English names in Hong Kong

Yesterday over lunch my colleagues and I discussed weird English names in Hong Kong – this is a common and such a lighthearted topics for a Friday lunch, you won’t believe it.

I had written about Chinese names a long time ago, I guess a post of English names was long overdue!

People in Causeway Bay 3

In Hong Kong, almost every Chinese person has an English name, and a lot of official forms will ask you for both, your Chinese and your English name. The English name is either picked by the parents, or it could also be chosen by the child him/herself.

I’ve come across several food names in Hong Kong, which usually apply to a girl: Apple, Ginger, Milk, Sugar, Candy, Strawberry, Chili and even Oreo!

Then there are weather and season names: My colleague is called Summer, I’ve met a Rain (girl), a Sunny (boy) and a Cloud (boy). Apparently Rainbow and Snow are quite common too.

Some boys have interesting names too. So far I’ve met a King, a Stone, a Wing… and there must be many more. Some just added ‘Son’ to the name, I met a Mikeson and a Jamesson through the hiking group (I guess Nelson doesn’t count, that’s actually an accurate historic name).

There are so many examples that one blogger keeps a list titled HKSAR Name of the Day on the HKSAR Blog, which has almost 1,500 entries in the list.

My colleagues told me that you could also give a colour as a name to a kid: Blue, Green, Red and Purple are all colours/names they’ve come across. I’m not sure if these names would actually suit a boy or girl, what do you reckon?

Canton Street 1 kids

I’m really curious why all these ‘strange’ names exist. One reason might be that the people of Hong Kong want to be unique and have a name to stand out. Another reason could be that some people do not 100% understand English names. In Hong Kong, Chinese names have a meaning – so they may think that naming their child “Pretty” or “Strong” is a normal thing.

The Atlantic featured an interesting article about this topic too, you can read it here.

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14 responses to “English names in Hong Kong

  1. The worst two I have come across are Hymen (a girl as you might expect) and Adonis, a rather skinny lad. Some are clearly adopted and meant to be funny. A good example would be Small Fat……

    • You are right, it seems that some names don’t have the same meaning or connotation here than they do in Western countries. For instance Candy is such a common name in HK, but if you’d be called that in the UK or US, people might wink at you and think that’s your ‘work’ name!

    • That does remind me of a classmate of mine, who used to call himself Age-Man. His surname started with an H, and I’m sure he meant H-Man, but he just used the literal sound… It confused a lot of people, as he was a young kid, not an old man!

  2. Hehe, I’ve come across some great (and very random English names here) – my current favourites are Circle and Penguin!

    On a more serious note, I think it’s really interesting the ways that some Chinese (or other Asians) get their English names. I think now many parents give their children English names but older Chinese have often either picked one themselves or been given one by a family member, teacher or some other random circumstance whereby they ended up with that name.

  3. I come from the Philippines and we’ve got some really amusing English names there. For example, were Aristotle a girl, what do you think would her name be? Irishtotle, perhaps? It’s the name of my daughter’s schoolmate.

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