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There seems to be at least three ways of saying "Confucius" in Chinese:

(There's possibly more I'm unaware of.)

I'm just wondering if these are all the same, or if there's some distinction between them.

Question: Are there distinctions between the various terms for "Confucius"?

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孔丘 is Confucius's personal name 名 (míng) given to him as an infant.

仲尼 (or 孔仲尼 if you add his family name) is Confucius's "courtesy name" 字 (zì), bestowed upon him at adulthood.

According to the Book of Rites, after a man reaches adulthood, it is disrespectful for others of the same generation to address him by his given name, or míng. Thus, the given name was reserved for oneself and one's elders, while the zì would be used by adults of the same generation to refer to one another on formal occasions or in writing; hence the term "courtesy name". From the Wikipedia Entry of "Courtesy Name"

孔子 or 孔夫子 (kǒng fū zǐ), both means "Master Kong" to show respect. These are the most commonly heard name nowadays when referring to Confucius.

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First you need to know about how people were named at that time. Back then one's name had three parts:

姓 (family name), 名 (given name), 字(also given name, but doesn't exist today)

孔 was his 姓, 丘 was his 名, and 仲尼 was his 字.

I don't need to explain the family name much. As for 名 and 字, the difference is that 字 is more formal than 名. And one often calls himself by 名 to show modesty and calls the one he is talking to or mentioning by 字 to show respect.

Finally, "子" is a suffix after the family name to mention someone who is well-respected (for example, a teacher, a well-educated person, etc., and Confucius was both and more).

  • 字 is translated courtesy name / style name in English. – Michaelyus Jul 5 at 8:06
  • actually his 姓 is 子 while his 氏 is 孔 – Archeosudoerus Jul 5 at 22:17
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Chinese mostly call "Confucius" as "孔子"

孔 is his family name, 子 is an honorific reserved only for the greatest intellectuals/ philosophers

  • 丘 is his first name.

  • 仲尼 is his courtesy name

  • 聖 is an honorific reserved only for the most respected person, therefore, people sometimes refer 孔子 as 孔聖

  • 孔子 is also referred as 萬世師表 (model for all teachers in all time)

  • The term "孔夫子" is also referring to "Confucius". 夫子 is another honorific for great intellectuals

If you study Chinese Culture, you have to know about these people: 孔子老子莊子孟子孫子 and 墨子

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