Vol. 72 No. 1 (2024): NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics

Uniqueness and agency in English Naming Practices of Mainland Chinese Students

Robert Weekly
University of Nottingham Ningbo
Shih-Ching (Susan) Picucci-Huang
University of Nottingham Ningbo

Published 2024-03-12


  • English names,
  • namegiver,
  • first name,
  • agency,
  • identity,
  • Mainland China
  • ...More


In diaspora and post-colonial communities, ethnic Chinese people tend to adopt names that are common in majority English-speaking countries. Compared to these communities, less attention has been paid to mainland Chinese, where the practice of adopting an English name is in the process of becoming normalised among the current generation of fifteen to thirty-five-year-olds. This paper is part of a wider project to examine the English naming practices of Chinese students from mainland China. It focuses specifically on name choices and the reasons for these choices. A 44-item questionnaire was completed by 357 mainland Chinese students, and this paper reports the quantitative data relevant to name choices and the reasons behind them. The results display an array of preferred English names and suggest that one of the key aspects of name choice is the uniqueness of the name, which served multiple purposes: distinguishing themselves from the peers, enabling them to be remembered, and expressing their identity. Additionally, Chinese students demonstrated a high degree of agency in their name choices, which was evident in the creative approaches used in name selection.


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