It's common for children to be referred to as 小李, 小王, 小刘, etc. in Chinese (basically 小[姓], where [姓] is the family name).

I expect there is a certain age where it's no longer appropriate to call someone 小李, etc. I also guess it's more likely that 小李 (sounding kind of cute) remains suitable for females longer than for males.

Question: At what age is it inappropriate to call people 小李, 小王, 小刘, etc.? And is it different for males and females?

3 Answers 3


It is not about the person's age, it is about is the person older or younger than you, and what kind of relationship between you and that person.

If someone is about your age, and you two are close friends or at lease having a friendly relationship, it is OK. to call him 小李 or 老李

If someone close to you is much older than you, it is OK. to call him 老李 but not 小李

If someone close to you is much younger than you, it is OK. to call him 小李 but not 老李

Chinese men don't usually call a female friend 老李, 小李, 老王, 小王 .etc. (it implies she is one of us guys)

If you are 80 years old, you still can call a 79 years old friend 老李, 小李, 老王, 小王 .etc.


The age depends more on the age difference of the speaker than anything else.

An older person could call you 小李 as long as they were quite a bit older than you.

If the name stuck, it could last a lifetime.


It can not only precede 姓 but the last character of one's name. E.g. One of my friends' name is 王丽娟 and people around call her 小娟.

I think the point is that you can call whatever you feel right about the person. In my example, 小娟 sounds so cute that only people who are on intimate terms might call her that name. The people who are on speaking terms might just call her 小王 instead if they feel she is young and energetic from their point of view.

I wouldn't suggest that you try to call people 小x if you are not familiar with them unless they suggest it or people around call them like that.

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