Nguyễn is the most common Vietnamese family name
. Outside of Vietnam, the surname is commonly rendered without diacritic
s as Nguyen. Nguyên is a different surname.
By some estimates forty percent of Vietnamese people
bear this surname
[Lê Trung Hoa, ''Họ và tên người Việt Nam'', NXB Khoa học - Xã hội, 2005]
Origin and usage
Nguyễn is the Vietnamese romanisation/pronunciation of 阮
via Chữ Hán-Nôm
conventions. The same Han character
is often romanized as Ruan
, Yuen in Cantonese
, Gnieuh or Nyoe¹ in Wu Chinese
, or Nguang in Hokchew
. . Hanja
) is 완 (''Wan'') or 원 (''Won'') and in Hiragana
, it is げん (''Gen''), old reading as け゚ん (Ngen),.
The first Nguyen known in Vietnam was in 317 CE. , an Eastern Jin Dynasty
officer and his family migrated to Jiaozhou. Many events in Vietnamese history have contributed to the name’s prominence. In 1232, after usurping the Lý Dynasty
, Trần Thủ Độ
forced the descendants of the Lý to change their surname to Nguyễn. When Hồ Quý Ly
overturned the Trần Dynasty
, he killed many of their descendants so when the Hồ Dynasty
collapsed in 1407, many of his descendants changed their surname to Nguyễn in fear of retribution. In 1592, on the collapse of the Mạc Dynasty
, their descendants changed their surname to Nguyễn. In late 16th century, the Tư Mã clan from Thanh Hóa changed to Nguyễn and settled in Cochinchina. When the Nguyễn Dynasty
(the descendants of the Nguyễn Lords
) took power in 1802, some of the descendants of the Trịnh Lords
fearing retribution changed their surname to Nguyễn, while others fled north into China. The Nguyễn Dynasty awarded many people the surname Nguyễn during their rule, and many criminals also changed their surname to Nguyễn to avoid prosecution. As with other common surnames, people having this surname are not necessarily related.
In Vietnamese custom as with other East Asia
n cultures, the surname precedes the given names.
Usage outside Vietnam
The prevalence of Nguyễn as a family name in Vietnam extends to outside the country, due to numerous and widespread Vietnamese emigrants. Outside Vietnam, the surname is commonly rendered without diacritics, as “Nguyen”. Nguyen is the seventh most common family name in Australia (second only to Smith in Melbourne
phone books), and the 54th most common in France. It is the 56th most common surname in Norway and tops the foreign name list in the Czech Republic
In the United States, Nguyen is the 38th most-common surname and is shared by more than 437,000 individuals, according to the 2010 Census
; it was the 57th and 229th most-common surname, respectively, in the 2000
censuses. It is also the most common exclusively East Asian surname. It is ranked 124th in the U.S. Social Security Index.
In Vietnamese tradition, people are referred to by their personal names and not by their family names even in formal situations. Thus, there is not as much confusion about who is being referred to as one might expect. However, some groups distinguish themselves from other Nguyễn by passing elements of their names that are usually considered middle names to their children. This practice is more common with male than with female children. Some of the prominent subgroups within the Nguyễn family are, in no particular order:
*Nguyễn Phước or Nguyễn Phúc 阮福: Surname for the Nguyễn Lords
family members, and all members of the Nguyễn dynasty
*Nguyễn Đình 阮廷
*Nguyễn Hữu 阮有
*Nguyễn Cảnh 阮景
*Nguyễn Khắc 阮克
*Nguyễn Tiến 阮進
*Nguyễn Đức 阮德
*Nguyễn Minh 阮明
*Nguyễn Thanh 阮清
*Nguyễn Ngọc 阮玉
*Nguyễn Văn 阮文
*Nguyễn Quang 阮光
*Nguyễn Xuân 阮春
*Nguyễn Huy 阮輝
*Nguyễn Hoàng 阮黃
尊室(Tôn Nữ 尊女 for females): Surname for members of the Nguyễn Dynasty
royal family that were not direct descendants of the Emperor.
The Vietnamese pronunciation is in northern dialect or in southern dialect, in both cases, in one syllable. is the velar nasal
found in the middle of the English word “singer”.
Unlike in Vietnamese, this consonant is never found in initial position in English. is the semivowel
found in the English word “win”. is a rising diphthong
. Its sound of this diphthong is similar to the diphthong found in British English Received Pronunciation
in the word “ear”. Finally, occurs in the English word “net”.
However, Nguyễn is also pronounced with a tone
in Vietnamese. In Southern Vietnam, Nguyễn is pronounced with the dipping tone: the pitch of the voice first drops from a mid-level to the bottom of the speaker’s range of pitch and then rises back to mid. In Northern Vietnam, it is pronounced with the creaky rising tone: the pitch of the voice rises from mid-level to the top of the speaker’s range of pitch, but with constricted vocal cords, akin to a glottal stop
in the middle of the vowel. See Vietnamese tones
Common pronunciations by English speakers include
Changes of family name
There have been various points in Vietnam's history at which people have changed their family name to "Nguyễn."
When the Lý Dynasty
fell in 1232, Trần Thủ Độ
, who orchestrated its overthrow, forced Lý's descendants to adopt the name due to the naming taboo
surrounding Trần Lý, grandfather to emperor Trần Cảnh
During almost 1000 years, from 457 to Hồ Quý Ly
(1401), in Hải Dương and a part of Haiphong
today there is the district of the Phí family (Vietnamese: ''huyện Phí Gia''). At the end of the Lý and the Trần Dynasty
there were many people who changed their names to "Nguyễn" and "Nguyễn Phí." By the Lê Dynasty
, the court changed the name of the district to "Kim Thành."
When the Mạc Dynasty
fell in 1592, their descendants changed their family name to "Nguyễn."
Trần Quang Diệu
(like his wife Bùi Thị Xuân
) worked as a major officer for the Tây Sơn Dynasty
, against Nguyễn Ánh
. After the Tây Sơn dynasty was defeated, his children adopted various names or changed named (one of them into "Nguyễn") in order to flee retaliation.
Historically in Vietnam and many East Asian countries, the rulers may let their courtiers share their family name as a reward for their loyalty. Many officials thereby changed their name to match that of the last Nguyễn dynasty (1802–1945). Civilians also adopted the name during the Trịnh–Nguyễn Civil War
for purposes of social climbing
, having migrated from the north to the south. Even the Tây Sơn Brothers
changed their name to "Nguyễn" from "Hồ."
Since approximately 40 percent of all Vietnamese people have the surname Nguyễn, people with this surname are widespread amongst Vietnamese society. They range from heads of state (Nguyễn lords
, Tây Sơn dynasty
, Nguyễn Dynasty
, Nguyễn Văn Thiệu
, Nguyễn Minh Triết
Nguyễn Phú Trọng
, Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
), poets (Nguyễn Trãi
, Nguyễn Du
, Nguyễn Đình Chiểu
, Nguyễn Khoa Điềm
), Catholic clergymen (Nguyễn Văn Thuận
), writers (Viet Thanh Nguyen
), scientists (Nam-Trung Nguyen
), composers, actors (Dustin Nguyen
), professional poker players (Scotty Nguyen
), former professional American football
player Dat Nguyen
, current professional (USMNT
) midfielder (Lee Nguyễn
), to executed criminals (Nguyễn Tường Vân
). Hồ Chí Minh
was born Nguyễn Sinh Cung and used various names with the surname Nguyễn throughout his career (''Nguyễn Tất Thành'', ''Nguyễn Ái Quốc'') and was not known as Hồ Chí Minh until late in his career.