外号 / 昵称 / 小名 / 绰号 / 浑号 (nickname)

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by baosheng, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. baosheng Senior Member

    Canada, English

    I notice that Chinese has many words for nickname: 外号,昵称, 小名,绰号,浑号. Are there any differences between these words (in meaning/usage/frequency)?

    For example, is a 小名 only for when you are 小? (and does it become a 大名 after?)

    Thanks in advance/谢谢!
  2. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
    Hi! What an interesting question! I think they can be classified into several groups:

    1) 小名/乳名 is the name your parents call you from your childhood onward. Your parents, and perhaps your siblings, may still call you by this name when you're, like, 60. (It won't become 大名, which only occurs in the archaic expression 高姓大名 "your honorable name".) In the old days parents often give their children self-effacing 乳名, in order not to "tempt fate" (such as 豬仔/狗仔 in Cantonese).

    2) 暱稱/昵稱 is close to "nickname". For example, David Beckham, who has been visiting China these days, is known as 小貝 by the fans in Mainland China.

    3) 諢號/渾號/外號/綽號/異名 is also close to "nickname", but it has either a humorous or gangster touch to it. In 水滸傳, each of the 108 "tough guys" 好漢 has his or her own nickname, based on their physical appearance or behavior (for a list see here).

    4) 小稱/指小稱 is a linguistic term ("diminutive"), such as Саша (<--Александр) in Russian. 兒化 is sometimes regarded as a form of 指小稱.
  3. newpomme Member

  4. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    In modern China (P.R.C.), just learn these two would be enough:
    1. "小名": the nickname your parents called you.
    2. "外号": a nickname your peers gave you. (Often rather funny or humiliating.)

    NOTE! A "very typical way" of calling others surname or given name such as 小张, 老王, 阿兰... is NOT considered to be a 外号.
    i.e. 我叫他小张,但没给他起外号。

    All the other terms "绰号/昵称/诨名/花名/尊姓大名..." are written or antique terms.
  5. baosheng Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Thanks, everyone, for your helpful replies! (oh, it is too bad that 小张, 老王, 阿兰, these types of ways of calling people are not considered "外号" in Chinese since these are the ones I use most often... )

    I know that the character "小" can sometimes be part of a 名字. So let's say you heard Person A call Person B "小明" (and you know both people). Would it be possible to ask the question: "Is 小明 Person B's given name or their nickname (as in, part of a '小_',’老_' or ‘阿_' structure)?" in Chinese? (let's say their full name was "黄小" or alternatively maybe their name was 东,but one wasn't sure which one it was)

    Yes! I always found it interesting that athletes (and perhaps others?) often have their own Chinese nicknames/昵称 in China
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2013
  6. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    昵称 is also nickname in the Internet meaning. But colloquially 网名 is used.

    Yes, it's common for celebrities to have nicknames. Bush jr is 小布什, Bush senior is 老布什, Britney spears is 小甜甜, Ronaldo is 外星人, Ronaldinho is 小罗, Cristiano Ronaldo is C罗。
    In Italy 老贝 is Berlusconi.

    In ancient times people had 名、字、号。
    名 is similar to today's 小名. It's the name parents give children until he is 20.
    字 is similar to 大名. It's the name one gives to himself after he's 20, usually its meaning is related with 名, or has opposite meaning. After that, everybody else in society must call him with 字. Only people in family and sometimes teachers can call him with 名.
    号 is sort of nom de plume. Notable people, such as politicians, poets, doctors, etc. have a 号, usually people of the same profession refer him with 号。

    Some example.
    Confucius: 姓孔,名丘,字仲尼。He doesn not have a 号. In some of his works, he refers to himself as 仲尼. The most famous works are his students' notes, who always refer to him as 子 (teacher), as in 子曰 (Confucius says). Later he became known as 孔子 or 孔夫子 (teacher Kong).
    李白:名白,字太白. His 字 is an exaggerated meaning of his 名. In modern times he is known by his 名.
    Sun Yat Sen: he had many 号. One of them is 逸仙, Yat-sen is the Cantonese pronunciation, which he is known in Cantonese and in the West. In Mandarin he's known with his other 号:中山.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2013
  7. tarlou Senior Member

    Youngfun gave an excellent explanation about the difference between 名 and 字. Just to clarify, I think the ancient 名 should not be considered the same as 小名. For example, 曹操, 姓曹 名操 字孟德,小名叫“阿瞒”. 名 is a formal name (though others should use 字 to call the person) while 小名 is quite informal.
    I think one should refer to himself by 名 rather than 字. For example,

    To be simpler, maybe it is quite enough to know that nowadays 名字 is one word and people only have one given name. (Actually, 姓、氏 were also two different things until in late Zhou dynasty if I remember correctly. Now 姓氏 is one word and people have only one family name.)

    In this case 明 should be one of the characters in the person's given name or 小名. Most likely it is the last character (like 黄晓明). But it's hard to tell because people may use any character in causal conversations.
    明 is a really really rare family name, so in most cases the person's family name is not 明 even if he's called 小明.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  8. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Thanks tarou. What I said wasn't completely accurate.
  9. baosheng Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Thanks for your help, Youngfun and tarlou !
  10. Christine2013

    Christine2013 New Member

    This is very useful and interesting.

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