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Ask Baby Names

Baby name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com. Have a question for Jennifer? E-mail it to question@babynames.com

Names that work in Chinese and English?
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Dear Ms. Moss,

You invite people to ask name-related questions on your site, and I’ve got a question that has been bothering me and my partner for quite some time now. We’re expecting a child to be born halfway through Juli, and we’re severely limited in names. The reason for this is, that she is Chinese, and I am Dutch, and we’re looking for a name that works for both families. Now, Dutch can be treated as English, for the most part, since all Dutch are fluent in English, at the very least, but the Chinese have a tendency to corrupt names into a Chinese variant. For example, my name is Casper, but I’ve been named ‘Ka-ka’, ‘Kassû’, ‘Cassava’ and many other things.

Where would we start looking for names that suit this set of limitations?

Best regards,
Casper

Dear Casper,

This is a little out of my wheelhouse, but I did consult my niece, Roni, who speaks Chinese as a second language and has lived in China. She says that some names that sound very similar in both English and Chinese are usually just English names that are given characters to sound like the English, such as:

Kylie / 凯利
Kyle / 凯尔
David / 大卫

However there are some websites that have English names translated to sound like the English in Chinese. Roni recommends Chinese-Tools.com as a good source.

For names that are more commonly given in Chinese, however, she wasn’t sure how to find ones that specifically “work” in English. She says, “My Chinese name is considered a pretty and an ‘actual’ name as opposed to a translated one, but it does not sound like Roni. (My Chinese name is 惠莉, or Huìlì).”

I hope this helps a bit!
Sincerely,
Roni & Jennifer