What’s in a Name? Unraveling Naming Conventions in Southeast Asia

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What’s in a Name? Unraveling Naming Conventions in Southeast Asia
Joanne B. Agbisit
Associate Editor, The ASEAN | ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Department
27 Mar 2024
Culture

First-time visitors to Southeast Asia often find themselves mystified by local names. They ask: Are one-word names considered given names or surnames? Which part denotes the surname in multi-word names (the current record is 12 words)? Why do spouses, and even parents and children, have different names? This article explores some of the common naming conventions in Southeast Asia shaped by a blend of history, culture, and external influences. The list is by no means exhaustive since ethnolinguistic groups within countries often have their unique practices.

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