Burmese Names

David Cameron and Aung San Suu Kyi, from expressandstar.com

I’m going somewhat out of my comfort zone in this post, but it’s an interesting topic and I acknowledge that it’s important to give light to lesser-talked about topics.

The first key point to note is that in Burma, there is no such thing as surnames, and so when a Burmese lady marries a Burmese man, she does not change her name, or use his. That said, it’s very common for Burmese people to change their name when they grow older, i.e. Htein Lin changed his named to Aung San when he was older. A change of name is usually intended to incur a change of fate, rather than simply being because a person does not like their name.

But then, there’s the question of what to do when a Burmese man/lady marries a Westerner. The well-known Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi married an English man named Michael Aris, and she did not take Aris as a surname/ extra name. As for their children? Her elder son with him is called Alexander Aris Myint San Aung.

As for family names, there is an increasing frequency for Burmese people to pass on their names to their children, but the case may be wherein Maung Saw Tin is the son of  U Sein Tun. Not a single name shared, but let’s go back to Aung San Suu Kyi. Her parents are:

Aung San, father

Khin Kyi, mother

Her two brothers were given the names Aung San Oo and Aung San Lin – so in the case of this particular Burmese family, the father passed his name to all three of his children in a pseudo-western fashion. It’s important to remember, however, that some Burmese people reject this style of naming as being un-Burmese and fair deuce  to them if that’s what you think.

It’s also common in Burmese tradition to give a name denoting when the baby was born, often this comes in the form of dictating what letter one of the names starts with, a general guide would be:

Monday – K

Tuesday – S, Z

Wednesday – Y, R

Thursday – M, P, B

Friday – Th, H

Saturday – T, Ht, D, N

Sunday – A, E, O

Aung San Suu Kyi? Born on a Tuesday.

As for the number of names, Burmese is a monosyllabic language which means that each separate name is just one syllable. The name as a whole has varying numbers of syllables, depending on when the child was born.

Simply one syllable names, such as Mya and Ba, are no longer used as their are considered very outdated – but there are some of the elder generation who still have these names. Two syllable names, such as Tin Oo, are considered middle-aged, whilst these days for young ‘uns, three syllables seems to be the norm, i.e. Khin Maung Haw. Of course, four and even five syllables are starting to pick up popularity, too.

So, the basic key ingrediants for a Burmese name?

  • No family surname
  • No passing down of family names, if you’re going completely native
  • Usually at least one name denoting day of birth
  • One syllable names numbering up to 5

It seems almost impossible to resist renaming myself with English names in the Burmese style, Ima thinking:

Lou Fay Noor Belle

Meh, sounds forced, but can you do better?

Categories: Burmese Names | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Burmese Names

  1. This was an extremely interesting post – Aung San Suu Kyi is a fascinating person, and I loved finding out more about her name and her naming culture.

    I don’t think I can do better – but I think my Burmese-style English name would be something like Ann Viv Ye Rose.


  2. Dearest

    Since my own name would be chosen by my Norwgian parents, I have no idea what they would choose. There are very few monosyllabic Norwegian names for girls. Maybe Aud Eir Bol Heid.
    This was very interesting to read! ^^


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