I watched a Chinese drama a few years ago and one character was called 啊金. Then I got to know that it wasn't his name, but 金 sure was his name. Is that some kind of nickname? My Chinese teacher told me sometimes they call each other 小+surname, 老+surname. I am very curious O.O

  • Yip Po-Ching, "The Chinese Lexicon":Affixes for human nouns 2 human prefixes commonly found in the lexicon are 老 and 阿. Meaningless though they are, they express an attitudinal cline from 'respect and/or intimacy' to 'contempt':阿姨'auntie'(respect and intimacy) 阿公 'father of one's husband'(respect and intimacy)阿斗 'doltish weakling' (contempt)阿飞 'hooligan' (contempt) 阿王 'Mr Wang' (familiarity)
    – user6065
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 4:29
  • 阿 can precede many names, any character of a person's name or nickname, and even 洋名, especially that name is too short(only one syllable) or too long. Some of my friends are are 阿謙(given name), 阿簡(surname), 阿Ken, 阿Liz, 阿Jeff(洋名s), 阿Sa, 阿But, 阿Pat(Shortened Alyssa, Patricia, Albert). Using 阿 can personify things. Sometimes I use 阿 when talking with kids to refer to their toys like 阿車(toy cars) or playground facilities like 阿滑梯(the slide) or everything like 阿枕頭(the pillow).
    – HYC
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 15:25

3 Answers 3


Not 啊, is 阿.

阿 + surname, or 阿 + given name can be a nickname. You can only attach one character to 阿.

e.g. 李白 -> 阿李, 阿白

e.g. 周树人 -> 阿周, 阿树, 阿人. no 阿树人.

阿 + last given name used more.


啊+surname,means that person is not important. 啊谁=no body (谁=who).

小+surname,means that person is a kid. 小朋友=little kid.

老+surname, mean that person is an old man. 老师=teacher. (A person with a lot of knowledge generally speaking is much older.)

So language is interesting, but if you are not sure, just call anyone with last-name + 先生,or 小姐。for example, 黄先生,陈小姐。


I watched a chinese drama ... Is that some kind of nickname? - Answer to this is yes. Calling someone by their full name is considered alienative (and also inconvient for too many syllables) in Chinese. To get rid of this, people ask to permit to call by such nickname, after they intrduced each other. Just like the way English user do:

- Hi. I’m Christopher Stetson Wilson. Nice to meet you.
- Hi. I'm 林树森. May I call you Christ?
- Yes. So can I say 阿森?
- Never mind.

Note here and is equivalent. Word-choosing varies with regions.

小A and 老B is an extended usage of above talking. But mostly use family-name instead of surname(小林/老林 but not 小森/老森).
Considered there are two persons A and B, B is elder (in age/title/etc.), They are both adults.
Then B can choose to call A as 小A. 老B is applied alike contrarily.

A secondary usage is, when B talking to a third person C, he may refer A as 小A. 老B is applied contrarily.

A thirdly usage is, both A and B are old but close in age. They may call 老A/老B mutually. 小X is NOT applied this way, for this is impolite.

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