Monday, October 6, 2008


is the most common . By some estimates, approximately 40 percent of Vietnamese people have this surname. The Chinese surname Ruan is represented by the same Chinese character .

The prevalence of Nguy?n as a family name in Vietnam can be felt in countries to which many Vietnamese have immigrated: Nguy?n is the 7th most common family name in Australia , and the 54th most common in France. In the United States, it is the 57th most common family name according to the 2000 Census, as well as the most common exclusively Asian surname, a massive leap from its 229th-place ranking in 1990. It is ranked 124th in the Social Security Index. It is the 62nd most common surname in Norway and it tops the list of foreign names in the Czech Republic.

Origin and usage

Even though people with this surname are most often associated with Vietnam, it is of origin, written in as —pronounced ''Ruǎn'' in Standard Mandarin and ''Yun'' in . Today, ''Ruan'' is an uncommon, though by no means rare, surname in China.

Some Vietnamese with this surname claim to be descended from a man named Ruan Cho, a governor of Jiaozhi during China's Chen Dynasty .

Throughout Vietnamese history, many events contributed to the name's prominence. In 1232, after usurping the L? Dynasty, Tr?n Th? ?? forced the descendants of the L? to change their surname to Nguy?n. When H? Qu? Ly overturned the Tr?n Dynasty, he killed many of their descendants so when the H? Dynasty collapsed in 1407, many of his descendants changed their surname to Nguy?n in fear of retribution. In 1592, on the collapse of the M?c Dynasty, their descendants changed their surname to Nguy?n and L?u. When the Nguy?n Dynasty took power in 1802, some of the descendants of the Tr?nh Lords fearing retribution changed their surname to Nguy?n, while others fled north into China. The Nguy?n Dynasty awarded many people the surname Nguy?n during their rule, and many criminals also changed their surname to Nguy?n to avoid prosecution. Thus, many people having this surname are not necessarily related.

In Vietnamese custom as with other East Asian cultures, the surname precedes the given names. Like many surnames in Vietnam and other , the name Nguy?n is shared with with the same surname. The /Hán T? character for ''Nguy?n'' is , which refers to a moon-shaped lute instrument called ''ruan'' .


In Vietnamese tradition, people are referred to by their personal names and not by their family names even in formal situations. Thus, there is not much confusion about who is being referred to as one might expect. However, some groups distinguish themselves from other Nguy?n by passing elements of their names that are usually considered middle names to their children. This practice is more common with male than with female children. Some of the prominent subgroups within the Nguy?n family are:
*Nguy?n Ph??c or Nguy?n Phúc: all members of the Nguy?n Dynasty have this as part of their name
*Nguy?n H?u


The correct Vietnamese pronunciation is , pronounced as one syllable. // is the velar nasal found at the end of the English word "sing". Unlike Vietnamese, this consonant is never found in initial position in English. is the found in the English word "wet". is a rising diphthong. The sound of this diphthong is close to the diphthong found in British English Received Pronunciation in the word "beer". Finally, /n/ is the same consonant as in English.

Besides these vowels and consonants, Nguy?n is also pronounced with a in Vietnamese. In Southern Vietnam, Nguy?n is pronounced with the dipping-rising tone, meaning the pitch of the voice first lowers from level 3 to 1 then rises back to level 3. In Northern Vietnam, Nguy?n is pronounced with the creaking-rising tone, meaning the pitch of the voice rises from level 3 to 5, but with constricted vocal cords, almost akin to a glottal stop heard in the middle of the word. See .

The pronunciation of Nguy?n can be approximated by English speakers as "win" or "when". Writers familiar with this approximation have created puns from the pronunciation.

Notable Nguy?ns

Since approximately 40 percent of all Vietnamese people have the surname Nguy?n, notable people with this surname run the gamut of Vietnamese society. They range from heads of state , poets , catholic clergymen , writers, scientists, composers, professional poker players to executed criminals . Perhaps the most well-known Nguy?n is not known as a Nguy?n at all, but through an alias. was born Nguy?n Sinh Cung and used various names with the surname Nguy?n throughout his career and was not known as H? Chí Minh until late in his career.

Notable Ruans

*Ruan Lingyu, prominent 20th century Chinese actress
*Ruan Lufei, Chinese chess player
*Ruan Yuan, Qing dynasty
*Yuan Kay-shan
*Keely Wee, Singaporean singer
*Anthony Yuen
*Ruan Xiaoqi, character in the novel ''Water Margin''
*A Zhu, character in novel by Louis Cha

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