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Nguyễn (Northern pronunciation [ŋʷjə̌ˀn] ( listen), southern [ŋʷjə̌ŋ] ( listen) [1][2] is the most common Vietnamese family name.

By some estimates, approximately forty percent of Vietnamese people have this surname.[3][4][5]

The prevalence of Nguyễn as a family name in Vietnam extends to outside of the country where many Vietnamese people have emigrated. Nguyễn is the seventh most common family name in Australia[6] (second only to Smith in the Melbourne phone books[7]), and the fifty-fourth most common in France.[8] In the United States, it is the fifty-seventh most common family name according to the 2000 Census, as well as the most common exclusively East Asian surname,[9] a massive leap from its 229th-place ranking in 1990.[10] It is ranked 124th in the U.S. Social Security Index.[11] It is the sixty-second most common surname in Norway[12] and the 85th most common name in the Czech Republic[13] and tops the foreign name list of that country.[14] Nguyễn is the Vietnamese transliteration of the Chinese surname (), which is often transliterated as Ruan in Mandarin, Yuen in Cantonese, or Nyoe in Wu Chinese.

Origin and usage

In Vietnamese history, many events contributed to the name's prominence. In 1232, after usurping the Lý Dynasty, Trần Thủ Độ forced the descendants of the Lý to change their surname to Nguyễn. When Hồ Quý Ly overturned the Trần Dynasty, he killed many of their descendants so when the Hồ Dynasty collapsed in 1407, many of his descendants changed their surname to Nguyễn in fear of retribution. In 1592, on the collapse of the Mạc Dynasty, their descendants changed their surname to Nguyễn and Lều. When the Nguyễn Dynasty (the descendants of the Nguyễn Lords) took power in 1802, some of the descendants of the Trịnh Lords fearing retribution changed their surname to Nguyễn, while others fled north into China. The Nguyễn Dynasty awarded many people the surname Nguyễn during their rule, and many criminals also changed their surname to Nguyễn to avoid prosecution. As with other common surnames, people having this surname are not necessarily related.[3]

In Vietnamese custom as with other East Asian cultures, the surname precedes the given names. Like many surnames in Vietnam and other Chinese-influenced cultures including Korea, the name Nguyễn is shared with those in the Chinese culture with the same surname. The Chinese/Hán Tự character for Nguyễn is .


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 much confusion about who is being referred to as one might expect. However, some groups distinguish themselves from other Nguyễn 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 Nguyễn family are, in no particular order:

  • Nguyễn Phước or Nguyễn Phúc: mostly all of Nguyễn Lords family members and all members of the Nguyễn Dynasty royal house have this as part of their name.
  • Nguyễn Hữu
  • Nguyễn Cảnh
  • Nguyễn Khắc
  • Nguyễn Sinh (Original family name of Hồ Chí Minh)
  • Nguyễn Tiến
  • Nguyễn Đức
  • Nguyễn Ngọc
  • Nguyễn Văn
  • Nguyễn Quang


The correct Vietnamese pronunciation is [ŋʷjə̌ˀn] ( listen), pronounced as one syllable. [ŋ] is the velar nasal found at the end of the English word "sing". Unlike Vietnamese, this consonant is never found in initial position in English. [w] is the glide found in the English word "quick". [jə̌] is a rising diphthong. The sound of this diphthong is close (but not identical) to the word "yum" or the diphthong /ɪə/ found in British English Received Pronunciation in the word "beer". Finally, [n] is the same sound as in English.

Besides these vowels and consonants, Nguyễn is also pronounced with a tone in Vietnamese. In Southern Vietnam, Nguyễn is pronounced with the dipping tone, meaning the pitch of the voice first drops from a mid level to the bottom of the speaker's range of pitch, then rises back to mid. In Northern Vietnam, it is pronounced with the creaky rising tone, meaning 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.

The pronunciation of Nguyễn is commonly approximated by English speakers as "win",[1][2] "wen", or "nuwen". Writers familiar with the "win" approximation have created puns from the pronunciation.[1][2]

Notable Nguyễns

Since approximately 40 percent of all Vietnamese people have the surname Nguyễn, notable people with this surname run the gamut of Vietnamese society. They range from heads of state (Nguyễn lords, Nguyễn Dynasty, Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, Nguyễn Minh Triết), poets (Nguyễn Trãi, Nguyễn Du), Catholic clergymen (Nguyễn Văn Thuận), writers, scientists, composers, actors (Dustin Nguyen), professional poker players (Scotty Nguyen) to executed criminals (Nguyễn Tường Vân). Perhaps the most well-known Nguyễn is not known as a Nguyễn at all, but through an alias. Hồ Chí Minh was born Nguyễn Sinh Cung and used various names with the surname Nguyễn throughout his career (Nguyễn Tất Thành, Nguyễn Ái Quốc) and was not known as Hồ Chí Minh until late in his career.


  1. ^ a b c "Either way, in the 1st district, it's a Nguyen for taxpayers". Orange County Register. 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  2. ^ a b c "Nguyen-Nguyen situation". Orange County Register: Total Buzz. 2007-02-07. Archived from the original on 2007-03-03. Retrieved 2007-02-22. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine. or /nəˈɡjən/) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "win2" defined multiple times with different content
  3. ^ a b Lê Trung Hoa, Họ và tên người Việt Nam, NXB Khoa học - Xã hội, 2005
  4. ^ "Vietnamese names". Archived from the original on July 11, 2008. 
  5. ^ Kelly, Maura (July 27, 2011). "Nafissatou and Amadou". Slate. 
  6. ^ The Age (2006-09-04). "Nguyens keeping up with the Joneses". Retrieved 2006-09-09. 
  7. ^ Melbourne City Council. "City of Melbourne - Multicultural Communities - Vietnamese". Retrieved 2006-11-27. 
  8. ^ French surnames
  9. ^ New York Times: 'In Name Count, Garcias Are Catching Up to Joneses'
  10. ^ List of American last names in the 1990 Census
  11. ^ PBS, POV: The Sweetest Sound: Popularity Index
  12. ^ Statistics Norway. "Top 100 last names". Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  13. ^ MVČR: Četnost mužských příjení k 28.5.2007
  14. ^ (Czech)"Žebříčky nejčastějších jmen vedou Nováci a Nguyenové". Novinky. 2007-05-17. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 

External links

Look up Nguyen in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Nguyễn. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.
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