Generational Names

“This year your highest priority will be your family.”


My brother and I share a generational name.

Family is important to me, and last week I posted about my baby nephew, along with special foods for new moms. This week I’ll be talking about birth names. I remember searching online and flipping through baby books to choose special English names.

The more difficult task, though, was picking a Chinese name. That required discussion between my husband and me, plus consultation with both sets of parents. This is because a Chinese name has a generational impact. Generational names aren’t whole names passed on to progeny (for example, I’ve known people with III and IV attached to their name). Instead, Chinese generational names involve:

  • Two characters
  • The first is the generation name (provided to all siblings, cousins, etc.)
  • The second is the given name (individual’s unique moniker)
  • It has significant symbolism (a particular trait or wish for the child)
  • My own kids start off their names with “purity”

My children use the Chinese characters for their middle names. A lot of my peers and relatives, though, are eschewing the Chinese and giving their kids full English names. (But they may use a Chinese name in private.)

I like having my kids discover tradition in their names. It will give them a unique sense of identity. Also, it makes it easier to claim personalized email addresses and websites in the future. ;)

What name traditions have you encountered?


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Simple Holiday Treats


  1. My mom winces ever time she hears of one of her grandkids or grandnieces/nephews with “American” names: Chad, Chelsea, Aaliyah….
    In her generation, every was named for a sibling or parent. This makes me laugh because none of her kids, including myself, are named after any of her siblings or parent. My kids have either a first name, middle name of a relative or a combo of names.

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      That’s so funny about your mom, Mona. I remember relatives asking us to make sure the kids’ first names wouldn’t be too American or unpronounceable for them.

  2. And I thought I had a difficult time picking names. I love that you continued the valued cultural tradition. It makes it so much more meaningful.

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