Vietnamese Last Names – What do they mean?

Vietnamese Last Names – Why is Nguyen So Popular?


Like many other Asian countries, Vietnamese last names usually come before the given and middle names. However, the individual is addressed by their given name, which comes last in the Vietnamese name order. The Vietnamese family name is usually passed down by the father to his children.

Out of the not quite so many Vietnamese surnames, Nguyen comes in as the most popular last name. An estimated 45% of the Vietnamese population carry this as their family name. So, why is it such an overwhelmingly popular and common last name?

Well, Vietnamese people weren’t always attached or loyal to their last name, and according to which family was ruling, they would adopt their surnames to match. Therefore, because the Vietnamese ruling dynasty was the Nguyen family, from 1802-1945, many Vietnamese people adopted and kept that last name.

Vietnamese Last Names
Vietnamese Last Names Flag


Most Popular Vietnamese Last Names and Meanings

Most Vietnamese surnames are taken after a ruling royal dynasty, or are of Chinese origin. Have a look at the list of common Vietnamese last names with their meaning or origin.

Nguyen – Family name of a long ruling Vietnamese Royal Dynasty.

Le – Family name of the Le Dynasty.

Pham – Vietnamese equivalent of Chinese name Fan, meaning “extensive.”

Tran – Vietnamese equivalent of Chinese name Chen.

Ngo – Of Chinese origin, equivalent to Woo.

Vu/Vo – Chinese origin, meaning “Rain”

Bui – Transliterated in Chinese as Pei.

Dao – Thai origin meaning “star”. Chinese meaning “the way.”

Duong – Equal to Chinese “Yang”, Vietnamese surname meaninf “male” or “virile”.

Dang – A Chinese ruling dynasty. Meaning “party” association” in Cantonese.

Dinh – Peace, Calm.

Hoang/Huynh – Phoenix, equivalent to the Chinese Huang or the Korean last name, Hwang.


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