How We Choose a Name For You
Let's take a look at a couple of examples. This is how we would help a Thomas Smith and a Mary Lambert get their Chinese names.
1. Thomas Smith
English name: Thomas Smith
Qualities: strength, intelligence, power
Special request(s): I would like my surname to mean “dragon”.
First, note that the transliteration 托马斯 史密斯 (tuōmǎsī shǐmìsī) doesn't work for this and most other European names because it would be long and sound clumsy. We need a "smarter" approach.
Generally, one can't just pick a random character and use it for a surname, since there are only a few dozen characters that can be used for that purpose. Luckily for Thomas, dragon happens to be one of them.
So, here is what we would suggest:
Surname: 龙 (Lóng) means dragon. Incidentally, it was also the symbol of the Chinese Emperor, which matches the qualities Thomas seeks.
First name: 智杰 (Zhìjié). 智 means intelligence, wisdom. 杰 means outstanding, prominent.
Full name: 龙智杰 (Lóng Zhìjié)
This name is short, neat, and tonally mellifluous. The syllables flow up and down like a soothing wave. The name also carries connotations to Thomas's desired qualities. Much better than the clunky transliteration 托马斯 史密斯 (tuōmǎsī shǐmìsī), isn't it?
2. Mary Lambert
English name: Mary Lambert
Qualities: beauty, family, loyalty
Mary is one the few English names whose Chinese transliteration is more or less OK, so Mary could assume the name 玛丽 (Mǎlì). However, if you ask someone from China what it sounds like they will say that it feels a bit foreign. On the other hand, the first character 玛 (Mǎ) means agate and therefore doesn't convey any of the qualities Mary wants.
Upon reflection, we believe that 家丽 (Jiālì) is the perfect choice for the following reasons. The first character 家 (Jiā) means family and it also presumes loyalty in Chinese.
The meaning of the second character 丽 (lì) is beauty. Note that this character is the Chinese version of the English syllable -ry in Ma-ry. So, not only will Mary have beauty, family, and loyalty in her Chinese name, she will also retain some connection to her original name.
As for the surname, 林 (Lín) would be a good choice for Mary Lambert, since to a native ear, it sounds somewhat like the first syllable Lam- of Lambert. This character translates as forest. As we mentioned earlier, our choice is quite limited when it comes to surnames because there are few characters that can be used as surnames.
This is what Mary will get at the end:
Full name: 林家丽 (Lín Jiālì)
The overall sequence of tones sounds pleasant, which adds to Mary's beauty.