。。。 “小时小,朋友朋。”

I think Chinese people will say that because you may not know how their name is written, so you get a better description of what their name is.

But... does the word have to be the foundation of your name, or can it be anything to help someone understand what your name is, without having to write it down? Does that make sense?

For example, my Chinese name is "张玲菲“. Can I say "张票的张,玲珑的玲,菲律宾的菲”? Is it weird to say "菲律宾的菲", or would there be something better to use?

I have had many ask, "Oh, how is that written?" But would like to say that instead!

Thanks for your help!!

  • 2
    It's fine, as long as you can get your idea across. Btw, as for 张, we usually say 弓 长 张 for clarification, since there is 立 早 章.
    – dan
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 3:32
  • 4
    Another "modern" way is to use the surname / name of a famous personality, like movie celebrities or well known singers. This way you avoid saying something silly or negative, which I believe is your concern. My mother is also a 张, and so her nickname was 张天师, an ancient Taoist deity. But the TeoChew, (潮州), people have no such problem because 张 is pronounced "Teo / Teoh" in that "dialect" Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 4:21
  • 3
    Following Wayne's comment, you may say (Eileen Chang) 張愛玲的玲, (Faye Wong) 王菲的菲 too
    – L Parker
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 4:23
  • There are also some common family names that have fairly fixed clarifications as well such as 雙木林 for 林, or 木子李 for 李. You can of course improvise as well, so it's not as if people wouldn't understand if you say 森林的林.
    – Olle Linge
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 16:15
  • 1
    Just in case someone would wonder how may possible female names if OP does not clarify her name. echo {张,章}{玲,伶,铃,菱,苓,灵,囹,姈}{菲,飞,妃,斐,婓,翡}: 张玲菲 张玲飞 张玲妃 张玲斐 张玲婓 张玲翡 张伶菲 张伶飞 张伶妃 张伶斐 张伶婓 张伶翡 张铃菲 张铃飞 张铃妃 张铃斐 张铃婓 张铃翡 张菱菲 张菱飞 张菱妃 张菱斐 张菱婓 张菱翡 张苓菲 张苓飞 张苓妃 张苓斐 张苓婓 张苓翡 张灵菲 张灵飞 张灵妃 张灵斐 张灵婓 张灵翡 张囹菲 张囹飞 张囹妃 张囹斐 张囹婓 张囹翡 张姈菲 张姈飞 张姈妃 张姈斐 张姈婓 张姈翡 章玲菲 章玲飞 章玲妃 章玲斐 章玲婓 章玲翡 章伶菲 章伶飞 章伶妃 章伶斐 章伶婓 章伶翡 章铃菲 章铃飞 章铃妃 章铃斐 章铃婓 章铃翡 章菱菲 章菱飞 章菱妃 章菱斐 章菱婓 章菱翡 章苓菲 章苓飞 章苓妃 章苓斐 章苓婓 章苓翡 章灵菲 章灵飞 章灵妃 章灵斐 章灵婓 章灵翡 章囹菲 章囹飞 章囹妃 章囹斐 章囹婓 章囹翡 章姈菲 章姈飞 章姈妃 章姈斐 章姈婓 章姈翡 Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 10:00

2 Answers 2


The vast majority of Chinese characters have homophones (同音字), other characters with exactly the same pronunciation. That's why we might need to clarify which character we are referring to. It's like when in English we need to clarify how to spell a name. For example, you may wonder: "Is she Annabel or Annabelle?" "Anne or Ann?"

There is no strict rule about how to do that in Chinese, but you may want to consider what is common in China.

In real life, there are a few different ways to "spell" Chinese characters, including:

1) Telling which "parts" the character if composed of

For example, to "spell" 胡, you would say 古月胡 because 胡 is made of 古 (you see it on the left in the character 胡) and 月 (on the right in the character 胡).

The conversation, taken from wearyourchinesename.com lesson 51, might go this way:

A: 你姓什么?
B: 我姓胡。
A: 什么胡?
B: 古月胡。

Other examples:












朱:牛人朱 (see also the 朱 below)


More examples not so obvious:

(the 阝 you see on the left of 陈 is shorten here as 耳 because it is called “软耳刀”, “双耳旁”, or “双耳刀”)

(又 is the similar part you see on the left of 邓, while the 阝 you see on the right is shorten here as 耳 because it is called “软耳刀”, “双耳旁”, or “双耳刀”)

(二 here is a short of 二点水, that is the 冫 you see on the left of 冯)

(人 is the 亻 you see on the left of 何)

(言 is the 讠 you see on the left of 计; infact, the traditional version of 计 is 計)

(刀 is the 刂 you see on the right of 刘)

(草 is the 艹 you see as upper part of 苗)

(with both 广 and 口)

(言 is the 讠 you see on the left of 许; infact, the traditional version of 许 is 許)

(same as above)

(肖 is the 㐅 you see on the right of 赵; infact, the traditional version of 赵 is 趙)

(the 阝 you see on the right of 郑 is shorten here as 耳 because it is called “软耳刀”, “双耳旁”, or “双耳刀”)

(吉 in a frame; this is a universally accepted mistake made for convenience, because 吉 in NOT what you see inside of 周, but just very similar)

(in a frame)

2) Reference to position or number of certain parts

(草 is the 艹 you see as the upper part of 黄, while 头 here means "upper part": the "黄" having 艹 as upper part)

(same as above; see also the 蒋 below)

(双 means couple, so in 林 we have a couple of 木; see also the 林 below)

(a couple of 口)

(a couple of 人 are in the 彳 that you see on the left of 徐)

3) Reference to strokes

(with three horizontal strokes)

(干 with a 亅 added)

(未 with a 丿 added; see below for still another option)

4) Reference to words



5) Reference to famous people










6) Just write it on your hand with your finger!


Yes and No.

When the characters of your name are strongly connected to some concepts, people tend to explain it that way.

Many Chinese names are from Chinese Wu Xing. For instance: . I know some people who have the name and they always introduced it like 三个水的那个淼 which means the three-Water combined word.

However, if the name has nothing to do with some concepts, people will just use any way to describe it. Just like the example in your question.

  • Quote:- "三个水的那个淼" Yeah, this is the "classical" way, but only good for people who have a wide grasp of written Chinese. For example my surname 谢 could be clarified in one of two ways. First, the "colloquial" way which is to say 谢谢的谢, (which even illiterates could grasp), or the "classical" way which is to say 言, 身 ,寸which incidentally means that when you wish to "Thank" someone, you do it with "words", (言) and "expressed with every "inch" (寸) of your "body" (身)", like bowing with hands clasped together. Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 14:45

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