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Chinese Name Translation

Published at 2013-07-18 02:09:22 Updated at 2013-07-18 02:09:22

4 steps to translate a name into Chinese characters

1. Break English Name Into Syllables

Generally, translation English names into Chinese is done mainly based on both pronunciations, that is to say, the pronunciation of the Chinese name translated generally matches that of the English name.

Notes that 'English name' does not just mean the name for persons from English countries, it also indicates any name wrttern in Latin for persons from countries except China, Japan, Korea, North Korea, Viet Nam. In fact, we have translated and collected names in more than 50 languages from over 100 countries.

First of all, let's listen and compare five names in 5 languages.
Chinese NameEnglish NameFrom Country
阿梅林
AmerineEnglish countries
法兰西斯
FrançaiseFrance
格梅林
GemählingGermany
鲁西亚诺夫
RussiyanovRussia
阿拉伯迪乌
ArabdiouArabic countries

Do each pair of names pronounce similarly?

Normally, each Chinese character matches a syllable of an English name

Let's take the first name Amerine for instance. It could be A-me-rine. 'A' matches the first Chinese character, and 'mei' the second one, 'rein' the third.

Matched pairs for each name are listed below. You could click the speaker icon to listen the pronunciation of each Chinese character and compare if it sounds similarly to that of the matching syllable.

NameIn SyllableMatched pairs
AmerineA-me-rienA-me-rien-
FrançaiseF-ran-çai-seF-ran-çai-se-
GemählingGe-mäh-lingGe-mäh-ling-
RussiyanovRu-ssiy-ya-no-vRu-ssiy-ya-no-v-
ArabdiouA-ra-b-di-ouA-ra-b-di-ou-
So, the first step to translate an English name into Chinese is breaking the name into syllables.

For example, when we translate the name 'Russiyanov', the first thing is breaking it into Ru-ssiy-ya-no-v at first.

And, check carefully each syllable if it is silent or should be modified according to the pronunciation rules of matched language.

For example, for a name in Arabic, there are two rules for the name translation:

  1. when h at the ending, drop it.
  2. when m before b or p, except at the beginning, change m to n.

And, rules for Spanish:

  1. when b is not the beginning or ending, except is preceded by m, n, change b to v.
  2. when v is at the beginning, change v to b.
  3. when x before a vowel, change x to ks; when x before a consonant, no change.
  4. when m before b or p, except at the beginning, change m to n.
  5. h is silent, drop it.

Following its rules, proper syllables are got for the name translation.

Then, Chinese character with the same or similar sound will be selected for each syllable.

2. Select Proper Chinese Characters

It is a key step to select a proper Chinese character for the name translation after syllables of a name are got in the first step.

A Chinese character selected must match the pronunciation of the related syllable of the English name.

This is the core work.

Listen each Chinese character and compare if it sounds similarly to the related syllable of the name.

NameIn SyllableMatched pairs
SteadS-tea-dS-tea-d-
GérainGé-rainGé-rain-
MarburgMa-r-burgMa-r-burg-
FraciscoF-ra-ci-s-coF-ra-ci-s-co-
ShibalanskiyShi-ba-lan-s-kiyShi-ba-lan-s-kiy-
MohaMo-haMo-ha-

Notes that Chinese is a tonal language (learn about Chinese tones), when you compare each pair, do not be too concerned about its tone.

The Chinese character selected must have a positive meaning, or has no meaning.

As you know, Chinese character are the ideogram, so a pronunciation matches many Chinese characters. Exactly, There are about 90,000 totally and 3500 used commonly characters in Chinese, but only 1339 pronunciations according to Modern Chinese Dictionary, which means that there are more than one Chinese characters match the pronunciation of a syllable of an English name.

For example, there are 50 characters in Modern Chinese Dictionary matching the pronunciation of the first syllable of the name 'Stead'. 13 collected in this site so far are:

How to select a proper one from these Chinese characters?

A basic principle is that the character selected must not be bad, in other words, it is positive, approving, or neutral, or has no meaning at least.

For example, among these characters, the third one means 'selfish', the seventh 'death; dead; die', the ninth 'temple (building)', the eleventh 'a team of four horses', the twelfth 'sacrifice to sb.', the last one 'four (4); store or shop'. Even though they, except the seventh meaning 'death; dead; die', are used in the names for native Chinese, they are not proper characters for the name translation. Click on each word and learn its meaning(s).

Eliminated those words, four are retained:

Learn more Chinese characters used for Chinese names translation.

In practice, the frequency that these four characters are used in the name translation is different. According to statistics, they are:

- 0.2580%
- 0.0032%
- 0.8289%
- 98.9099%

So the last Chinese character is selected for the Chinese name of the English name 'Stead'.

Different characters are selected according to sex.

Another important factor is gender, that is to say, to select different characters for the females, which has no reference to sex discrimination. On the contrary, characters those mean beautiful, flower, graceful, etc, and are used most commonly in the Chinese girl's names are selected for them.

These are 12 samples of the characters used for the names of the females.

Let's compare two group of names.

Chinese NamesEnglish NamesRemarks
法丽达
Faridafor the females
法里达
Farida
福斯蒂娜
Faustinafor the females
福斯蒂纳
Faustina

Compare the names above. The first one is for the female Farida, and the second one is for the males. Have you found their difference? Yes the second characters.

Let's see their difference.

means 'beautiful, or pretty' and is most commonly used for Chinese girl's names.
means 'inner, in, inside, or among'.

Therefore, the Chinese name for the female Farida selects the first character.

Then, the last characters for two names of the Faustina are listed as follow for you to differentiate them:

has no meaning and is most commonly used for Chinese girl's names.
means receive, or admit.
Modify individual words based on homonym if necessary.

In spite of generations of professionals summarizes Chinese characters used in the name translation, when certain words together, they still remind of some bad meaning or things not good. The Chinese name translated in this step should be modified to avoid any suggestion of something not good.

That is what we have to do in the next step.

3. Modify individual words

It is not over to select proper Chinese characters for an English name translation.

Because some certain words together, they sometimes still remind of some bad meaning or things not good. Therefore we have to modify one or two words individually to avoid something not good.

Some examples are given as follow:

Fils

There are two Chinese names for a French name Fils (the last group of Chinese names for Edgard Leblanc Fils.

written in English:fei si
written in English:fei si

Both Chinese names have the exact sounds. The difference between them is the first Chinese characters. The second one reminds of a phrase 费解 (fei jie) meaning "hard to understand; incomprehensible; unintelligible". So, it is not good as the first one which is not easy to connect it to a Chinese phrase.

Lantigua

There are two Chinese names for a Spanish name Lantigua:

兰蒂瓜
written in English:lan di gua
written in English:lan ti gua

The difference between them is the middle Chinese characters. The first name reminds of a meaning of "a melon with a blue stalk". So, it is not good as the second one.

Kaine

When I translated the Chinese names for an American politician Tim Kaine, I had two choices for Chinese names of Kaine:

written in English:ka en
卡因
written in English:ka yin

The difference between them is only the last words. The last word in the second name pronounces similarly to a word 阴(yin) which reminds easily of a Chinese phrase 阴部 (yin bu) meaning "private parts; pudenda; genitals" when it is combined with the first word 卡 (ka or qia) of the Chinese name to form a meaning of "to grasp tightly genitals" or "genitals is stuck".

So, the first Chinese name is better for Kaine.

Banafsheh

Banafsheh, a girl name from Arabic, could be transliterated into 3 Chinese names according to the Chinese names transliteration regulations:

written in English:ba la fu xia
巴纳夫什
written in English:ba la fu shi
巴纳夫谢
written in English:ba la fu xie

Could you find the difference between them?

Yes, the difference is only the last words.

Why is the first one the best?

Let's check the second one firstly. The last word 什 (Shi) (listen) pronounces similarly to a character 死 (si) (listen) meaning "death, or die". And because one of meanings of the third word 夫 (fu) is 'husband', the last two words together reminds easily of "a husband will die". So it not good to be a girl's name.

How about the third one? Also, let's learn the meaning of the last word 谢 (xie). Even though more meanings, but "(of flowers or leaves) wither" is not good for a girl who always hope she is young and beautiful, like blooming flowers.

Contrary to those two characters, the first one 夏 (xia) means 'summer'. Everything is in a flourishing and prospering state in summer. Therefore, I think it is the best character for Banafsheh.

4. Get Full Name In Chinese Symbols

All we are talking about previously focused on a single English name.

How about a full name in Chinese symbols? Let's take Barack Obama for instance.

The Chinese characters following are the Chinese names for Barack Obama.

written in English:ba la ke ao ba ma

In the above-shown Chinese names, the first three are the name in Chinese symbols translated from Barack, the last three are from Obama. A dot "•", sometimes a dash '-', is put between two groups of Chinese names for Chinese people to distinguish first name and surname, because of a large difference between common Chinese names and English names. Click here for more information about common Chinese names.

When an specific English name is translated into Chinese name, we usually call him/her with his/her name in Chinese characters of first name or surname, rarely full name. For example, in Chinese media, we usually use,

written in English:ao ba ma

and sometimes use

written in English:ba la ke ao ba ma

When an English name has 3 or more words, we translate them sequentially. For example, Barack Hussein Obama, are in Chinese characters as:

written in English:ba la ke hou sai yin ao ba ma

But this name is rarely seen in the Chinese media, because it is toooo long.

In this site, you could search your single name or full names. If you search a full name, all component or relevant names will be shown. You could use them to compose your Chinese names.

Sometimes, an English name matches several Chinese names due to sex, different countries or languages. A brief information about sex, countries of a name is given with the Chinese name when you search it, so please compare them and choose your personal name.

For example, a name 'Marry' matches two Chinese names, one is for persons from France, another one for Arab. Even though their pronunciation is very similarly, it is professional to get your Chinese name in this way, which means the name you get is professional and you never make any joke when you use your Chinese name.