Chinese Surnames, 百家姓

Chinese Surnames
 Bǎi jiā xìng

Chinese given names are almost always made up of one to two characters and are written after the surname. Therefore, Wei () of the Zhang () family – currently China's most common single name – is called "Zhang Wei" and not "Wei Zhang". Despite the relative paucity of Chinese surnames, given names can theoretically include any of the Chinese language's 100,000 characters and contain almost any meaning.

Children Names

It is frequently the case that children are given gender-based names, with boys acquiring 'masculine' names implying strength or courage while girls receive 'feminine' names concerning beauty or flowers. Since doubled characters are considered diminutives in Chinese, many girls also receive names including a doubled pair of characters or two characters with identical pronunciation.


Diminutives in Chinese names

Personal names in Chinese, excluding the family name, are usually two characters in length. Often, the first of the two characters is omitted and replaced with the prefix character 小 xiǎo-, literally meaning "little", or 阿 ā- (more prevalent in Southern China) to produce an affectionate, diminutive name. For example, famous Cantopop singer 刘德华 Lau Tak-Wah (Andy Lau; Liú Déhuá) could use the nicknames 小华 Xiăohuá or 阿华 Āhuá.

Sometimes, "-zǐ" is also used as a diminutive suffix. In the Cantonese dialect, the suffix 仔 (Jyutping: zai2), literally meaning "child", is used after the second character in the individual's given name. Again using the name of famous Cantopop singer 刘德华 Lau Tak-Wah (Andy Lau; Liú Déhuá), the nickname he could (and does in fact) use in Hong Kong is 华仔 (Jyutping: waa4 zai2).

A very distinctive characteristic of the Beijing dialect is the usage of "er"(儿) suffix to a word, or commonly known as erhua(儿化). The "er" suffix indicates a phonological process that adds r-coloring or the "ér" (儿) sound, as it demunitize the associated word. For example, 小孩 (xiǎohái) (small child) is pronounced as 小孩儿 (xiǎoháir) in Beijing dialect.

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