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Updated March 7, 2024

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Are you of Chinese or Vietnamese descent? Have you ever wondered where your family name came from? Below we have a list of the most popular and well-known Vietnamese surnames with their meanings so you can learn a little bit more about your name. You will also notice some information on the origins of Vietnamese surnames and some naming traditions as well!

Origin of Vietnamese Surnames

The Vietnamese began using last names in about 111 B.C. when China conquered Vietnam. The most popular last name in Vietnam is Nguyen, which was the name of the ruling dynasty from 1802 to 1945. The people of Vietnam weren't all that attached to last names, and would frequently change them to that of the ruling family. About 40 percent of Vietnam's population is named Nguyen. 

Around 40% have this name and it is also seen around the world in other countries such as Australia and France. This is due to other people like the French colonizing Vietnam in the 19th century. The Nguyen Dynasty was feared by many and the people who didn't flee to China changed their name to Nguyen to avoid retribution or prosecution.

Last Names Vietnam

Image: Floating Village in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Vietnamese Surnames: ​Naming Practices

There is not much to say when it comes to Vietnamese naming traditions. Typically, they follow a different structure compared to other cultures. They go by family name first, middle name second, and given name last. Like in most countries, the family name is inherited by the child's parents. It is usually the father's surname that is used, but some families use a combination of his name and the mother's. Sometimes you won't see a middle name at all. Instead, some adopt a double-given name. This is fairly common.

Common Vietnamese Last Names and Meanings

Dive into the rich tapestry of Vietnamese culture as we explore the fascinating world of Vietnamese surnames and meanings. Each name carries a unique story, a hint of history, and a touch of the individual family's legacy!

  1. Anh - This is the Korean version of the surname "An" which is Chinese for "peace."
  2. Bao - This surname has three different meanings since three Names are Romanized as "Bao." They are "to package," "sudden," and an old place name that means "abalone."
  3. Bui -This Vietnamese surname's origin is unexplained. However, it is also a northern French dialect of "Bois."
  4. Chau - This Vietnamese surname has Chinese origins and is the Cantonese variant of several other surnames such as "Chow" and "Zou."
  5. Cong - This Chinese surname was used to describe people who resided in "Cong Yang."
  6. Dai - This is a habitational name that was adopted in two instances. First, by the people in the Henan province that used to be called the State of Dai. And second, by a duke of the State of Song had the name Dai so many people took it as their surname.
  7. Dang - The Chinese character used for this surname means "political party" and it also comes from a ruling family during the Zhou Dynasty.
  8. Dao - This is a common surname in Vietnam that is mainly used by the Chinese and it means "pottery" or "pleased."
  9. Dinh - This surname means "stable" in Vietnamese.
  10. Duong - This is a popular surname in Chinese communities in Vietnam. It means "poplar."
  11. Duy - This is a surname that is also commonly used as a Vietnamese given name. It means "virtuous."
  12. Giang - This name means "river" in Sino-Vietnamese.
  13. Hoa - This name means "to flower" or "to blossom" in Sino-Vietnamese.
  14. Hoang - This is a Vietnamese surname commonly used in Chinese communities and it means "to fall through."
  15. Huy - This name isn't only a common Vietnamese surname, but also a Vietnamese given name for boys. It means "successful" or "to promise."
  16. Huynh - This surname means "gold-colored" in Vietnamese and is related to the name "Huang" which is commonly seen in China.
  17. Khánh - In Sino-Vietnamese, "Khanh" means "to congratulate." It is more commonly seen among Vietnamese immigrants.
  18. Kim - This surname has origins as a Korean family name. It means "gold" or "metal."
  19. Lai - This is a common Chinese surname that means "to trust" or "to rely on."
  20. Lam - This name means "forest" in Vietnamese and "orchid" in Chinese.
  21. Lan - This surname is a Chinese given name for girls and it means "orchid flower." It is more used as a given name for boys in Vietnamese.
  22. Linh - This name is Sino-Vietnamese for "soul" or "spirit."
  23. Minh - In Chinese, this name means "bright" and it is popular as a Vietnamese surname.
  24. Ngo - This is one of the most common Vietnamese surnames and it means "corn" in modern Vietnamese.
  25. Ngoc - This surname means "precious stone" or "gem" in Vietnamese.
  26. Nguy - This Vietnamese name has Chinese roots and it means "to endanger."
  27. Nguyen - This is the top surname in popularity in Vietnam and it means "musical instrument."
  28. Nhat - This name means "to live a long life" in Vietnamese.
  29. Pham - In Vietnamese, this surname means "extensive."
  30. Phan - This is a Vietnamese family name that is derived from the Phan River in Vietnam.
  31. Phuong - This surname means "phoenix" in Vietnamese.
  32. Quang - This surname means "bright" or "clear" in Sino-Vietnamese.
  33. Quoc - This Vietnamese name means "the country."
  34. Thanh - This name means "brilliant" in Vietnamese.
  35. Thuy - This name means "water" and "gentlewoman." It is both a family name and used as a given name for baby girls.
  36. Tien - This name is derived from the Sino-Vietnamese word for "fairy" or "celestial being."
  37. Tran - This name is very popular in Vietnam and translates to mean "a family name." It is also sometimes used as a given name for baby boys.
  38. Trang - This Vietnamese surname is derived from the Chinese surname "Zhang." It means "intelligent."
  39. Trinh - This Vietnamese surname is commonly found in Chinese communities in Vietnam and it means "rule" or "order." You can also find that it is common in Korea as well.
  40. Trung - This name means "medium" in Vietnamese.
  41. Tuan - This name means "like a gentleman" in Vietnamese.
  42. Van - This surname means "cloud" in Vietnamese and "culture" in Sino-Vietnamese.
  43. Viet - This surname simply means "of Vietnamese descent."
  44. Vinh - This is a Sino-Vietnamese surname that means "glory."
  45. Xuan - This is a popular Vietnamese surname and a given name that means "spring."

Most Popular Vietnamese Surnames and Meanings

Navigating through the intricate web of Vietnamese culture, it's impossible to overlook the significance and ubiquity of Vietnamese surnames. Here are the ten most popular Vietnamese last names, along with their meanings:

  1. Ang - Derived from the Chinese surname "Hong," often representing the phoenix, a symbol of peace and prosperity.
  2. Bui - Originating from the Chinese surname "Pei," meaning "cup" or "talent," indicating a person of capability and distinction.
  3. Do - With roots in the Chinese surname "Du," it often signifies moral integrity and virtue.
  4. Le - Adapted from the Chinese surname "Li," meaning "plum" or "plum tree," a symbol of strength, resilience, and beauty in Vietnamese culture.
  5. Luu - Comes from the Chinese surname "Liu," representing the willow tree, symbolizing flexibility and grace.
  6. Phuong - Meaning "phoenix" in Vietnamese, it symbolizes beauty, luck, and immortality, reflecting high aspirations.
  7. Son/Sohn/Shon - These variations represent the Vietnamese adaptation of the Chinese surname "Shen," meaning "spirit" or "deep," suggesting depth of character or spirituality.
  8. Thi - Often used as a second name for girls in Vietnam, "Thi" means "poetry," reflecting a love for beauty and the arts.
  9. Vo - Originating from the Chinese surname "Wu," meaning "martial" or "military," indicating bravery and strength.
  10. Vu - Derived from the Chinese surname "Wu," it can also mean "rain" in some contexts, symbolizing nourishment and growth.

What Is a Typical Vietnamese Last Name?

A typical Vietnamese last name is Nguyen. It is the most common surname in Vietnam, representing about 40% of the population. This prevalence is due to historical figures and royal families adopting and popularizing the name over centuries.

What Is a Rare Vietnamese Last Name?

Outside of popular surnames, a rare Vietnamese last name is Le Quyen. While Le is a common surname, the addition of Quyen, which often signifies power and rights, is much less common and can be considered unique within the Vietnamese community.

Stefanie Miller

About Stefanie

Stefanie is an experienced parenting writer and has published works in other publications… Read more

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