What characters should you avoid when creating your Chinese name?

The article “How to choose or create a good Chinese name?” mentioned that any Chinese character can be used as part of a name, in theory. However, there are social taboos and Chinese characters that you’d want to avoid putting in your Chinese name. Here are some of the top ones to avoid or be cautious with:

1 – Avoid characters with bad or unfortunate meanings.

When Chinese people choose characters to create their names, one of the first things they avoid is selecting characters with bad or unfortunate meanings. For example, 死 (death), 坏 (bad), 病 (illness), etc.

2 – Avoid characters with sounds similar to characters with bad meanings.

Characters with sounds similar to characters with bad meanings are also avoided to prevent misunderstandings. For example, 思 (sī) means to think, to miss, and 旺 (wàng) means prosperous, vigorous. Both characters have positive meanings. However, combining these two characters to create a name is not advisable because the pronunciation of 思旺 (sī wàng) is quite similar to the word 死亡 (sǐ wáng), which means death.

3 – Be careful with homophonous numbers.

Some numbers in Chinese have negative connotations due to their pronunciation or other reasons. For instance, Chinese people avoid the number 4 because its pronunciation is similar to the character 死 (death). Additionally, in northern China, the number 2 is used as an insult to someone stupid. As a result, people in the north are not going to use it in their name. Similarly, 250 (二百五, èr bǎi wǔ) is also an insult. No one wants to be called 二百五.

4 – Be careful with colloquial or vulgar language – A tip for foreigners who want to create their Chinese name

Some characters, although they do not have negative meanings in the dictionary, can carry negative connotations in colloquial or vulgar language. For example, 日(rì)means sun, but in some areas, it is synonymous with the profanity fuck. Similarly, 草, originally meaning grass, can take on a vulgar meaning in some contexts, also meaning to fuck.

5 – Do not use a family member’s or friend’s name – An IMPORTANT tip for foreigners who want to create their Chinese name

In some Western cultures, if someone uses a friend’s name to name their newborn child, it means they are fond of the friend, and the friend will also be happy that their name was chosen.

However, in China, the situation is completely opposite. In traditional families, when they name newborn children, they avoid repeating the names of all family members; they cannot even repeat the same character or use different characters with the same pronunciation. This is due, in part, to the existence of a rigid hierarchy among family members in ancient society, which persists in traditional families today. Repeating the names of elders or ancestors could be perceived as an act of contempt towards them. Additionally, Chinese people don’t like repeating names with others, which is why some parents choose to give quirky names using less common characters, even those that native Chinese don’t know how to pronounce.

In short, if you want to create a Chinese name for yourself or your child, we recommend not using your Chinese friend’s name, and it would be best not to use any characters from their name.

6 – Be careful with the names of famous people

First of all, it is better not to use the names of famous people who have a negative reputation in history, such as criminals, traitors to the country, or individuals with deteriorated moral behavior, among others.

Second, we must avoid using the names of great figures in China. We mentioned that the repetition of names could be interpreted as an act of contempt. In particular, we recommend that you do not choose the names of famous political leaders in the contemporary era, such as 周恩来 (Zhōu Ēnlái), 毛泽东 (Máo Zédōng), 邓小平 (Dèng Xiǎopíng). All of them are important figures in the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. However, if you choose a different last name or just one character from their first name, there is no problem.

These are common taboos when creating a name in Chinese, and the choice of a name may vary depending on family and regional beliefs. After choosing a Chinese name for yourself, it is best to consult a Chinese native to determine if that name is suitable.

If you want more help creating your Chinese name, we recommend checking out the following articles:

How to choose or create a good Chinese name?

The 100 Most Common and Popular Chinese Surnames in China

The 100 Most Beautiful Chinese Characters with Pinyin & Their Best Meanings