When Chinese, Koreans, and possibly other Asians migrate into countries like the UK or the US, they often take on a "western" or "anglicised" name for a number of reasons. For example, the director Justin Lin's Chinese (well, Taiwanese) name is Yipin Lin. I'd like to know how to refer to the two variants:

Yipin Lin is his ____ name while Justin Lin is his ____ name.

Ideally, I'd like to avoid nationalities (Chinese/Korean) and regions/languages ("western"/"anglicised") in preference to generic terms.

P.S. I want to avoid connotations of replacement as both names are often equally valid and current.

  • 2
    You could use "given" and "adopted", I suppose.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 15:08
  • Or "original" and "adopted." (I was thinking of both "first" name and "family" name but both terms already have a meaning!
    – JAM
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 15:10
  • 4
    Here in Singapore, they call them either Western name or 'Catholic name' (which is probably just moving the problem), or simply don't mention it at all. I wouldn't worry too much about causing offence. The Western name is often a translation of the Asian name. My wife's Chinese name, for example, translates to 'rose', which she takes as her western name. Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 15:15
  • 1
    @coleopterist ~ you are welcome. It works the other way too - you can have your name translated into Chinese or Japanese. This is done by taking the sound, matching it to a character, and then they can read the characters to tell you what it means. It is an imprecise science though. A group of friends gave me a Chinese name, which they translated into 'Lazy Earth Worm', then they translated the look on my face, had a discussion, and I became Peaceful Earth Dragon. Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 15:52
  • 2
    Here in Taiwan we call them Chinese name and English (or whatever country) name. A "Taiwanese" name is in the Southern Min dialect of Chinese. There are various ways of romanizing Yi-Pin in Taiwan because we don't use hanyu pinying the way the mainland Chinese do. My Chinese name (I must have one to work and live here) is typical of the names that most Taiwanese have: traditional Mandarin characters and pronunciation rather than characters that approximate the sound of my English name: a stupid idea IMHO. All the other suggestions would fall on deaf ears here in Taiwan.
    – user21497
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 17:16

3 Answers 3


Original name and alias/adopted name are generally used.


I would use Chinese name and English name. Note, not his Taiwanese name nor his American name. I would use the language, not the country. e.g.:

My grandfather, Shachna came to America. "Shachna" was his Yiddish name, but "Charles" was his English name.

(Note: Jews also have a separate calendar and often people will say "Hebrew date" vs. "English date" which is wrongly derived from this. It really should be "Hebrew date" vs. "Gregorian date".


You have a very good answer from Charles, to use the name of the languages. A Chinese name, a German name, a Greek name ---- they are as fully American as an English name if the bearer is American.

Please do not use "ethnic" and "adopted". Ethnic means national origin, from the Greek "ethnikós": εθνικός. English is an ethnicity as well as a language. The word "adopted" has its own baggage, suggesting a new family structure.

Among Chinese women, I have seen the use of an English name that translates the meaning of the Chinese name, such as Rose and Lily. I have also seen the use of a name known to English speakers, such as Irene, which means "peace" in Greek, for a woman whose Chinese name has the same meaning, "peace".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.