Please help me! How can I give myself an English name?

My name is hard to pronounce in English. I would like to give me an English name base on my Chinese original name. In my name, only 'bing' can be pronounced in English. Is there any suitable name for me?

Besides, I am not sure the meaning of English names. I kind of like some names, like 'Kevin'. But I am not sure if it is suitable to me. I am a quite software developer and tech geek:) Is there anyone who can help me out? Thanks a lot.


June 27, 2015 12:39 PM

English names are not like Chinese names: most of them don't really have "meanings", or not the way words do -- names are labels, and they "mean" the person they're attached to, nothing more. There are some exceptions, like Holly or Victor, but even there, the label function supercedes any lexical meaning -- we don't expect a Holly to be green and prickly or a Victor to always win.

That said, names do have etymologies or origins, some of them more obvious or well-known than others, and they all have histories and associations which determine the general effect they'll have. The resources on this website can help you figure out a name's cultural associations (Namipedia) and popularity history (Name Voyager). For actual etymologies, however, don't rely on Namipedia; it repeats much of the nonsense that baby-name books copy from each other. The better online source for name etymologies is Behind the Name; for English usage, it is more often incomplete than incorrect. (That is, the material it has agrees with the reputable, scholarly sources, at least for names in use in English, but sometimes there are inexplicable gaps in its coverage.)

June 27, 2015 12:49 PM

Fwiw, my husband works with lots of tech guys from places like China, and many of them just pick an English name that sounds somewhat like their name, or just one they like. 

He even knows a, "Kevin."

I don't think it's necessary, though. There is no reason your English speaking friends and colleagues can't learn new things! Unless, of course, your given name sounds like something offensive in English or so forth. 

But if you want to make a change, go for it! I'd suggest giving us a rough idea of your age, so you come up with a name that sounds like one someone of your generation might have. 

June 27, 2015 1:17 PM

I am a 30 year old computer programmer. Not handsome, and kind of tech geek.

In fact, I feel 'Kevin' sounds comforatble to me. But if you could give me some names which are close to my original name 'Zi Bing', that would be great. I can make a comparison. Thanks a lot.

June 28, 2015 6:32 AM

I know a "Tiequn" who goes by T.Q. This works well for him because it sounds a lot like his name, but is easy for Americans to say. Lots of Americans go by their initials any way (and those letters really are his initials too, for his transliterated name).

You could be "Z.B." if you wanted.

Otherwise, I'd suggest that "Ben" is a very familiar name for Americans, and sounds somewhat like "Bing."

And there's nothing wrong with "Kevin" either.

I've had Chinese colleagues who did both -- changed their names or kept them. I sometimes feel quite self-conscious using the American names like "Frank" and "Tony" for someone who I know did not grow up called "Frank" or "Tony." It seems more friendly and comfortable to me when people go by their real names. I probably don't pronounce them correctly, though. I understand how hearing your name said incorrectly all the time could be worse than just going by a different name. But what I'm saying is, don't do it just because you assume your American colleagues would prefer you to. They probably don't mind trying to say your name if you don't mind them getting it wrong!

June 27, 2015 3:51 PM

I teach at a university where a large fraction of my students are of Asian ancestry, many of them more recent immigrants. When I get my roster I do my best to try to figure out how their names are pronounced, using resources like this: Then I would write out something like "Dzuh Byinh" next to your name on the roster to remind me in connecting the pronunciation to Zi Bing.

The Zi sound in particular is very different from how Zi is pronounced in English pronuncation rules, but it is a sound I feel like I can replicate at least a little once I've remembered the rules for pinyin. It might take a bit of reminding, though, before people catch on, and that constant reminding might not be something that everyone feels comfortable doing. I certainly don't think you should have to listen to people butchering your name all the time! If your work and social life involves a lot of interacting with large numbers of new people on a regular basis, I could see being "Zee-like-Zebra Bing-rhymes-with-Ring" by default annoying... but if you interact mostly with the same people for longer stretches of time, I think you could teach them to say Zi Bing -- not perfectly, perhaps, but a better approximation.

It is not uncommon for the students to then have an English language name that they prefer to go by, unofficially, and almost always, those names don't have anything obvious in common with their Asian language names. So if you like the name Kevin and it feels comfortable to you, I'd absolutely find Zi Bing (Kevin) to be a very acceptable compromise (and Kevin is very generationally appropriate - I'm just a couple of years older than you and I grew up with many Kevins).

However, there are a good number of students who don't have an "English" name and I'm really happy about that. It's their name, whereever they go, and I do my best to say their names as properly as I can.

June 27, 2015 4:08 PM

I had a colleague (born and grew up in China) whose given name started with Zhao and whose family name started with Q, and we all managed to pronoince it to his satisfaction (at least).  You should remember that here in the US, their is no name so common, so simple, so straighforward that people will always get it right.  My son goes by Ed, and at the Starbucks the other day someone got that wrong.  But some names do get less mangled than others.

One thing you can do is go to the Social Security website and check in their names section for your year of birth.  Go down the list arranged in order of popularity and see if omething appeals.

By rooo
June 27, 2015 4:12 PM

What does your Chinese name mean? Perhaps there is an Western name that shares a similar meaning.

I think Kevin is a lovely choice, especially if it feels comfortable to you. I also think you could just go by Bing if you prefer.

Other ideas...

a name that starts with the same first letter, such as Zachary/Zach or Zane

a name that shares some of the sounds, such as Sean or Channing or Sebastian

a name of someone you admire, like a celebrity or historical figure

a name that is common with one primary spelling, such as James or Daniel or Ethan

June 27, 2015 5:50 PM

Honestly, I can totally picture a 30 year old "tech geek" to be named Kevin. If you are comfortable with it, it's a great option!

June 27, 2015 5:57 PM

Haha :)

July 1, 2015 9:07 AM

I agree -- if you want an English name, and Kevin feels right to you, go with Kevin!  

By mk
June 27, 2015 10:28 PM

I know quite a few people from China. Most go by their original name as many people are willing to pronounce it right, or as close a possible to right, with help. One person I know chose a name based on the meaning of her Chinese name. So one option is to go with the meaning, rather than sound. Kevin is also perfectly fine. I would go with what is most comfortable to you.

By Fly
June 28, 2015 9:53 AM

I'm absolutely happy to learn to pronounce a name when I meet someone. Having said that, finding a nickname, a variation, or a completely different name (if that is what you're more comfortable with) is perfectly okay too.

I went to a graduation recently and noticed that a lot of the students had chosen to have their names on their testamurs (and in the program) as 'familyname givennames Englishname'. To me that is essentially adopting an English name as an additional "middle name" which is then on your certificate and matches with your resume, birth certificate and what you choose to be called, regardless of whom you are speaking to. I think that's a really good way of maintaining your identity across cultures without legally changing your name or having the pronounciation butchered.

If you were to do that, you might pick an English name with a meaning that compliments the meaning of your given names, rather than being an English version of it.  Or just pick something completely different, as no one is going to know the meanings of all your names anyway (unless they're a supergeek, like us), so they won't know whether it has a literal meaning or not.

I wouldn't worry about popularity or age associations at all. Names in migrant populations rarely fall within the expected "norms" of English usage. They actually have their own set of popularity and age associations "norms", although I don't think there's any measure of it that I can point you to. I feel that Kevin is perfect though, as far as that is concerned, and most people just pick a name which 'speaks to them'.

June 29, 2015 4:39 PM

The only adult Kevin I know in my current location is a Chinese mechanical engineer so in my mind it's is likely very suitable for you.

June 30, 2015 1:49 AM

Hi Zi Bing!

I can't help but be curious about what exactly you mean by a "suitable" English name?  If you are moving to the US or Canada, yes people will have to be reminded once or twice what your name is before they remember it, but most will be very glad to learn your real name.  I don't think you should feel like you need an English name, unless you want one.  That said, yes it might also be convenient to have an easy nickname or alternative.  People also sometimes go by short nicknames or initials.  I know people who go by T, K, J, KC, AJ, EJ, AZ, and SJ for example.  You could simply shorten your name to Z or Zi and it would be easy and fine for everyone. (I do think ZB sounds a bit silly because they rhyme). 

You might also consider Bing.  This is an unusual name in North America, but very familiar because of the Hollywood superstar from the 1930s adn 1940s, Bing Crosby.  Bing does feel old-fashioned because the main association is old singer/movie star, but it is familiar and known to North Americans, and would be easy to remember.  A more modern-sounding alternative might be Zing!  This is not a name or nickname that I've ever heard of, but it sounds like a very modern, fun nickname.  Zing is a slang word that means lively, vivacious, enthusiastic, interesting.  This would be an absolutely fun nickname that would make everyone smile.  However, it might not be a good match for some very formal, professional settings.  But if you're in Silicon Valley or something this would be fine, everyone would think you are cool and creative.

I've had a number of Asian friends who had American names totally different from their given names, and I actually think it's confusing to go back and forth between two completely different-soundingnames.   But when the two names are similar everyone recognizes who you are.  I do the same thing too!  I'm an American who lives in Asia and say "just call me Lin" for people who can't remember my full name.  But, usually people can remember Colleen.


By Lrun
June 30, 2015 3:53 AM

I think  Ben is good ,one of my colleague use it.  嘿嘿  i want get a english name also  i  am in china.

June 30, 2015 3:42 PM

I think Kevin would be a good name for you if you like it. All the people I know named Kevin are between the ages of 25-40, and many of them have Chinese ancestry too.

June 30, 2015 3:57 PM

I don't know how much it *sounds* like your name, but Zeb would be a great nickname that looks like it could come from your given name. It's somewhat familiar as a nickname for Zebediah or Zebulon, is easy to say and spell, and retains your cool Z initial.