Mongolia Personal Names

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Understanding customs used in surnames and given names can help you identify your ancestors in records. Learn to recognize name variations and see clues in names.

Online Tools[edit | edit source]

Surnames[edit | edit source]

\The use of surnames was prohibited along with many other aspects of Mongolian culture beginning in 1924. From 1924 through the 1990s, Mongolians used only given names. The father’s given name or its initial was placed before the given name on official documents or in other circumstances where more than just a given name was needed. Many ancestral family names have been forgotten.

Since 1990, Mongolians have been encouraging national identity and culture, including the use of surnames denoting affiliation to one of the country's ancient families. All of Mongolia’s 2.5 million citizens have been ordered to search for their roots to determine their family surname. But, as of July of 1998, so few people were ready for the change to surnames that the government opted for a phased introduction of the naming rule. Most Mongolians still do not know their surname, let alone use it. It has now been decided that all Mongolians must select a surname at the end of the year 2000. Because of lack of information, many families are simply selecting a surname from a list or manufacturing a new one.

Instead of using a given first name followed by a family surname, Mongolians use a system called patronymics, which denotes lineage through the father.

This explains why married Mongolian couples and even mothers and children can have different last names.

For example, if a man in Mongolia named Joseph had a son named Michael, the child's full name would be possessive: Joseph's Michael. But when that same name is expressed in English, it is reversed and becomes Michael Joseph.

Most Mongolians, however, tend to use only their given name in their daily lives, so a member of the Church like Bumbagerel Norov (Norov's Bumbagerel in Mongolian) is known simply as Brother Bumbagerel.

In addition, Mongolians may abbreviate their names, add extra vowels, or attach suffixes to convey special meanings. A name like "Enkhzul," can become simply "Zulaa" by dropping the first syllable and adding vowels to the end.[1]

Given Names[edit | edit source]

  • The naming of children was usually done by the parents or a respected elder of the family or religious figures. For example, it is said that in the 13th century, the prominent shaman, Teb-tengeri, saw in the stars a great future for Tolui's eldest son and bestowed on the child the name Möngke (meaning "eternal" in the Mongolian language).
  • Nowadays most parents give Mongolian names to their children, often in the form of compounds consisting of two nouns or adjectives, representing qualities such as solidity and strength for boys or beauty in the case of girls.
  • Mongolian names traditionally have an important symbolic character—a name with auspicious connotations being thought to bring good fortune to its bearer. The most common category of Mongol names were those of auspicious or (for boys) manly things, such as gold (altan), eternity (Möngke), surplus (hulagu),[3] blue (köke), white (chagha’an), good health (esen), uncle (abaqa),[4] firmness (batu), stability (toqto'a), bulls (buqa, for men), iron (temür), steel (bolad), black (qara), hardness (berke) or nine (yisü).
  • With the beginning of the new wave of Buddhism in 1575, however, Buddhist and Tibetan names were reintroduced into Mongolia. By 1700 the vast majority of Mongols had Buddhist names, usually Tibetan, but also sometimes Sanskrit or from Mongolian Buddhist terminology.
  • A number of Mongolian-language names survived, particularly with more pacific elements designating peace (Engke, Amur), happiness (Jirgal), long life (Nasu), and blessing (Öljei, Kesig).
  • Buddhist names were granted according to several different principles.
  • most common for laymen are based on the Tibetan or Sanskrit names of powerful deities: Damdin/Damrin (Hayagriva), Dulma/Dari (Tara), Gombo (Mahākāla), Cagdur/Shagdur (Vajrapani), Jamsrang (Begtse), Jamyang (Manjusri), etc.
  • Another type of Buddhist name derives from the Tibetan days of the week, themselves named after the Sun, Moon, and five visible planets (Nima, Dawa, Migmar, Lhagba, Pürbü, Basang, Bimba). Another astrological scheme divides the days of the month into five classes, each under an element: Dorji (power bolt), Badma (lotus), and Sangjai (Buddha).
  • The suffixes -jab (Tibetan skyabs “protecting”) and -sürüng (Tibetan -srung “guarding”) were commonly added to these Buddhist names.
  • Finally, some names, particularly for monks, were based on Tibetan words for desired qualities or aspects of the religion: Lubsang “good intellect”, Agwang “powerful in speech”, Danzin “instruction keeper”, Dashi/Rashi, “blessed.”
  • A number of Buddhist terms exist in multiple forms transmitted from Old Uyghur, Tibetan, and Sanskrit: thus, Wachir/Ochir, Dorji, and Bazar all mean “power bolt,” while Erdeni, Rinchin, and Radna all mean “jewel”.
  • Women's names commonly refer to fine colours or flowers, the sun and moon, or may be made up of any other word with positive connotations using the feminine suffix -maa (Tib. 'mother'): some common examples are Altantsetseg 'golden-flower', Narantuyaa 'sun-beam', Uranchimeg 'artistic-decoration', Sarangerel 'moon-light', Erdenetungalag 'jewel-clear', and Tsetsegmaa 'flower'.
  • Many gender-neutral name components refer to auspicious qualities such as eternity or happiness: some examples are Mönkh 'eternal', Erdene 'jewel', Oyuun 'mind', Altan 'golden', Saikhan 'fine' and Enkh 'peace'. Many names include the names of places, including mountains, rivers etc., e.g. Altai or Tuul.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

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  1. This Article, by Page Johnson, appeared in the LDS Church News, weekend April 24, 2010
  2. "Mongolian name", in Wikipedia,, accessed 7 March 2021.