Want to get a Chinese nickname for yourself? Do you know how Chinese people give a nickname for their kids, colleagues, friends or spouse? What do you need to avoid when getting a Chinese nickname?
Some examples of Chinese nicknames (昵称, nì chēng) are shown below. They are categorised by different types of people – kids, colleagues, close friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, old men and foreigners. Chinese nicknames are often short with 2 or 3 characters and easy to pronounce.
1. Chinese nicknames for kids
Kids’ nickname is called “小名” (xiǎo míng) or “乳名” (rǔ míng). Most of the Chinese nicknames for kids imply good wishes (美好的寓意, měi hǎo de yù yì). Nowadays, younger Chinese parents around 20s to 30s love giving their kids nickname related to fruits, snacks or drinks, since they think these types of nicknames are cute. The nickname using repeating characters (called “叠词”, dié cí) or starting with the character “小” (xiǎo) are also popular in China. Some Chinese people are also using the nickname ending with “儿” (er) or starting with “阿” (ā).
Examples 1.1 – related to food (食物, shí wù):
葡萄 (pú tao, grape – cute and sweet, usually for girls)
橙子 (chéng zi, orange – cute and sweet, usually for girls)
糯米 (nuò mǐ, glutinous rice – wish a wonderful life for your kid, usually for girls)
雪糕 (kě lè, ice cream– cute and sweet, usually for girls)
可乐 (kě lè, coke – cute and sweet, for girls or boys)
Examples 1.2 – using repeating characters (“叠词”, dié cí):
笑笑 (xiào xiao, smile / laugh – wish happiness, for girls or boys)
飞飞 (fēi fēi, flying – wish a good fortune, usually for boys)
球球 (qiú qiu, ball – wish happiness, for boys)
琪琪 (qí qi, a kind of beautiful jade – it also means precious, usually for girls)
奇奇 (qí qi, means precious or outstanding, usually for boys)
Examples 1.3 – starting with “小” (xiǎo):
小希 (xiǎo xī, precious/hope, usually for girls)
小关 (xiǎo guān, a lovely name for girls)
小宇 (xiǎo yǔ, a gentleman with good manner, usually for boys)
小旭 (xiǎo xù, sunrise, usually for boys)
小宛 (xiǎo wǎn, melodious/gentle, usually for girls)
Examples 1.4 – ending with “儿” (er):
星儿 (xīng er, star – shining, usually for girls)
月儿 (yuè er, moon, usually for girls)
灵儿 (líng er, intelligence, usually for girls)
凌儿 (líng er, rise, usually for boys)
焕儿 (huàn er, bright, usually for boys)
Examples 1.5 – starting with “阿” (ā):
阿曼 (pú tao, graceful, usually for girls)
阿玲 (ā líng, melodious tinkling of pieces of jade, usually for girls)
阿果 (ā guǒ, means fruit, wish a good fortune, usually for girls)
阿泽 (ā zé, dew/favour, usually for boys)
阿辰 (ā chén, morning, usually for boys)
In addition, many parents get their kid’s second name done first, then derive the nickname from the second name (with using one of the rules above).
Examples 1.6 – derived from second name
Full name: 陈果 (chén guǒ), Nickname: 果果 (guǒ guo)
Full name: 刘诗颖 (liú shī yǐng), Nickname: 颖儿 (yǐng er)
Full name: 周宇飞 (zhōu yǔ fēi), Nickname: 飞飞 (fēi fēi)
Full name: 吴辰浩 (wú chén hào), Nickname: 阿辰 (chén chen)
Full name: 赵璐 (zhào lù), Nickname: 小璐 (xiǎo lù)
(The first characters in the full names above are the Chinese family names, the remainders in these full names are second names.)
2. Chinese nicknames for colleagues
We often use nicknames between colleagues to be more friendly or closer (亲切, qīn qiè). Also, nicknames are usually short so easy to memorise (好记, hǎo jì). You can use Chinese nickname only with the colleagues having a similar title as yours, but not with your boss or elder people.
Example 2.1 – “小” (xiǎo) + first name
For example, 陈肖 (chén xiāo) is your colleague, you may call him “小陈” (xiǎo chén) as a nickname.
Another case could be [“小” (xiǎo) + one of the characters in the second name] if there are two colleagues have the same first name OR the first name with similar pronunciation.
With using the example above, there is another colleague named “程冬露” (chéng dōng lù), so you might call 陈肖as “小肖” (xiǎo xiāo), and 程冬露 as “小冬” (xiǎo dōng) or “小露” (xiǎo lù).
Example 2.2 – “阿” (ā) + one of the characters in the second name
Still using the example above, 陈肖can be called as “阿肖” (ā xiāo) and 程冬露 can be called as “阿冬” (ā dōng).
3. Chinese nicknames for close friends
You can give a nickname to your close Chinese friend by deriving it from his/her hobbies or characteristics, an interesting thing related to him/her, or a cute thing having a similar pronunciation to his/her original name. Just be creative and have fun with your friends!
For example, if your close friend’s full name is 龙语阳 (lóng yǔ yáng), you can call her “小笼包” (xiǎo lóng bāo, steamed bun – a traditional Chinese food) where contains a similar pronunciation of “lóng”.
4. Chinese nicknames for boyfriend/girlfriend
If you want to give a Chinese nickname to your boyfriend/girlfriend, you can use the previous nickname rule (for close friends) as well. To express your love, you may want to call your spouse more romantic [浪漫 (làng màn) or 肉麻 (ròu má)], like honey, sweetie or babe. Some common examples are shown below.
4.1 Examples – for boyfriend or girlfriend
亲爱的 (qīn ài de)
宝宝 (bǎo bao)
宝贝儿 (bǎo bèir)
笨蛋 (bèn dàn)
傻瓜 (shǎ gua)
小可爱 (xiǎo kě ài)
4.2 Examples – for boyfriend
老公 (lǎo gōng)
哥哥 (gē ge)
4.2 Examples – for girlfriend
老婆 (lǎo pó; lǎo pao)
老婆大人 (lǎo pó dà rén)
媳妇儿 (xí fùr)
5. Chinese nicknames for elderly
Elderly may call each other [“老” (lǎo) + first name] if they are good friends. For example, 陈肖 (chén xiāo) is your old friend, you may call him “老陈” (lǎo chén) as a nickname.
Another case could be [“老” (lǎo) + one of the characters in the second name] if there are two elder people that have the same first name OR the first name with similar pronunciation.
From the example above, there is another elderly named “程冬露” (chéng dōng lù), so you might call 陈肖as “老肖” (lǎo xiāo), and 程冬露 as “老冬” (lǎo dōng) or “老露” (lǎo lù).
6. Chinese nicknames for foreigners
The first option can be the variation from your original name.
Examples – derived from your original name
If your name is Mike, it can be transliterated as “迈克” (mài kè). However, Chinese people are not used to calling this kind of transliterated names. So you would better use the rules above and you can introduce yourself like this:
wǒ yīng wén míng jiào zuò Mike,nǐ kě yǐ jiào wǒ “xiǎo mài ”.
My English name is Mike. You can just call me Xiaomai.
Charles – 小茶(chá)/小查(chá)/小礼(lǐ)/小黎(lí)
David – 小岱(dài)/小维(wéi)/小炜(wěi)
James – 小杰(jié)/小尖(jiān)/小剑(jiàn)/小健(jiàn)
Liam – 小黎(lí)/小礼(lǐ)/小安(ān)
Lucas – 小陆(lù)/小卡(kǎ)
Michael – 小迈(mài)/小柯(kē)/小珂(kē)
Oliver – 小欧(ōu)/小黎(lí)/小礼(lǐ)/小飞(fēi)/小峰(fēng)
Robert – 小洛(luò)/小北(běi)
Thomas – 小天(tiān)/小涛(tāo)/小廷(tíng)/小马(mǎ)
William – 小炜(wěi)/小维(wéi)
Ava – 小艾(ài)/小蛙(wā)
Charlotte – 小夏(xià)/小希(xī)/小夕(xī)/小熙(xī)/小洛(luò)
Elizabeth – 小艺(yì)/小梨(lí) /小莉(lì) /小栗(lì) /小飒(sà)/小贝(bèi)
Emma – 小艾(ài)/小马(mǎ)
Isabella – 小艺(yì)/小飒(sà)/小贝(bèi)/小北(běi)
Jennifer – 小洁(jié)/小婕(jié)/小南(nán)/小宁(níng)/小芳(fāng)/小菲(fēi)
Linda – 小灵(líng)/小琳(lín)/小菱(líng)/小玲(líng)/小妲(dá)
Mary – 小美(měi)/小梅(méi)/小马(mǎ)
Olivia – 小欧(ōu)/小莉(lì)/小栗(lì)/小梨(lí)/小薇(wēi)
Rebecca – 小芮(ruì)/小瑞(ruì)/小贝(bèi)/小北(běi)
Sophia – 小琐(suǒ)/小菲(fēi)/小娅(yà)/小雅(yǎ)
Susan – 小苏(sū)/小杉(shān)/小山(shān)
If your Chinese is excellent or you have some Chinese friends to ask for help, another option can be a derivation from your hobbies or characteristics, an interesting thing related to yourself or a cute thing having a similar pronunciation to your original name.
Last but not least, you would better double-check if the nickname you have sounds good for Chinese people.
What do you need to avoid when getting a Chinese nickname?
1. Don’t have a nickname with homophony (谐音, xié yīn) or ambiguity (歧义, qí yì), which may cause people to make fun of you.
谢谢(xiè xie) cannot be a nickname, as “谢谢” means “thank you”.
Nowadays, many Chinese nicknames relate to food. But one bad example is 小吃 (xiǎo chī). “小吃” means snacks but cannot be a nickname.
2. Don’t use the Chinese nickname from the last century, like 狗剩 (gǒu shèng), 粪蛋 (fèn dàn) or 铁柱 (tiě zhù).
So it is strongly recommended to check with a native Chinese speaker unless you have well learned not only ancient but also popular Chinese culture; just like a native.
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