funny names in Vietnamese for tourists

“Bích Phúc Đạt” and Other Vietnamese Names That Sound Naughty

The Vietnamese language is rich in punchy, percussive sounds. Some sound hilariously similar to English words that aren’t safe to say in polite company.

For example, would you like stay at the Phúc Đạt Hotel? How would you react to a colleague named Mr. Phát or Ms. Bích? And, of course, everyone loves to get their hands on some Vietnamese Đôngs (VND, the local currency).

Travelers in Vietnam love Vietnamese names
The man named “Bích Phúc Đạt” was a social media Hoax, but the individual words are themselves common names in Vietnamese (but not altogether). Source: BelfastTelegraph

If you are an expat or traveller in Vietnam and want to learn the Vietnamese language, then these naughty-sounding words are great tools to learn the language and culture. Your brain is much more likely to remember a new word when it is associated with humour and taboo topics.

Learn these common Vietnamese names and words:

  • Bích (emerald colour)
  • Phúc (happiness),
  • Đạt (success),
  • Phát (thrive, prosperity, developing),
  • Dung (beauty),
  • Đông (east, orient),
  • Cúc (daisy, chrysanthemums)
  • Hồ (small lake)

Bích – A Beautiful Vietnamese Name

The Vietnamese name Bích (pronounced half-way between bitch? and bik? with an up-tone) is a pretty feminine name that has multiple meanings. One meaning is a greenish colour like turquoise or emerald. Another meaning is the wall of a citadel or fort.

As a name for girls, Bích represents both preciousness (as symbolized by the noble colour green) as well as personal strength and fortitude (like the walls of a citadel).

Unfortunately, as young Vietnamese people learn more and more English, the name Bích is becoming very unpopular among new parents, and people with the name have started to feel uneasy about it — some even feel ashamed. Educated Vietnamese are very aware that it sounds similar to an insult in English — a quick listen to any mainstream American hip-hop music will quickly establish how derisive and disgusting the English-sounding word is. Imagine being a Vietnamese foreign exchange student in Canada and having your name announced during roll-call, only to be laughed at by your colleagues?

Phúc – Happiness in Vietnamese

Phúc means “happiness” in Vietnamese. It does not rhyme with duck but instead rhymes with duke? (with an up-tone). It is a popular name for both men and women, and also for businesses. For example, check out the following lovely hotels:

A funnily named hotel in Vietnam, that tourists love
Phúc Đạt Hotel in Dak Nong.

“I’ve been Phuct!”

I once worked for a cantankerous manager whose last name started with a T, and whose first name was Phúc. On his name tag was written P H U C T — which, in retrospect, may have been a deliberate gag by HR.

On days when he had slighted me, like making me stay late or work weekends, I would cry to the other junior colleague: “Oh no, I’ve been Phooked!”

Phát – What Does Phát Mean in Vietnamese?

The Vietnamese word Phát (pronounced like fat? with an up-tone) means prosperity, thriving, and accruing wealth. It is a common name among males. Many businesses also want to include Phát in their business-name, to give them an air of success.

While Phát sounds funny in English, there is no shame or stigma with Phát among English-speaking Vietnamese (unlike other Vietnamese names that resemble naughty English-words, such as Bích and Phúc).

In fact, even within Vietnamese, the literal words for fat (béo, mập) are considered cute and adorable — people voluntarily adopt them as nicknames. To be called overweight is not offensive in Vietnamese, but a simple statement of fact. Therefore, the name Phát will likely stick around for a long time in Vietnam, even if people are increasingly aware that it sounds funny in English.

Read more about fat-shaming in Vietnam.

Dung – A Vietnamese Word for Beauty

Dung means animal-feces in English, but it means beauty in Vietnamese. However, the two words are pronounced very differently in English vs. Vietnamese.

In Vietnamese, “dung” is pronounced like zung. In order to make a hard d sound (like in Donald Duck), the Vietnamese put a line through to letter: Đ đ. Otherwise a regular letter-d makes a zzz sound in Vietnamese. This is a major source of confusion for travellers in Northern Vietnam.

Hồ sounds just like “hoe” in English, but with a deep down-tone. In Vietnamese, hồ is a small lake or pond. It is also a popular family name, ranking #10 across the country. In other Asian countries, like Taiwan and South Korean, the equivalent names is “Hu”.

In ancient Northern Vietnam, there were many different periods known as the “Hồ Dynasties”, some of which were seminal epochs in Vietnamese history. For example, one Hồ dynastic period resulted in the rise of Confucianism in the North.

Read more about Hồ and other popular Vietnamese family names.

Cúc – A Small Flower in Vietnamese

Cúc is nice name is Vietnamese that means “chrysanthemum”. It is rhymes with spook rather than sock, but kind of sounds like both.

Đồng / Đông – What Does “Dong” Mean in Vietnamese?

There are plenty of words in Vietnamese that are romanized as “dong” and sound just like the English-word. For instance, Đông means “east” or “orient” in Vietnamese, while Đồng refers to the Vietnamese currency (VND). Notice that the latter has a ` on the which signifies the down-tone (like a deep descending pitch).

Look for “dongs” in Vietnamese business names. For example, when travelling to Hanoi, why not stay at A Dong Hotel?

1000 vietnamese dong VND
The local currency in Vietnam is the Dong, or VND

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