Grammar Lesson 5:

Names in Chinese

The number of Chinese surnames are quite limited and not very unique, unlike first names which can combine a lot of different characters. When writing a Chinese name you put the surname first and then the first name. Bruce Lee's Chinese name is 李小龍, where 李 (Lee or Li) is his surname. His first name 小龍 (xiao3 long2) means "little dragon".

Some of the most common Chinese surnames are:

李 Lǐ
王 Wáng
張 / 张 Zhāng
劉 / 刘 Liú
陳 / 陈 Chén
林 Lín

Most Chinese surnames are single characters, there are exceptions however. For instance Zhuge (諸葛/诸葛) is a two-character surname.

Western names are often written in Chinese characters, so the names sound quite different compared to the normal way to say it. Instead of Marilyn Monroe a Chinese person would say "Mǎlìlián Mènglòu" (瑪麗蓮夢露/玛丽莲梦露), Schwarzenegger becomes "Shǐwǎxīngé" (史瓦辛格)

Learn Chinese and other languages online with our audio flashcard system and various exercises, such as multiple choice tests, writing exercises, games and listening exercises.

Click here to Sign Up Free!

Or sign up via Facebook/Google with one click:

    Log in with Google

Watch a short Intro by a real user!