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From How to Say Chinese Names in English
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How to Say Chinese Names in English

with 166,872 Chinese first and last names

and 816 audios of all Mandarin Chinese syllables and their closest English pronunciations

Quick start

Chinese names can be difficult to say for English speakers (for example, try to say "Zixuan" or my name "Boxiao"). This website shows you the easiest way to say in English the names of your Chinese friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, students, subordinates, professors, managers, clients, business partners, competitors, and officials. Hopefully, this will reduce the communication barrier and make your neighborhood and workplace a little bit more diverse and inclusive than yesterday.

Simply enter the first or last name (not together) you want to search in the search box, and press Enter. Try "Zixuan", "Boxiao", "Beijing", and "Shanghai" to see how it works.

Basic knowledge of Chinese names
  • In China, people state their last names (family names) first, and first names (given names) last. I call myself Li Boxiao in China (Li is my family name), but in western countries, I call myself Boxiao Li, following the western tradition.
  • In news articles, famous Chinese figures are often referred in Chinese tradition, e.g., Xi Jinping (Xi is family name) and Yao Ming (Yao is family name).
  • Chinese family names usually have one syllable, and given names usually no more than two. Each Chinese character is one syllable.
  • Some rare family names have two syllables, such as Ouyang, Sima, and Zhuge.
  • It is common for two unrelated Chinese to share the same family name, but sharing the same given name is much less common.
Syllables in Chinese
Fun facts
  • Mandarin Chinese sounds are Romanized in English alphabet called "Pinyin" ("spell of sounds").
  • Not all Chinese nationals have their names pronounced in Pinyin. Exceptions include:
    1. Ethnic minority names are often pronounced in their native languages, e.g., Aisin Gioro, Bat-Erdene, Mehmet, Tenzin, etc.
    2. People in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan regions often use different Pinyin systems, e.g., Cantonese Pinyin or Wade-Giles Romanization. The names of Chinese nationals who lived long time ago may also be in different Pinyin systems. For example, Mao Tse-tung (in Wade-Giles Romanization) is Mao Zedong in Pinyin.
    3. Some people have English given names or gave themselves English names. For example, Jack Ma and Jackie Chan (this Chan is Cantonese Pinyin; its Mandarin Pinyin equivalent is Chen).
  • Very occasionally, a non-traditional Chinese given name might have more than two syllables.
  • Some people in the past had a one-syllable given name and a two-syllable “style name” or “courtesy name”, often used interchangeably. This may cause confusion when reading classic Chinese novels or studying historical figures.
  • Each Chinese character is said in one syllable with one of the four major tones: high-flat, rising, dip-rise, and falling tones. Applying different tones to the same syllable changes its meaning. Even for the same syllable with the same tone, it could correspond to multiple Chinese characters of different meanings.

I thank Timothy Tokar, Adwait Chawathe, Amit Singh, Matthieu Rousset, Carla Co, Ruiting Wu, Yushi (Russell) Zhao, and Zhao (Zoe) Zhang from Chevron for their feedback and suggestions, and my wife Liqin Sang for her continuous support. I thank my company Chevron for its persistent effort of creating a diverse and inclusive working environment, which inspired the creation of this website.