When traveling about in China, you’ll need to introduce yourself to those you meet along the way. The vast differences between Chinese and English mean it’s important to know the Chinese equivalent of your English name. Read on to discover how to say your name in Chinese!

 

a CLI teacher teaching a student

English versus Chinese names

Many long-term expats and Mandarin language students will tell you that the most enriching aspect of their experience in China was meeting new people and making friends with locals.

Knowing how to introduce yourself when you first start meeting new people in China can be tough, though, since direct equivalents of English names are not used in China (except perhaps in English class).

While many young people in big Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing speak English and are familiar with the English pronunciation of most common English names, older people and people living in smaller cities like Guilin may struggle to recognize, remember and pronounce them.

 

a CLI student with four Chinese students

When meeting people in China, it’s important to know how to say your name in Chinese.

Chinese names

Generally, choosing a culturally appropriate Chinese moniker for yourself is highly recommended.

The logic behind names in China is quite different from the logic behind names in the West, however. Therefore, deciding what to call yourself in China can be somewhat complicated and generally requires assistance from a Chinese language teacher.

 

 

Many foreigners who have spent many years interacting with China and learning Chinese have chosen special “Chinese names.”

These unique appellations are usually chosen based on the sounds and meanings of the Chinese characters that they include, instead of being direct transliterations of their English equivalents.

 

two CLI students and a small Chinese child eating dinner

Choosing a culturally appropriate Chinese name for yourself requires time and effort.

 

Good examples of foreigners who have chosen authentic Chinese names for themselves include sinologist Jonathon Spence, who goes by 史景迁 (Shǐ Jǐngqiān), and writer Peter Hessler, who is known as 何伟 (Hé Wěi) in China.

If for some reason you don’t have time to consult a Chinese teacher when choosing a Chinese moniker for yourself, it’s still useful to know what the accepted Chinese equivalent of your English name is so you can use it to introduce yourself to your new friends in China.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Chinese Language Institute (@studycli)

Chinese transliterations of English names

Westerners have been interacting with China for hundreds of years, so even though English names aren’t used in China, generally accepted equivalents for many of them do exist. In almost every case, these names are actually transliterations of the English versions.

Although the Chinese equivalents of common English names may look completely unrecognizable when written in Chinese characters, many of them look quite similar to their English counterparts when written in pinyin.

 

a blond CLI student and her teacher write Chinese characters on a white board

Common English names can be written in Chinese through a process of transliteration.

 

For example, the Chinese characters for Natalie are 娜塔莉, but the pinyin is written as Nàtǎlì. Likewise, Anna is written as 安娜 using Chinese characters, but its pinyin equivalent, Ānnà, is almost identical to the English version (aside from the tone marks).

Transliterated English names may sound a bit odd to the untrained ear due to the fact that phonetically translating each syllable using Chinese characters means that the Chinese versions must be pronounced using Chinese tones. However, with practice, you’ll soon learn to recognize the similarities between the Chinese versions and the English originals.

Choosing appropriate Chinese characters

Another interesting aspect of Chinese transliterations of English names is the fact that the transliterations often follow some of the same rules that Chinese parents take into consideration when naming their children.

 

a young CLI student writing his name in Chinese

The characters used in Chinese transliterations of common English names are usually chosen according to a special set of rules and cultural norms.

Auspicious meanings

Chinese parents usually try to choose names that feature Chinese characters with auspicious meanings. In a similar vein, many of the characters used in Chinese transliterations of English names also have positive or auspicious meanings.

For example, the character 德 (dé), which means “virtue,” is contained in the Chinese transliterations of frequently used English monikers like Richard (理查德 Lǐchádé) and Harold (哈罗德 Hāluōdé).

Likewise, the character 安 (ān), which means “peace,” is included in the transliteration of Anthony (安东尼 Āndōngní) and Ryan (赖安 Laì’ān).

Other characters with positive connotations, such as 杰 (jié, outstanding person, hero) and 特 (tè, exceptional) can be found in multiple different Chinese transliterations of English names.

Gender-based naming conventions

When choosing names for girls, Chinese parents frequently choose characters with connotations that are traditionally thought of as being “feminine.”

This habit has also carried over into the choice of characters used in Chinese transliterations of traditionally female English names. For example, both Patricia (帕特丽夏 Pàtèlìxià) and Elizabeth (伊丽莎白 Yīlìshābái), contain the character 丽 (lì), which means beautiful or pretty.

 

a blond girl holding a Chinese calligraphy brush

English girls’ names are often transliterated using characters associated with feminine characteristics.

What about surnames?

In general, Chinese surnames are only one character long. Most foreign surnames, however, often consist of at least two syllables. Thus, when transliterating foreign surnames directly into Chinese, it is often not possible to use a common Chinese surname as a substitute. Rather, it is most common to simply transcribe English surnames phonetically using pinyin.

Chinese surnames generally come first, before given names, in contrast to English surnames, which come last. Traditionally, when full English names that include both the first name and the surname are rendered in Chinese, the English word order is usually retained.

To show where the given name ends and the surname begins, a dot symbol is often used. For example, basketball star Kobe Bryant is generally referred to as 科比·布莱恩特 (Kēbǐ·Bùlái’ēntè) in China.

 

a CLI student eats a meal outdoors beside a road with three Chinese people

Unlike English surnames, Chinese surnames come first, before given names.

What’s in a name?

Although Chinese equivalents of English names are not commonly used in China and it’s always better to choose a more authentic Chinese moniker, there are times when knowing some of the most common Chinese transliterations can be useful.

Examining the strategies used to produce these transliterations also provides fascinating insights into Chinese culture.

Curious to know how to say your name in Chinese? Check out our lists of popular English names and their Chinese equivalents below!

 

a CLI staff member writing on a poster next to the CLI logo

Learning to say your name in Chinese is essential for those who plan to travel in China.

100 Common English Names for Women in Chinese

The names listed below were the most common names for women in the United States between 1920-2019, according to the Social Security Administration.

 

English NameChinese EquivalentPinyin
Abigail亚比该Yǎbǐgāi
Alexis阿列克西斯Ālièkèxīsī
Alice爱丽丝Àilìsī
Amanda阿曼达Āmàndá
Amber安柏Ānbǎi
Amy艾米Àimǐ
Andrea安德烈娅Āndélièyà
Angela安格拉Āngélā
AnnĀn
Anna安娜Ānnà
Ashley阿什利Āshénlì
Barbara芭芭拉Bābālā
Betty贝蒂Bèidì
Beverly比佛利Bǐfúlì
Brenda布兰达Bùlándá
Brittany布莱特妮Bùláitènī
Carol卡罗尔Kǎluó‘ěr
Carolyn卡罗琳Kǎluólín
Catherine凯瑟琳Kǎisèlín
Charlotte夏洛特Xiàluòtè
Cheryl谢丽尔Xièlì’ěr
Christina克里斯蒂娜Kèlǐsīdìnà
Christine克丽丝汀Kèlìsītīng
Cynthia辛西雅Xīnxīyǎ
Danielle丹妮尔Dānnī'ěr
Deborah底波拉Dǐbōlā
Debra黛博拉Dàibólā
Denise丹妮丝Dānnīsī
Diana戴安娜Dài'ānnà
Diane黛安Dài’ān
Donna唐娜Tángnà
Doris多丽丝Duōlìsī
Dorothy多萝西Duōluóxī
Elizabeth伊丽莎白Yīlìshābái
Emily埃米莉Āimǐlì
Emma爱玛Àimǎ
Evelyn伊芙琳Yīfúlín
Frances弗兰西丝Fúlánxīsī
Gloria格洛丽亚Géluòlìyà
Grace格蕾丝Gélěisī
Hannah汉娜Hànnà
Heather海瑟Hǎisè
Helen海伦Hǎilún
Isabella伊莎贝拉Yīshābèilā
Jacqueline杰奎琳Jiékuílín
Janet珍妮特Zhēnnītè
Janice珍妮丝Zhēnnīsī
JeanZhēn
Jennifer珍妮佛Zhēnnīfú
Jessica杰西卡Jiéxīkǎ
JoanQióng
Joyce乔伊斯Qiáoyīsī
Judith朱迪思Zhūdísī
Judy朱迪Zhūdí
Julia朱莉亚Zhūlìyà
Julie朱丽Zhūlì
Karen凯伦Kǎilún
Katherine凯萨琳Kǎisàlín
Kathleen凯瑟琳Kǎisèlín
Kathryn凯瑟琳Kǎisèlín
Kayla凯拉Kǎilā
Kelly凯利Kǎilì
Kimberly金伯利Jīnbólì
Laura劳拉Láolā
Lauren劳伦Láolún
Linda琳达Líndá
Lisa丽莎Lìshā
Madison麦迪逊Màidíxùn
Margaret玛格丽特Mǎgélìtè
Maria玛丽亚Mǎlìyǎ
Marie玛丽Mǎlì
Marilyn玛丽莲Mǎlìlián
Martha玛莎Mǎshā
Mary玛丽Mǎlì
Megan梅根Méigēn
Melissa梅丽莎Méilìshā
Michelle米歇尔Mǐxiē'ěr
Nancy南希Nánxī
Natalie娜塔莉Nàtǎlì
Nicole妮可Nīkě
Olivia奥利维亚Àolìwéiyǎ
Pamela帕米拉Pàmǐlā
Patricia帕特丽夏Pàtèlìxià
Rachel雷切尔Léiqiè'ěr
Rebecca利百加Lìbǎijiā
Rose萝丝Luósī
Ruth路得Lùdé
Samantha萨曼莎Sàmànshā
Sandra桑德拉Sāngdélā
Sara莎拉Shālā
Sarah莎拉Shālā
Sharon雪伦Xuělún
Shirley雪莉Xuělì
Sophia索菲亚Suǒfēiyà
Stephanie丝黛芬妮Sīdàifēnnī
Susan苏珊Sūshān
Teresa特里萨Tèlǐsà
Theresa特里萨Tèlǐsà
Victoria维多利亚Wéiduōlìyǎ
Virginia弗吉尼亚Fújíníyǎ

100 Common English Names for Men in Chinese

According to the Social Security Administration, the names below were the most common names for U.S. men between 1920-2019.

 

English NameChinese EquivalentPinyin
Aaron亚伦Yàlún
Adam亚当Yàdāng
Alan艾伦Àilún
Albert阿尔伯特Ā'ěrbótè
Alexander亚力山大Yàlìshāndà
Andrew安德鲁Āndélǔ
Anthony安东尼Āndōngní
Arthur亚瑟Yàsè
Austin奥斯汀Àosītīng
Benjamin本杰明Běnjiémíng
Billy比利Bǐlì
Bobby巴比Bābǐ
Bradley布莱德利Bùláidélì
Brandon布兰登Bùlándēng
Brian布莱恩Bùlái'ēn
Bruce布鲁斯Bùlǔsī
Bryan布赖恩Bùlài'ēn
Carl卡尔Kǎ'ěr
Charles查尔斯Chá'ěrsī
Christian克里斯蒂安Kèlǐsīdì'ān
Christopher克里斯托弗Kèlǐsītuōfú
Daniel丹尼尔Dānní'ěr
David大卫Dàwèi
Dennis丹尼斯Dānnísī
Donald唐纳德Tángnàdé
Douglas道格拉斯Dàogélāsī
Dylan迪伦Dílún
Edward爱德华Àidéhuá
Eric埃里克Āilǐkè
Ethan伊桑Yīsāng
Eugene尤金Yóujīn
Frank弗兰克Fúlánkè
Gabriel加百列Jiābǎiliè
Gary加里Jiālǐ
George乔治Qiáozhì
Gerald杰拉尔德Jiélā'ěrdé
Gregory格里高利Gélǐgāolì
Harold哈罗德Hāluōdé
Henry亨利Hēnglì
Jack杰克Jiékè
Jacob雅各Yǎgè
James詹姆斯Zhānmǔsī
Jason杰森Jiésēn
Jeffrey杰弗里Jiéfúlǐ
Jeremy杰里米Jiélǐmǐ
Jerry杰瑞Jiéruì
Jesse杰西Jiéxī
JoeQiáo
John约翰Yuēhàn
Johnny强尼Qiángní
Jonathan乔纳森Qiáonàsēn
Jordan约旦Yuēdàn
Jose霍赛Huòsài
Joseph约瑟夫Yuēsèfū
Joshua约书亚Yuēshūyà
Juan胡安Hú'ān
Justin贾斯汀Jiǎsītīng
Keith基思Jīsī
Kenneth肯尼思Kěnnísī
Kevin克文Kèwén
Kyle凯尔Kǎi'ěr
Larry拉里Lālǐ
Lawrence劳伦斯Láolúnsī
Logan罗根Luógēn
Louis路易斯Lùyìsī
Mark马克Mǎkè
Matthew马太Mǎtài
Michael迈克尔Màikè'ěr
Nathan內森Nèisēn
Nicholas尼古拉斯Nígǔlāsī
Noah诺亚Nuòyǎ
Patrick帕特里克Pàtèlǐkè
Paul保罗Bǎoluó
Peter彼得Bǐdé
Philip斐理伯Fěilǐbó
Ralph拉尔夫Lā'ěrfū
Randy兰迪Lándí
Raymond雷蒙德Léiméngdé
Richard理查德Lǐchádé
Robert罗伯特Luóbótè
Roger罗杰Luójié
Ronald罗纳德Luónàdé
Roy罗伊Luōyī
Russell罗素Luósù
Ryan赖安Laì'ān
Samuel塞缪尔Sāimiù'ěr
Scott斯考特Sīkǎotè
Sean肖恩Xiào'ēn
Stephen斯蒂芬Sīdìfēn
Steven史蒂文Shǐdìwén
Terry特利Tèlè
Thomas托马斯Tuōmǎsī
Timothy提摩太Tímótài
Tyler泰勒Tàilè
Vincent文森特Wénsēntè
Walter瓦尔特Wǎ'ěrtè
Wayne韦恩Wéi'ēn
William威廉Wēilián
Willie威利Wēilì
Zachary匝加利Zājiālì