think you’re optimistic and want you to stay that way.

Sunflowers also always face the sun and you were born at midday, when the sun is strongest.”

Name 2: 涵怡 Hányí

Who?

Betty, NTUE Masters Student

Why?

“I gave you the name 涵怡 Hányí because I feel like you are actually LOVE and you are like a love and happiness spreader. 

It’s a little too direct to use 愛 in a name, so I looked for some characters with the 心 radical.

Then I thought of 怡.

It describes a person who is relaxed, comfortable when embraced by Mother Nature and lets others have this kind of feeling and feel joyful.

Looking at the components of 怡,心 is about feeling and love, and 台 can be a memory of your life in Taiwan.

涵 is really a beautiful character, and suits you because you want people around you have love and happiness too.

I feel that this character has a strong but silent confidence. It’s strong because it is used to describe people who know a lot.

It’s silent because people with this name don’t show off.

Therefore they are easy-going, but if other people know them a little more, they will know that people with this character are truly something and they are truly humble too. The definition of 涵 is to contain, to immerse, just like how you want to share harmony with the people around you.

Plus, 涵 is the character you chose for yourself, so I can never tear you and 涵 apart. At least keep one 涵 for yourself!”

Name 3: 賈依娜 Jiǎ Yīnà

Who?

Yun-Ping, University Professor

Why?

“I used the sounds of your English name to choose your Chinese name,賈依娜  Jiǎ Yīnà.

The family name 賈 is based on the first syllable of your last name “Garbett”.

The second character, 依, is based on your middle name “Elizabeth” and the third character 娜 is from the second syllable of your first name, “Hannah”.

Name 4: 貝妍熹 Bèi Yánxī

Who?

Penny, LTL Teacher

Why?

“I chose the name 貝妍熹 Bèi Yánxī for you.

貝 bèi is used in characters for wealth and money, so I hope that you will be rich in your life, it also sounds like the second half of your last name ‘Garbett’.

妍 yán means beautiful.

I think you are beautiful now and will be 40 years later, so at that time people will still ask you where you are studying!

熹 xī means bright and warm, I think you’re a warm person and you were born at midday, when it’s brightest.”

Name 5: 高伊函 Gāo Yīhán

Who?

Elrine, University Chinese Teacher

Why?

“The name I have chosen for you is 高伊函 Gāo Yīhán.

In terms of the pronunciation of this name, I chose characters that sound uplifting. I also hope that with this name, you will flourish in the future.

I chose a name that has 24 strokes because according to 黃曆 huánglì, The Chinese Calendar, a name with 24 strokes represents 吉jí, meaning lucky.

Therefore, this name will bring you good fortune!

As for the individual names, I chose 高 based on your English surname, as the pronunciation is similar.

I chose 伊 because on one hand because its pronunciation is similar to your middle name, Elizabeth.

It also refers to the customary words used in our country to translate the name of the Queen of England!

Finally, I chose 函 as it is similar to the pronunciation of Hannah. This character also means “armor” and “tolerance”.

Choosing a Chinese Name: The Verdict

The verdict: I love them all!

Each name is wonderful and meaningful in its own unique way. 

That being said, my personal highlights are:

怡 yí to represent love and Taiwan

熹 xī, as I think this character is aesthetically beautiful. Plus it means warmth and brightness and links back to the time of day I was born.

葵 kuí, which represents optimism, and coincidentally my favourite flower: sunflowers!

The whole of 高伊函 Gāo Yīhán, with its 24 lucky strokes and link to the Queen. A very British name for a British person!

Through this little experiment, I’ve learned that a name can be a gift from one person to another and really does carry a lot of meaning.

It’s also made me realise that Chinese names shouldn’t be chosen lightly and always benefit from the insights of native speakers.

I’m still trying to decide on which name to use, so if you have a favourite from the list, do get in touch with a comment and let me know!

Choosing a Chinese Name: FAQs

Do I really need a Chinese name?

When learning Chinese, it can really help to have a Chinese version of your name, as it’s easier for your new Chinese friends and colleagues to remember.

Having a Chinese name can also make you feel a lot more immersed in the language and culture.

However, this is totally up to you to decide!

Can you help me choose a Chinese name?

Absolutely!

Check out our Chinese Name Generator for inspiration.

Alternatively, if you sign up to our online Flexi Classes, our LTL teachers will be more than happy to craft a name for you!

Can I choose a name that sounds like my English name?

You can indeed!

For example, if your name is Lily, your Chinese name can be 丽丽 Lìlì.

Alternatively, if your name is Harry, you could use the name 哈利 Hālì!

What are the five most common family names in China?

The five most common family names in China are:

1. 王 Wáng

2. 李 Lǐ

3. 张 Zhāng

4. 刘 Liú

5. 陈 Chén

What are the most popular boy names in China?

Currently, the five most common baby boy names in China are:

1. 沐宸 Mùchén

2. 浩宇 Hàoyǔ

3. 沐辰 Mùchén (with a slightly different second character than the first Mùchén!)

4. 茗泽 Míngzé

5. 奕辰 Yìchén

What are the most popular girl names in China?

Currently, the five most common baby girl names in China are:

1. 若汐 Ruòxī

2. 一诺 Yīnuò

3. 艺涵 Yìhán

4. 依诺 Yīnuò (with a different first character!)

5. 梓涵 Zǐhán

How do you say ‘What is your name?’ in Chinese?

你叫什么名字?nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?

If you’re not sure how to pronounce this sentence, take a look at our Ultimate Pinyin Guide!

How do you say ‘My name is…’ in Chinese?

You can either say:

1. 我叫... wǒ jiào… (meaning ‘I am’ or ‘I am called’)

or

2. 我的名字是… wǒ de míngzì shì… (meaning ‘my name is’)

If you’re not sure how to pronounce these sentences, take a look at our Ultimate Pinyin Guide!

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  • LTL Avatar Alexander Krasnov
    Alexander Krasnov , Student Advisor

    Welcome to LTL Mandarin School!

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