Tibetan names typically consist of two juxtaposed elements.

Family names are rare except among those of aristocratic ancestry and then come before the personal name (but diaspora Tibetans living in societies that expect a surname may adopt one). For example, in Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, Ngapoi was his family name and Nga-Wang Jigmê his personal name.

Tibetan nomads (drokpa) also use clan names; in farming communities, they are now rare and may be replaced by household name.

Tibetan culture is patrilineal; descent is claimed from the four ancient clans that are said to have originally inhabited Ancient Tibet: Se, Rmu, Stong and Ldong. The ancient clan system of Tibet is called rus-ba (རུས་པ), meaning bone or bone lineage.[1] The four clans were further divided into branches which are Dbra, Vgru, Ldong, Lga, Dbas and Brdav. With inter-clan marriages, the subclans were divided into many sub-branches.

While Tibetans from Kham and Amdo use their clan names as surnames, most farming communities in Central Tibet stopped using their clan names centuries ago and instead use household names.

Traditionally, personal names are bestowed upon a child by lamas, who often incorporate an element of their own name. In the Tibetan diaspora, Tibetans often turn to the Dalai Lama for names for their children. As a result, the exile community has an overwhelming population of boys and girls whose first name is "Tenzin", the personal first name of the 14th Dalai Lama.

Personal names are in most cases composed of readily understood Tibetan words. Most personal names may be given to either males or females. Only a few are specifically male or female.

Meanings of some of the common names are listed below:

Tibetan Wylie ZWPY Chinese English Common
Meaning Reference
བསྟན་འཛིན bstan 'dzin Dänzin 丹增 Tenzin, Tenzing Holder of Buddha Dharma
རྒྱ་མཚོ rgya mtsho Gyamco 嘉措 Gyatso Ocean
སྐལབཟང skal bzang Gaisang 格桑 Kelsang Good destiny, Good luck, Golden age, Flower
ཉི་མ nyi ma Nyima 尼玛 Nyima Sun, Day, Sunday
རྡོ་རྗེ rdo rje Duo Jie 多吉,多杰 Dorji Indestructable, Invincible, Vajra
དོན་གྲུབ don grub Dang Zhou 顿珠 Dhondup Wish come true
མེ་ཏོག me tog 梅朵 Medo Flower
ལྷ་མོ lha mo 拉姆,拉莫 Lhamo Princess, Goddess, Tibetan opera
སྒྲོལ་མ sgrol ma Drölma 卓玛 Dolma Tara, Goddess
པད་མ pad ma Pema 贝玛,白玛 Pema Lotus
ཚེ་རིང tshe ring Cering 才仁 Tsering Long life
རྒྱལ་མཚན rgyal mtshan 坚赞 Gyaltsen Banner of victory, Dhvaja
ཡེ་ཤེས ye shes Yêxê 伊喜,益西 Yeshe Wisdom, Jnana [2]
བསོད་ནམས bsod nams Soinam 索南,索朗 Sonam Merit, Virtue [3]
བདེ་སྐྱིད bde skyid Têci 德吉 Diki Happiness
ཟླ་བ zla wa Dawa 达娃 Dawa Moon, Month, Monday
བཀྲ་ཤིས bkra shis Zhaxi 扎西 Tashi Auspiciousness, Good fortune
བདེ་ལེགས bde legs 德勒 Delek, Deleh Bliss, Happiness
རིན་ཆེན rin chen 仁钦 Rinchen Treasure, Precious Jewel, Gem
དབངམོ dbang mo Wangmô 旺姆 Wangmo Lady with wealth and luck
བདེཆེན bde chen Dêqên 德钦,德千 Dechen Great bliss [4][5]

Other common Tibetan names include Bhuti, Choedon, Choekyi, Chogden, Chokphel, Damchoe, Dasel, Dema, Dhondup, Dolkar, Gyurmey, Jampa, Jangchup, Jungney, Kalden, Khando, Karma, Kunchok, Kunga, Lekhshey, Lhakpa, Lhakyi, Lhami, Lhawang, Lobsang, Metok, Namdak, Namdol, Namgyal, Ngonga, Norbu, Paljor, Pasang, Peldun, Phuntsok, Phurpa, Rabgang, Rabgyal, Rabten, Rangdol, Rigsang, Rigzin, Samdup, Sangyal, Thinley, Tsomo, Tsundue, Wangchuk, Wangyag, Woeser, Woeten, Yangdol, Yangkey, and Yonten, Sajan Lama Ngarden.


  1. ^ "How ancient Tibetan people combine different clans_News_History_China Tibet Online". eng.tibet.cn. Archived from the original on 2014-09-17.
  2. ^ The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa. Vol. 6. Shambhala Publications. 2010. p. 426. ISBN 9780834821552.
  3. ^ Buswell, Robert E. Jr.; Lopez, Donald S. Jr. (2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. p. 1232. ISBN 9780691157863.
  4. ^ 陈观胜 [Chen Guansheng] 安才旦 [An Caidan] (2004). 《汉英藏对照常见藏语人名地名词典》 [Dictionary of Common Tibetan Personal and Place Names]. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. p. 74. ISBN 7-119-03497-9.
  5. ^ Payne, Richard Karl; Tanaka, Kenneth Kazuo (2004). Approaching the Land of Bliss: Religious Praxis in the Cult of Amitåabha. University of Hawaii Press. p. 49. ISBN 0-824-82578-0.