The other day, I had a friend ask me to give her a Korean name. While I’m not asked to name people often, it is one of the most requested items that a person who loves Korean language and culture tends to have. But before you can chose a Korean name, you should probably know how Korean names work. For an example, we will use my Korean name 안대웅.
Family Comes First
In Korean language and culture, you family or surname comes before the rest of your name. This may seem backwards to some, but it shows respect to a person’s family. Specifically, it shows respect to ones father. So in my Korean name, 안대웅, 안 is the family name. Korean women do not change their family name when they get married to show respect to her father’s house. This is why most married couples in Korea do not have the same family name. However, Korean American women typically will change their name to their husband’s name, even if he is Korean.
Since there will be no questions about the family name that a person will have, traditional families will give a generational name. Since Korean names usually have three names, 안대웅, the generational name can be the second or the third name. Generational names have been used to show what generation of a family that a person belonged to. This was very useful to prevent people from marrying a relative before DNA testing was used. A generational name can be given to all children in a family, or there can be one generational name for the males and one for the females. In my case, 안대웅, 대 is the generational name. So anyone who was adopted in a similar manner to me and was male had the name 대 in their Korean name. But what about the name 웅?
In my case, 안대웅, 웅 would be considered my personal name. Other people in my generation that were adopted Korean like I am were named 대법, 대욱 and 대식. With Korean names, the generational name and the personal name can be made up of two words to create a meaning. Of both names can be it’s own word or a shorten form of a word or phrase that means something. In my case, 대웅 is the shortened for of 대웅좌. 대웅좌 means Ursa Major or Big Bear constellation in Korean. So the name 대웅 is taken to mean Big Bear.
When you are adopted into Korean culture, your name will probably have something to do with your personality. Or for babies, their name will be based on something that the parents want their child to become. For me, I was given the name Big Bear, 대웅. because I am considered to be a big teddy bear. But I was only given the name after someone knew me for some time. If you want to have a Korean name, have it picked out be a trusted friend who can explain it to you. Hopefully, you will have a Korean name will have a meaning that will make you both proud and humble.