Ethnic Tibetan personal names typically consist of two juxtaposed elements.
Family names are rare except among those of aristocratic ancestry, in which case it is after the given name (though diaspora Tibetans living in societies where a surname is expected may adopt one). For example, in Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, Ngapoi is his family name while Ngawang Jigmê the given name. Tibetan nomads (drokpa) also use clan names; in farming communities, these are now rare and may be replaced by the names of households. Tibetan culture is patrilineal and therefore claim descent from the 4 ancient clans that originally were said to have inhabited ancient Tibet - Se, Rmu, Stong and Ldong. The ancient clans system of Tibet is called rus-ba (རུས་པ) meaning bone or bone lineage. These 4 clans were further divided into branches which are Dbra, Vgru, Ldong, Lga, Dbas and Brdav. With inter-clan marriages and such, these sub-clans were divided into many sub-brances and such. While Tibetans from Kham and Amdo use their clan names as surname, for most of the farming communities in Central Tibet stopped using their clan names centuries ago and instead use the name of their households.
Traditionally personal names are bestowed upon a child by a lama, who will often incorporate an element of their own name. In the diaspora, Tibetans often apply for the Dalai Lama to provide 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 names may be given to either male or female children, with only a minority being specifically masculine or feminine.
Some Common Tibetan Names
Common Tibetan names include Tenzin, Tashi, Dolma, Passang, Pema, Metok, Dhundup, lhamo, Sangyal, Yangkey, Tsomo, Rabten, Phuntsok, Rabgyal, Rigzin, Jangchup, Tsundue, Jorden, Bhakto, Namgyal Wangchuk, Khando, Rangdol, Nyima, Pemba, Dawa, Tsering, Bhuti, Konchok, Gyatso, Kelsang, Karma, Gyurmey, Rinchen, Namdol, Choedon, Chokey, Rigsang, Sonam, Padma, Paljor, Namdak, Kunga, Norbu, Chokphel, Dorjee, Jungney, Dema, Damchoe, Dickey, Dolkar. Lhawang, Legshey, Dharma, Bhuchung, Lhakpa, Samten, Choenyi, Samdup, and Ngonga.
- Tournadre, Nicolas & Sangda Dorje (2003). Manual of Standard Tibetan: Language and Civilization. trans. Ramble, Charles. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-189-8.
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