75 Vietnamese Last Names And Their Meanings

Martha Martins
Jan 12, 2024 By Martha Martins
Originally Published on Nov 11, 2020
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Read time: 8.1 Min

In the United States, a family name is considered to be a person's last name. However, according to Vietnamese naming culture, the family name is a person's first name.

Vietnamese family names are always used first, before the middle name and the surname. Vietnamese last names are the canvas of a vibrant, diverse culture. Each name carries a rich history steeped in tradition and symbolism.

Tracing back to the ancient times of the Tran Dynasty, the practice of adopting last names paved the way for families to showcase their lineage, trade, or societal status. In Vietnamese culture, last names are profoundly revered as they provide insights into ancestral heritage and family values.

Despite the numerous Vietnamese surnames, a significant proportion are shared by a large number of people. Names like Nguyen, Tran, and Le, to name a few, are widespread within the Vietnamese community.

Unraveling the meanings behind these names opens a fascinating window into Vietnamese history, culture, and identity. These Vietnamese names are like little treasure chests, holding within them stories that might span generations.

Common Vietnamese Surnames

Venturing into the Vietnamese heritage unveils a wealth of captivating surnames. With roots deeply embedded in the country's history and culture, these surnames do more than just identify a person; they narrate a tale about their ancestors, traditions, and societal roles.

From the distinguished 'Nguyen', which takes the crown as the most common surname, to the culturally significant 'Tran', each surname embodies a charm unique to Vietnamese heritage.

1. Nguyen (Chinese origin): is the most popular Vietnamese last name, meaning 'first', 'whole', or 'musical instrument'.

2. Bui (Chinese origin): meaning 'long and flowing garment'. Bui also means 'farmer' or 'dweller' in other cultures, and has a French variant, 'Bois'.

3. Can (Turkish origin): meaning 'spirit', 'life', 'heart', or 'soul'.

4. Chau (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'gem', or 'pearl'. Chau is also a common name among the Chinese community.

5. Dang (Chinese origin): a popular last name meaning 'party' or 'faction.' Dang also means 'red' or 'valuable' in other cultures.

6. Dau (Dutch origin): meaning 'pigeon'. It also means 'bean' or 'qualified' in some other cultures.

7. Dinh (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'encampment', 'nail', or 'mountain summit' in the Vietnamese culture.

8. Do (Chinese origin): meaning 'descendant of the Tao-Tang tribe'. Do is a variant of the common Chinese surname 'Du'.

9. Hai (Chinese origin): meaning 'sea', 'ocean', or 'a great number of people'.

10. Ho (Chinese origin): a common Vietnamese surname having different meanings in diverse cultures including 'goodness', 'wattle', 'dewlap', and 'beard'.

11. Khong (Chinese origin): is a popular Vietnamese last name literally meaning 'empty', 'air', or 'sky'. Khong also means 'peaceful', 'healthy', or 'abundant' in other cultures.

12. Vuong (Chinese origin): meaning 'king' or 'monarch'. In other cultures, Vuong also means 'assist', 'yellow', or 'fall through'.

13. Kien (Celtic origin): meaning 'ancient one'.

14. Kieu (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'beloved' or 'graceful'. Kieu also means 'beautiful', or 'pray to God' in other cultures.

15. Ky (Celtic origin): meaning 'a narrow channel of water'.

16. La (Chinese origin): meaning 'the sun'.

17. Le (Chinese origin): a common Vietnamese last name meaning 'joy' or 'happiness'. It also means 'one who lives by unseeded land' in other cultures.

18. Lieu (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'willow tree'.

19. Luong (Chinese origin): meaning 'measure', 'compute', 'salary', 'wage', or 'pay'.

20. Ly (Chinese origin): meaning 'measure' or 'tiny bit'. Other cultures believe the name 'Ly' means 'glass'.

21. Nghiem (Chinese origin): meaning 'tight', 'stern', 'strict', 'rigorous', 'severe', or 'father'.

22. Ngo (Chinese origin): is a modern Vietnamese surname meaning 'corn'.

23. Ngu (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'sleep'. Ngu also means 'fish' in other cultures.

24. Thach (Chinese origin): meaning 'stone', 'stone inscription', or 'rock'.

25. Au (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'stream' or 'water meadow'.

26. Nhan (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'person'. Nhan also means 'previous', 'former', or 'once' in other cultures.

27. Pham (Chinese origin): meaning 'pattern', 'model', or 'example'.

28. Phan (Chinese origin): meaning 'screen', 'fence', 'hedge', or 'barrier'.

29. Phong (Vietnamese origin):meaning 'wind' or 'air'.

30. Quach (Chinese origin):meaning 'the wall surrounding a city'.

31. Thai (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'free'. Thai also means 'many' or 'multiple' in other cultures.

32. Than (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'brilliant'.

33. Thi (Vietnamese origin):meaning 'poetry', 'verse', or 'poem'. This Vietnamese name also means 'multiple' in other cultures.

34. Thian (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'smooth'. In other cultures, Thian means 'rule', 'order', 'formula', 'regulations', 'procedure', or 'journey'.

35. Thien (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'sky', or 'heaven'.

36. Thong (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'to be intelligent' or 'clever'.

37. Tien (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'celestial being', 'fairy', 'goddess', or 'march forward'.

38. Tran (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'ancient' or 'old'.

39. Trieu (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'million'.

40. Truong (Chinese origin): meaning 'to open up', or 'to spread'. Truong also means 'school' or 'field' in some cultures.

41. Vang (Chinese origin):meaning 'yellow' or 'gold'.

42. Vinh (Chinese origin): meaning 'thriving', 'glory', or 'honor'.

43. Vien (Vietnamese origin):meaning 'complete', 'full', or 'accomplishment'.

Cute baby girl in stylish clothes lying in bed with her toys.

Unique Vietnam Last Names

Looking for the perfect, unique Vietnamese last name to complement your character in a book, screenplay, video game, or simply out of interest? Find out some lesser-known yet beautifully distinct Vietnamese surnames that encapsulate the vibrant culture of the country.

From 'Banh' to 'Ly', many of these unique Vietnamese surnames are inspired by nature or virtues, and stand out with their charm.

44. Banh (Chinese origin):meaning 'cake' or 'bread'. In many cultures, the name 'Banh' describes a wide variety of already prepared, ready-to-eat foods.

45. Bien (Vietnamese origin):meaning 'ocean' or 'sea'. In other cultures, Bien also means 'good' or 'fine'.

46. Cam (Gaelic origin): meaning 'crooked/bent nose', 'crooked/bent mouth', 'crooked river'. In other cultures, Cam also means 'orange fruit'.

47. Chuong (Vietnamese origin):meaning 'chapter'.

48. Dam (Chinese origin): meaning 'to talk' or 'to discuss'.

49. Dieu (Vietnamese origin):is a unique Vietnamese family name meaning 'mysterious', 'subtle', or 'exquisite'. Dieu also means 'god', 'deity', 'handsome', or 'good looking'.

50. Dong (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'winter' or 'born in the east'.

51. Giang (Vietnamese origin):is a unique last name in Vietnamese culture meaning 'river'.

52. Hang (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'moon' or 'full moon'.

53. Huynh (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'yellow' or 'golden,' or gold-colored'. Huynh also means 'older brother' in other cultures.

54. Kha (Chinese origin):meaning 'tree-branch', 'stem', or 'ax handle'. In other cultures, Kha also means 'to draw water' or 'to pick fruits'.

55. Lac (Chinese origin):meaning 'white horse with a black mane' or 'camel'.

56. Lam (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'forest' or 'woods'. Lam also means 'gauze', 'to collect', 'to gather', 'to catch', or 'to sift'.

57. Luu (Chinese origin):meaning 'battle-ax'. Luu is the Vietnamese variant of the Chinese surname 'Lin' with the same meaning.

58. Ly (Vietnamese origin): means 'reason'. Ly also means 'plum' in the Chinese culture.

59. Nzuyen (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'musical instrument'. Nzuyen is a variant of 'Nguyen', the most popular Vietnamese last name.

60. Ong (Chinese origin): meaning 'elderly man', 'father', 'father-in-law', or 'neck feathers of an old bird'.

61. Trinh (Vietnamese origin):meaning 'pure', 'virtuous', or 'chaste'.

62. Phu (Chinese origin): meaning 'rich', 'wealthy', or 'abundance'. In some other cultures, Phu also means 'mark', 'sign', 'talisman', 'to correspond to', 'to seal', 'tally', 'symbol', 'written charm', or 'to coincide'.

63. Phung (Vietnamese origin):meaning 'way', 'direction', or 'phoenix'. In Chinese culture, the name Phung means 'to gallop', 'to wade', or 'great'.

64. Phuong (Vietnamese origin): also means 'way', 'direction', or 'phoenix', just like the name 'Phung'. In Chinese culture, Phuong means 'square', 'upright', 'honest', or 'side'.

65. Quang (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'clear', 'pure', or 'bright'. Quang also means 'love' or 'brave' in other cultures.

66. Ta (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'beautiful'. In other cultures, Ta means 'to thank', 'to apologize', 'to decline', or 'to wither'.

67. Tat (Chinese origin): meaning 'to finish' or 'to complete', 'the whole of'. Tat also means 'cheerful' or 'bringer of joy'.

68. Tham (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'gracious' or 'one who is graced'. In the Chinese culture, Tham means 'liquid' or 'to pour'.

Ancient Vietnam Names

This collection features deep-rooted last names that echo the central values of Vietnamese ancient culture. Enjoy these revered options with timeless appeal that transport to an era marked by wisdom and strong cultural heritage. These Vietnamese last names are captivating choices, perfect for exploring the rich ancient culture.

69. Thang (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'victory' or 'victorious one'. In other cultures, Thang means 'rushing current'.

70. Thanh (Vietnamese origin):meaning ' bright blue', 'green', 'young', or 'brilliant'. Thanh also means 'sound', 'tone', or 'voice' in other cultures.

71. Tram (Vietnamese origin):meaning 'incense', 'deep low', 'luxury', or 'special'.

72. Ba (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'three' or 'third'. In other cultures, Ba also means 'wind', 'great', 'sheep', or 'father'.

73. Cao (Chinese origin): meaning 'grasp', 'class', 'grade', 'generation', or 'government department'.

74. Che (Chinese origin): meaning 'cart'. In other cultures, Che means 'no' or 'God will increase'.

75. Minh (Vietnamese origin): meaning 'brightness' or 'shine'. Minh has a Chinese variant 'Ming' having the same meaning.

Vietnamese last names have a rich connection to history and culture. Whether it's the story behind the most common Vietnamese surnames or the significance of less common ones, each surname is a window into the rich Vietnamese culture.

The meanings of these surnames create a deeper understanding of what is captured in a name. It is fascinating how certain surnames reflect occupation, nature, or admirable qualities.

Every Vietnamese surname carries a story and it's this story that enriches the culture, leaving a legacy for generations to come.

So, this is not just an article about surnames, it's about the rich heritage of Vietnam being passed down through generations. Keep this in mind next time when addressing someone with one of these remarkable last names.

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Written by Martha Martins

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha Martins picture

Martha MartinsBachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha is a full-time creative writer, content strategist, and aspiring screenwriter who communicates complex thoughts and ideas effectively. She has completed her Bachelor's in Linguistics from Nasarawa State University. As an enthusiast of public relations and communication, Martha is well-prepared to substantially impact your organization as your next content writer and strategist. Her dedication to her craft and commitment to delivering high-quality work enables her to create compelling content that resonates with audiences.

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