What's in a name?

All names have a meaning. Then what’s the meaning of my name? I don’t rightly know. In the West, the origin of given names are often forgotten, chosen instead for the melody of their pronunciation or commonality with a famous personage or beloved family member.

The importance of choosing a name in Asian culture, more specifically in Vietnam, cannot be understated. The family name serves to carry on a lineage began centuries ago, the origin of which having been long since forgotten.  Before, family and middle names were used to distinguish between different clans, and served as a form of genealogical chart where none other was recorded. In modern Vietnamese society, the choice of middle and first names for children remains an extremely delicate undertaking, as Vietnamese believe the name will have an influence on the child’s disposition, abilities, and even destiny in life. Because many Vietnamse names are based on a form of “classical” or Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation, the meaning of names of people and places of significant historical value are slowly being forgotten. Below is an explanation of the Vietnamese family name “Nguyn” for a glimpse of what’s in a name.


阮 (ruǎnNguyn- This character is used to refer to a Chinese plucked, fretted, round-bodied lute with four strings similar in nature to the Vietnamese “đàn nguyệt”.
The Chinese "ruan" or "nguyen" (big5.cri.cn)
Some famous people in history with the name “Nguyễn”:

Nguyễn Hàm 阮咸 (Ruǎn Xián)- a Chinese scholar of the Six Dynasties period and one of the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove", who played this instrument exceptionally well.

Ruan Xian playing the lute, right (Wikipedia)
The Nguyễn Lords (Chúa Nguyễn) 1558 - 1777 were a series of rulers of Southern Vietnam (Đàng Trong). While they claimed to be the loyal followers of the later Lê Dynasty, in reality they were de facto rulers in the south of the country. Their descendants later ruled the whole of Vietnam as the Nguyễn Dynasty and posthumously elevated their titles to emperors.

Huế Citadel constructed during the Nguyễn Dynasty in the 19th century (tsttourist.com)
Nguyễn Du 1765–1820 - a celebrated Vietnamese poet who wrote in Chữ Nôm, the ancient writing script of Việt Nam. He is most known for writing the epic poem The Tale of Kiều.

Kiều playing the "đàn nguỵet" or Vietnamese lute (Wikipedia)
Nguyễn Sinh Cung  (Hồ Chí Minh) 19 May 1890 – 3 September 1969 - a revolutionary leader who was prime minister (1946–1955) and president (1945–1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

"Uncle" Ho Chi Minh (Wikipedia)
Nguyễn Bính (Nguyễn Trọng Bính) 19181966 a famous romance poet of the “New Poetry” movement along with Xuân Diệu and Huy Cận.

poet Nguyễn Bính (Wikipedia)
source for information for obtaining the etymology of "Nguyễn" and famous people in history with the family name of "Nguyễn": www.wikipedia.com and vi.wikipedia.org

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