Suppose I want to make up a story featuring an unimportant Chinese character. How do I give the name, so it sound like Chinese, but do not carry too much particular meaning?

That said, the Chinese character is neither the protagonist nor the antagonist, and has a minimal characteristic. Neverthless, a name is still needed. What I want is a name that sound like annonymous, while still consisting of a first name and a last name.

Like "Charlie" for English and "Ivan" for Russian, I want the name to imply Chinese nationality, especially when heard by foreign people.

I don't want the name as a pun, because thus will limit the target audience to some native language the pun originated.

Both genders may be considered.


Although statistics are out there on name distribution among the population, I am still interested how those names sound like when some foreign people hear it.

Also please do not come up with names "Madam Three", "Mister Four", and "Five" alike. They are too made up that real parents would never name a child as such.

Below is this exact question phrased in Chinese.


  • 3
    The accepted answer doesn't really speak to your updated question. 张三 is like 'John Doe' in English instead of 'Charlie'. What you're looking for are names like 王涛, 陈亮, 刘刚, etc.
    – NS.X.
    Feb 28, 2015 at 20:37

2 Answers 2



Is pretty much the Chinese equivalent of John Doe.

There's the well known phrase 张三李四 which means:

any Tom, Dick, or Harry (ABC)

any man in street (Oxford)

张三 is the first part of the phrase and you could totally use it as a name. 李四 like-wise would also work; there are two other names: 王五 and 赵六 that are mentioned in this word: 张三,李四,王五,赵六 which again means:

1 four proverbial names

2 Tom, Dick and Harry (CC-CEDICT)

Any of those four could actually be options to you. With 张三 being the most well known followed by 李四, leaving 王五 and 赵六 as the two least unlikely candidates.


Is another name that might work.

Literally meaning big, name. It is often used as a Chinese name in learning Chinese langauge texts for foreigners.

  • it helps much, for addressing how foreigners learn the language. Feb 28, 2015 at 1:35

The traditional way is to use 甲、乙、丙、丁... which are ten in total. You can also prefix it with 男/女 to indicate gender as 男甲 (man A), or titles like 学生甲 (student A), 路人甲 (passer-by A).

To make it more like a name use 张三、李四、王五、赵六. Those are common one but it's not carved in stones. You can make up your own as well e.g. 王二. And the number often indicates the person's seniority among his or her siblings. For the oldest one, use 大 instead of 一.

Modern times especially when telling stories, 小明 is quite common for a boy or young man. 小红/小芳 etc are common for girl or young woman.

If it doesn't bother you too much to come up with a surname, there would be more choices:

  • You can make up names like 小+surname for a young person 老+SURNAME for a old person.

  • You can also use surname with other common ways titles to indicate different people, e.g. 张大爷(Uncle张)

  • You can use 大+SURNAME as well, often for characters who are physically large or socially respected.

  • There would be more choices in regional dialect.

In many news reports where person's name involved are preferred to be anonymous, most would use SURNAME+某 or make up a name using method above.

  • I'm not asking for how to address unfamiliar people, but how to give a real name that sound common and natual, if i have not written my question clear enough. And regional dialects probably won't take into consideration because the target audience would be foreigners. Feb 28, 2015 at 6:34

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