How to Choose an English Name
by James Allen on October 21, 2015
Your name is special. Your parents chose it for you, and even if you don’t like it very much, it is an important part of who you are.
So, why would you want to pick a new “English name?”
The main reason is to help your classmates, teachers, and homestay family have an easier time pronouncing your name. If you were born in China, for example, there’s a big chance people will not be able to say your name right. This might make them embarrassed or frustrated, and you probably won’t like it very much, either. Having an English name will help everyone save time and avoid the embarrassment of saying your name wrong.
However, remember that your real name is special and you should be proud of it! When introducing yourself, say your real name and afterward, say “but you can call me _______” so people can learn your English name.
Now, let’s look at the different methods of how to choose an English name.
There is no one “right” way to pick an English name, but some methods are better than others.
Below are the two methods I believe can help you choose the best name:
Choosing a name that has a similar sound:
Even if your name is very unique, there is a possibility that you’ll find names in English that will sound somewhat similar to your real name. For example, the Chinese name Sheng sounds a little bit like the English name Shawn (this name can also be spelled as Sean and Shaun). If you are a female and your given name is Jiang, the English name Jane might be a good option.
Even if your name doesn’t have any close matches in English, you can still choose a name with the same first letter. For example, a Japanese man named Kotaro Ishii chose Ken as his English name.
Choosing a name that is common in English-speaking countries:
The other option I recommend is looking at lists of the most popular names in English-speaking countries. Here are just a few to get you started: Popular names of the 2000s in the United States, Australia’s top 100 (2012), and the top 100 in England and Wales (2014). Choosing from among names that are well-known is a safe way to pick an English name. Your classmates and teachers will already be familiar with them, and they won’t have any trouble pronouncing them, either.
The United States government keeps track of which names were the most popular each year. Using this data, I wrote down the top 25 names assigned to babies born in 2014 and also took the time to write down the meaning of each name. Choosing from this list will help you make sure you have a common name which almost everybody knows how to pronounce. For more details about a name, click on it and a new tab will open.
Rank Male Meaning Female Meaning
1 Noah Biblical name which means "rest, comfort." Emma A Germanic name which means "whole" or "universal."
2 Liam Irish name; short for William. which means "guardian." Olivia An English name first popularized by William Shakespeare which means "olive."
3 Mason Originally an English surname (family name) meaning "stoneworker." Sophia Originally a Greek name which means "wisdom."
4 Jacob Biblical name given to the father of the 12 tribes of Israel which means "supplanter." Isabella The Latinised form of Elizabeth, which means "My God is abundance."
5 William Originally a Germanic name which comes from the words "will, desire" and "helmet, protection." Ava A variation of the name Eve. Eve is derived from the Hebrew word "to breathe" and is the first woman in the Bible.
6 Ethan Originally a Hebrew name which means "solid, enduring." Mia A Scandinavian, Dutch, and German nickname for Maria. In Spanish and Italian, it means "mine."
7 Michael Originally a Hebrew name which means "who is like God?" Emily English feminine version of the name Aemilius which means "rival."
8 Alexander Latinised form of the Greek name Αλεξανδρος which means "defending men." Abigail From the Hebrew name אֲבִיגָיִל which means "my father is joy."
9 James Bible name which is the English form of the New Testament Greek form of the Hebrew name Ya'aqov (Jacob). Madison From an English surname meaning "son of Maud," which originally meant "strength in battle."
10 Daniel From the Hebrew name דָּנִיֵּאל meaning "God is my judge." Charlotte French feminine version of the name Charles which comes from a Germanic word meaning "man" but could possibly mean "army, warrior."
11 Elijah From the Hebrew name אֱלִיָּהוּ which means "my God is YAHWEH." Harper From an Old English surname which originally belonged to people who played or made harps.
12 Benjamin From the Hebrew name בִּנְיָמִין which means "son of th south" or "son of the right hand." Sofia An alternative form of the name Sophia, originally a Greek name which means "wisdom."
13 Logan From a surname originally derived from a Scottish location meaning "little hollow." Avery From a surname which was derived from the Norman French form of Alberich ("elf" and "power") or Alfred ("elf" and "counsel").
14 Aiden Version of the name Aidan which traces its roots to the old Irish name Áed, meaning "fire." Elizabeth From Ελισαβετ, the Greek form of a Hebrew name which means "my God is abundance."
15 Jayden Version of the name Jaden, which is a made-up name. Possibly comes from Jadon, meaning either "thankful" or "he will judge" in Hebrew. Ameila Version of Amalia, which is the Latinised version of the Germanic name Amala, meaning "work."
16 Matthew English form of Ματθαιος, the Greek form of the Hebrew name which means "gift of YAHWEH." Evelyn From an English surname originally taken from the name Aveline, which possibly means "desired."
17 Jackson From an English surname meaning "son of Jack." Jack is said to come from the name John, which means "YAHWEH is gracious." Ella Version of the Germanic name Alia, which was the short form of names containing the Germanic element meaning "other, foreign."
18 David From the Hebrew name דָּוִד which means "beloved." Chloe Means "green shoot" in Greek and a description of the Greek goddess Demeter.
19 Lucas Latin form of the Greek name Λουκας, meaning "from Lucania." Lucania was a region in southern Italy. Victoria Means "victory" in Latin. Victoria was the Roman goddess of victory.
20 Joseph Comes from the Hebrew name יוֹסֵף meaning "he will add," referring to receiving a blessing from God. Aubrey Norman French form of the Germanic name Alberich which comes from "elf" and "power."
21 Anthony English form of the Roman family name Antonius which means "worthy of praise; of value." Grace From the English word grace, which comes from the Latin word gratia which means "by favour," referring to something done out of kindness.
22 Andrew English form of the Greek name Ανδρεας which means "manly, masculine." Zoey Version of the name Zoe, which means "life" in Greek.
23 Samuel From the Hebrew name שְׁמוּאֵל which means "God has heard." Natalie From the Late Latin name Natalia, which meant "Christmas day."
24 Gabriel From the Hebrew name גַבְרִיאֵל which means "God is my strong man." Addison From an English surname which means "son of Adam." Adam comes from the Hebrew word for "man."
25 Joshua From the Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ which means "YAHWEH is salvation." Lillian Possibly a variation of the name Elizabeth. Also considered a longer form of the name Lily, which is the name of a flower derived from the Latin word "lilium."
Remember, it is always best to stay on the safe side and not choose risky names. Choosing a risky name could not only cause you embarrassment, but it could lead to bad consequences like people not taking you seriously. The name you choose should be appropriate at your school, and one day, your job.
If you are applying to participate in our high school or ESL program, you will notice that the applications request an English name. If you are unsure about the meaning of a name, or whether or not you should choose it, contact us! We’d be more than happy to help. If your native language is Chinese, here is one additional resource that can help you choose a name and see its meaning in Chinese: 英文名字的意义.
I wish you all the best as you determine the best English name for you!
Do you have questions, comments, or concerns? Get in touch or voice your opinion on social media!