Ethnic Tibetan personal names typically consist of two juxtaposed elements.
Family names are rare except among those of aristocratic ancestry (though diaspora Tibetans living in societies where a surname is expected may adopt one). Tibetan nomads (drokpa) also use clan names; in farming communities these are now rare and may be replaced by the names of 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.
In Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, Ngapoi is his family name while Ngawang Jigmê the given name.
- 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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