Naming systems in cultures

Eastern cultures

Chinese names

For Chinese names, the family name comes first, followed by the given name. Because of the chinese naming system is different from many Western countries, many chinese swap their names to given name and then family name, for example "Yao Ming" where Yao is the given name, and Ming the family name.

Chinese casually address eachother with by their full name, and formally with their given names.

There are only a few chinese family names, and usually with one character. When marrying, a woman usually keeps her maiden name as her family name, in Hong Kong the family name of the husband can be added to it.

Chinese given name generally consist of one or two characters. Traditional Chinese names can have a generation name as part of a two character given name. After birth a baby gets a temporary nick name, and chose a given name later. It is inappropriate to namesake a child after a famous person, or an older family member.

Korean names

As with chinese naming system, a korean name begins with the family name, followed by the given name, and there are also only a few Korean family names.

Japanese names

Opposed to Chinese family names, there is an extreme amount of Japanese family names. All Japanese have one surname and one given name. Only the Japanese imperial family has middle names, but no family name.

Given names have a great variety in pronunciation and character usage. A written name can more than one pronunciation, but for a person only one pronunciation is applicable. Male given names often end in -shi, -o, -ta or contain ichi or kazu. Female names often end in -ko, -mi, -ka or -na.

There are only a few names that can be used as either surnames or given names, so which name is the surname and which is the given name is usually apparent in Japanese language.

Western cultures

French names

The French use one or more given names. The first is commonly used as casual name, the following given names (middle names), are only used in official documents. The middle names are traditionally from derived from the given name of parents or grandparents. Middle initials are not used. Not long ago was common to give a compound first name like Anne-Sophie, of Jean-Marie, where the first component of the compound name is based on the gender of the person, while the second component can be of the opposite gender. The middle names can also be of the opposite gender.

Until recently the children were given the surname of the father. Now also the surname of the mother can be used, or the surname of the father with the name of the mother, combined with an hyphen.

When marrying, french women keep their surname in official documents, but can use the surname of their spouse in everyday life. Man and woman can combine the surname of their spouse with their own surname.

Spanish names

The Spanish don't have the concept of middle names, but rather one or two given names and two surnames. The first surname is the first surname of farther, the second is the first surname of the mother. The two surnames can be hyphenated, but each surname can also be a composite.

As with the french, the first given name tells the gender, the second given name can be of the opposite sex, and a married woman keeps her orginal surname.

Portuguese names

The Portuguese are very flexible with names. A person has one or two given names. For the surname, one or two surnames of their farther can be used, and can be combined with one or two surnames of their mother, or even from the grandparents. And to this also middle names can be added.

Icelandic names

Icelanders have continued to use a traditional Scandinavian name system, that other Scandinavion countries have abandoned. The Icelandic system does not use family names, but uses the first name of the father or sometimes the mother in the surname. For example, if a father has a first name Jón, the surname of his son will be Jónsson (son of Jón), and the surname of his daughter will be Jónsdóttir (daughter of Jón). Therefor icelandic children have different surnames than their parents.

Instead of the first name of a parent, sometimes the middle name is used if that suits better. New first names that have not been previously used in Iceland must be approved. A person cannot adopt a family name, a can only use a family name if there in an explicit legal right inherit it.

Icelanders formally and casually address others simply by their first names.

Middle Eastern cultures

Arabic names

The Arabic naming systems is relative similar in the Arabic speaking world and some Muslim regions, with some regional variants. An Arabic name can often be transliterated in several ways.

Most Arabic given names are regular arabic words with a positive quality of a person. It is also common for a given name of a male to begin with "abd" followed by one of the 100 names for God, which means "servant of God", such as Addullah. For females it starts with "amat" or "amah". Some given names are like nicknames and begin with "al". The nicknames can be occupational, geographical, tribal or descriptive (such as al-Hasan: "the handsome"). For parents, the given name can be preceeded by "abu" ("father of") or "umm" ("mother of"), and then generally the given name of the eldest son. Like "Abu Asim".

The given name is followed by a middle name: the name of the father, and sometimes also the name of the grandfather. For males both can traditionally be preceeded with "bin" or "ibn" (that means "son of"), for females that is "bint" ("daughter of").

The name is ended with a family name.

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