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Pronunciation[w?n] (English), or [?win] (Northern Vietnamese) or [?wi]
Other names
Variant form(s)Ruan, Won, Yuen

Nguy?n is the most common Vietnamese surname / family name. Outside of Vietnam, the surname is commonly rendered without diacritics as Nguyen. Nguyên is a different surname.

By some estimates forty percent of Vietnamese people bear this surname.[1][2][3]

Origin and usage

Nguy?n is the Vietnamese romanisation/pronunciation of ? via Ch? Hán-Nôm conventions.[4] The same Han character is often romanized as Ru?n in Mandarin, Yuen in Cantonese,[5] Gnieuh or Nyoe¹ /ø/ in Wu Chinese,[] or Nguang in Hokchew.[]. Hanja reading (Korean) is ? (Wan) or ? (Won) and in Hiragana, it is (Gen), old reading as (Ngen),[].

Character for Nguy?n last name. Equivalent to Ruan/Juan (Mandarin) or Yuen/Yuan (Cantonese).

The first Nguyen known in Vietnam was in 317 CE. Nguy?n Phu [vi] , 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, Tr?n Th? forced the descendants of the Lý to change their surname to Nguy?n. When H? Quý Ly overturned the Tr?n Dynasty, he killed many of their descendants so when the H? Dynasty collapsed in 1407, many of his descendants changed their surname to Nguy?n in fear of retribution.[] In 1592, on the collapse of the M?c Dynasty, their descendants changed their surname to Nguy?n. In late 16th century, the T? Mã clan from Thanh Hóa changed to Nguy?n and settled in Cochinchina.[] When the Nguy?n Dynasty (the descendants of the Nguy?n Lords) took power in 1802, some of the descendants of the Tr?nh Lords fearing retribution changed their surname to Nguy?n, while others fled north into China. The Nguy?n Dynasty awarded many people the surname Nguy?n during their rule, and many criminals also changed their surname to Nguy?n to avoid prosecution. As with other common surnames, people having this surname are not necessarily related.[6]

In Vietnamese custom as with other East Asian cultures, the surname precedes the given names.

Distribution of Vietnamese family names. 'H? khác' translates as 'Other Surnames'.

Usage outside Vietnam

The prevalence of Nguy?n 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[7] (second only to Smith in Melbourne phone books[8]), and the 54th most common in France.[9] It was the 41th most common surname in Norway in 2020[10] and tops the foreign name list in the Czech Republic.[11]

In the United States, Nguyen is the 38th most-common surname and is shared by more than 437,000 individuals,[12] according to the 2010 Census; it was the 57th and 229th most-common surname, respectively, in the 2000[13] and 1990[14] censuses. It is also the most common exclusively East Asian surname.[15] It is ranked 124th in the U.S. Social Security Index.[16]


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 Nguy?n 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 Nguy?n family are, in no particular order:

  • Nguy?n Phc or Nguy?n Phúc : Surname for the Nguy?n Lords family members, and all members of the Nguy?n dynasty emperors.
  • Nguy?n ?ình
  • Nguy?n H?u
  • Nguy?n C?nh
  • Nguy?n Kh?c
  • Nguy?n Ti?n
  • Nguy?n c
  • Nguy?n Minh
  • Nguy?n Thanh
  • Nguy?n Ng?c
  • Nguy?n V?n
  • Nguy?n Quang
  • Nguy?n Xuân
  • Nguy?n Huy
  • Nguy?n Hoàng
  • Tôn Th?t (Tôn N? for females): Surname for members of the Nguy?n Dynasty royal family that were not direct descendants of the Emperor.


The Vietnamese pronunciation is [?wn] in northern dialect or [?w] in southern dialect[], in both cases, in one syllable. [?] is the velar nasal found in the middle of the English word "singer".[17] Unlike in Vietnamese, this consonant is never found in initial position in English. [w] is the semivowel found in the English word "win". [i?] 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, [n] occurs in the English word "net".

However, Nguy?n is also pronounced with a tone in Vietnamese. In Southern Vietnam, Nguy?n 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 [w?n][18][19] and [nu:'j?n].

Changes of family name

There have been various points in Vietnam's history at which people have changed their family name to "Nguy?n." When the Lý Dynasty fell in 1232, Tr?n Th? , who orchestrated its overthrow, forced Lý's descendants to adopt the name due to the naming taboo surrounding Tr?n Lý, grandfather to emperor Tr?n C?nh.

During almost 1000 years, from 457 to H? Quý Ly (1401), in H?i Dng and a part of Haiphong today there is the district of the Phí family (Vietnamese: huy?n Phí Gia). At the end of the Lý and the Tr?n Dynasty there were many people who changed their names to "Nguy?n" and "Nguy?n Phí." By the Lê Dynasty, the court changed the name of the district to "Kim Thành."

When the M?c Dynasty fell in 1592, their descendants changed their family name to "Nguy?n."

Tr?n Quang Di?u (like his wife Bùi Th? Xuân) worked as a major officer for the Tây S?n Dynasty, against Nguy?n Ánh. After the Tây S?n dynasty was defeated, his children adopted various names or changed named (one of them into "Nguy?n") 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 Nguy?n dynasty (1802-1945). Civilians also adopted the name during the Tr?nh-Nguy?n Civil War for purposes of social climbing, having migrated from the north to the south. Even the Tây S?n Brothers changed their name to "Nguy?n" from "H?."

Notable people

Approximately 40 percent of Vietnamese people have this surname. People with the name range from heads of state (Nguy?n lords, Tây S?n dynasty , Nguy?n Dynasty, Nguy?n V?n Thi?u, Nguy?n Minh Tri?t , Nguy?n Phú Tr?ng , Nguy?n Xuân Phúc, Nguy?n Xí), poets (Nguy?n Trãi, Nguy?n Du, Nguy?n ?ình Chi?u, Nguy?n Khoa ?i?m), Catholic clergymen (Nguy?n V?n Thu?n), 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)/(MLS) (LAFC) midfielder (Lee Nguy?n), to executed criminals (Nguy?n Tng Vân). H? Chí Minh was born Nguy?n Sinh Cung and used various names with the surname Nguy?n throughout his career (Nguy?n T?t Thành, Nguy?n Ái Qu?c) and was not known as H? Chí Minh until late in his life.


  1. ^ Lê Trung Hoa, H? và tên ngi Vi?t Nam, NXB Khoa h?c - Xã h?i, 2005
  2. ^ "Vietnamese names". Archived from the original on July 1, 2008.
  3. ^ Kelly, Maura (July 27, 2011). "Nafissatou and Amadou". Slate.
  4. ^ "Why Are So Many Vietnamese People Named Nguyen?". IB Times.
  5. ^ "Why Are So Many Vietnamese People Named Nguyen?". International Business Times. February 18, 2014.
  6. ^ "Vietnam: Where saying 'I love you' is impossible". BBC News. 28 August 2013. Retrieved . Pronunciation is fiendishly tricky for foreigners with the combination of "ng", tricky vowels and unfamiliar tones. The best that most of us can manage is "nwee-yen" or even just "win".
  7. ^ The Age (2006-09-04). "Nguyens keeping up with the Joneses". Retrieved .
  8. ^ Melbourne City Council. "City of Melbourne - Multicultural Communities - Vietnamese". Archived from the original on 2006-10-04. Retrieved .
  9. ^ "Les noms de famille les plus portés France".
  10. ^ Statistics Norway. "Top 200 last names". Retrieved .
  11. ^ "?eb?í?ky nej?ast?j?ích jmen vedou Nováci a Nguyenové" (in Czech). Novinky. 2007-05-17. Retrieved .
  12. ^ "Frequently Occurring Surnames from the 2010 Census".
  13. ^ "Frequently Occurring Surnames from the 2000 Census".
  14. ^ "Frequently Occurring Surnames from Census 1990 - Names Files".
  15. ^ "In Name Count, Garcias Are Catching Up to Joneses". The New York Times. November 17, 2007. Retrieved ..
  16. ^ PBS, POV: The Sweetest Sound: Popularity Index
  17. ^ Bac Hoai Tran; Ha Minh Nguyen; Tuan Duc Vuong (2012). Colloquial Vietnamese: The Complete Course for Beginners. Routledge. p. 4. ISBN 9781136682865. OCLC 823723353. The combination of consonants ng often comes at the beginning of a word, as in the surname Nguy?n, and it is one of the other difficulties (fortunately there are not many) that Vietnamese consonants pose.
  18. ^ "Either way, in the 1st district, it's a Nguyen for taxpayers". Orange County Register. 2007-02-11. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved .
  19. ^ "Nguyen-Nguyen situation". Orange County Register: Total Buzz. 2007-02-07. Archived from the original on 2007-03-03. Retrieved .

External links

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