The name Nancy transliterated into Chinese

Nancy in Chinese characters
The name Nancy transliterated into Chinese.

My husband visited China recently and brought back a cute little gift for me. (Thank you, E!)

It’s a jade stamp in the shape of a horse (because I was born in the year of the horse). The stamp itself is my name written in two ways — the normal way, and transliterated into Mandarin Chinese.

He thinks he remembers the shop-girl telling him the characters meant “beautiful flower from the south.”

When I tried translating the characters myself, though, I wasn’t able to come up with that.

Here’s my attempt:

On the left is ?, nán, which means “south” or “southern.”

So that part of the definition makes sense.

But on the right is ?, which can be pronounced either qiàn or x?. We want the second pronunciation (nán + x? = Nancy, more or less). With that pronunciation, the only definition I can find is “used in the transliteration of people’s names.”


So I have no idea where the “beautiful flower” part came from. Seems like that character doesn’t really mean anything at all.

Which is sad, because that bottom symbol, ?, could have been used on its own and given the name a much cooler meaning. It’s also pronounced x?, and means “west” or “western,” so my name could have been ? ?, or “south west.”

Southwest would have been awesome for two reasons. First, I’m actually from the Northeast. :) Second, a directional pun-name could have made me one of the cool kids (finally!).

Oh well.

Have you ever had your name transliterated into Chinese, or any other writing system? How did it come out?

4 thoughts on “The name Nancy transliterated into Chinese

  1. Ooh I like the “south west” meaning, that’s cool.

    Apparently you can understand Anna (an + na) in Chinese as meaning “peaceful and graceful”, which seems strangely similar to its meaning in the west.

    It could also be a person’s actual name, because An is a common surname and Na a girl’s name, and the Chinese have the surname first.

  2. Not transliterated, but to help people pronounce my name correctly in Portuguese, we wrote it as Xeral.

  3. Well, I don’t know any Chinese, but I do know Japanese. That second character in Japanese is pronounced “akane” and means “madder,” which is a plant with small flowers whose roots are used to make a red dye. It’s also used to mean the red color of the dye itself. So while it’s kind of an exaggeration to say that character means “beautiful flower,” it is the name of a plant at least. I’d say the definition you were given, while taking some poetic license, certainly wasn’t totally made up.

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