Frequently Asked Questions
How do Chinese names work?
Chinese names are composed of a surname and a given name -- in that order. The surname is generally a single character, although there are a few two-character surnames as well. The given name can be one or two characters.
Do Chinese women change their surnames when they get married?
No, women don’t change their surnames, nor do men.
How do Chinese parents pick their children's names?
Names represent character. When parents pick their children’s names they express qualities and personality traits that they want their children to possess.
Chinese names don’t come in the form of a list from which you can pick one that you like best. Rather, parents usually make a number of attempts at combining various characters into a name until it sounds just right and matches the surname.
How do foreigners get their Chinese names?
Generally there are two ways to get a Chinese name. Foreign names can be transliterated, which means that a name will consist of characters that sound similar to the original syllables. Transliterated names are usually longer than authentic Chinese names and they sound really, really clumsy.
E. g., David Beckham is translated into 大卫·贝克汉姆 (Dàwèi·Bèikè hànmǔ)
Note that the transliterated name is still perceived as a foregin one, that’s why the order of the given name and surname doesn’t change.
However if a foreigner wishes to pick an authentic Chinese name, he or she could get one just like how Chinese children get theirs from their parents. In this case, the full name will consist of one surname character followed by one or two first-name characters.
Can my Chinese name be auto-generated?
Unfortunately, most such names sound weird or even ridiculous.
Can I Google-translate my name into Chinese?
The short answer is no. You'll likely get a clumsy transliteration for most European names. Let's see how Google translates the very common name Sarah: 莎拉 (Shālā).
It sounds exactly the same as the Chinese word for salad, 沙拉 (shā lā).
Sarah = 莎拉 (Shālā) = 沙拉 (shā lā) = Salad
So, if you don't want people to laugh at you behind your back do not rely on Google Translate for getting yourself a Chinese name.
Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, Mary is, acccording to Google, 玛丽 (Mǎlì), which is perceived by native Chinese speakers as a neutral name.
Can I get a Chinese name based on the meaning of my original name?
Yes, you can but there are a lot of pitfalls that only a native speaker can avoid. E. g., the original Latin meaning of the name Grace is God's grace, or 恩典 (Ēndiǎn) in Chinese. Just like in English, it is a nice, poetic word but it would sound really, really weird if it were someone's name. This subtle change in meaning that occurs when a common noun begins to function as a name can only be captured by a native speaker.
Will my Chinese (Mandarin) name work in Cantonese-speaking areas?
Yes, especially if you get it from our name-picking service. Since our staff is mostly bilingual, we make sure that the full name doesn't contain any inappropriacies in either dialect. (More on the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese.)
How does your name-picking service work?
First, we ask you to give us your original name, gender, and (optionally) age. Most importantly, we need to know what qualities you'd like your name to represent. See Annotated examples of the name-picking process.
We do NOT use automated tools at any stage of the process. Everything is done by a real native Chinese speaker.
You can order your authentic Chinese name on this page.