Wondering Why?

Why is Nguyen such a common last name?

Why is Nguyen such a common last name?

Nguyen ranks among the 100 most popular surnames in the US, 7th in Australia, 54th in France, and 62nd in Norway. Nguyen is a famous Vietnamese surname comprising 40% of the population.

There are many Nguyens found around the world. The reason why it is a common last name traces back the history of Nguyen Dynasty. Hue Nguyen, the founder of the dynasty ruled a Vietnamese army against Chinese conquerors and he won the war which automatically brought peace to the land. The king was a brave and kind ruler. He often visited his villagers, give them food and clothes. The people in the village don’t have surnames so when the emperor know this, he told the people that they can use his surname. Because of the people’s respect to the king, they adopted the surname Nguyen. This is the positive side of the story.

The next version talks about the emperor as being mean. According to some beliefs, the Nguyen emperor killed all the males of a certain village. Since the males carry the surname of a family, the whole village lost this opportunity. The emperor felt guilty so he let the people in the village use his last name.

Another version is, other dynasties changed their descendants surname to avoid revenge from the rival dynasties. To avoid prosecution, criminals also changed their surname to Nguyen. Some, still carrying the surname Nguyen, fled to other countries to stay away from further conflicts. This explains why there are many Nguyens in any part of the world.

In Asian countries, it is a practice to use two names – the given name and the surname. The surname is being carried by the husband and passed on to the next generation. Once the female descendant gets married, she will use the surname of her husband. With this tradition, the last name Nguyen became very common that one family is not even related to another eventhough they have the same surname.


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