Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (Burmese)

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honorific standardization proposal[edit]

As per Wikipedia's manual of style about not having King, Dr. and so on in article titles, I would propose an addendum. As Burmese names are often short, if it is "U" followed by a single name, I propose we leave the U on the title. U Nu, U Razak, U Thant are more recognizable anyway as they are. And shortening it to Nu would take it to a disambig page. Your thoughts? Chris 19:59, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Agree Okkar 20:03, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Agree SimonBillenness 21:33, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Support Comment This depends case to case. Some names, like U Thant and U Nu are most well-recognized with "U" attached, while others, like "U Than Shwe", which is unrecognized for the most part in English. --Hintha 23:12, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
That's what I mean-I am only saying when there is only _one_ name, then the U should be left on. U Nu, for instance, instead of Nu. Chris 23:31, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Agree. Many library catalogues make a similar exception for Burmese names because they are more recognizable with honorific attached. Andrew Dalby 14:46, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Agree. This convention has been well established on Wikipedia. Kaldari (talk) 23:03, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

I see that you have uncontested support on one aspect of this guideline, but not the other and no specific agreement to adopt this proposal as a guideline. I suggest contacting the people involved above and asking them to support acceptance of this. --Kevin Murray (talk) 23:07, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Proposing as an official addendum to the Wikipedia Manual of Style[edit]

I would like to propose that we make this page an official style guideline. Kaldari (talk) 22:55, 18 February 2008 (UTC)

Given that silence=consensus on Wikipedia, I'm marking this as a guideline. Kaldari (talk) 22:50, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Please consider that silence is consensus if you have tried to attract broad participation. --Kevin Murray (talk) 22:59, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Actually, I realized that all the guidelines we have on here so far are simply naming convnetions, so I'm changing it from a guideline proposal to a naming convention. Kaldari (talk) 20:09, 20 May 2008 (UTC)

I have removed the tag as it is not a naming convention yet, but a draft that has to be proposed/discussed: "New naming conventions should be proposed at Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions, and explained at Requests for comment, the Village Pump, and any related pages. Once a strong consensus has formed, the proposal can be adopted and listed" (WP:NC). Iunaw 00:06, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

Proposing as a Naming Convention[edit]

Support. These conventions are already used throughout Burmese-related articles. It's good to have them codified for future editors. Kaldari (talk) 15:56, 21 May 2008 (UTC)
Support The use of An Introduction to the Toponymy of Burma being suggested from the guideline is an excellent idea. It seems that this has been well thoght out and adequately advertised to the community. --Kevin Murray (talk) 16:50, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

Bold text:Oppose, I think the consensus above does not adequately reflect the opinion beyond the editors who focus on Burmese articles. Consistency should be maintained throughout the encyclopedia, with no special treatment for Burmese individuals. Move the article to Thakin Nu and redirect U Nu there. Move the article to Thant and redirect U Thant there. --Selket Talk 17:53, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

This was advertised last week at the Burma project without response. Can you think of other places where it should be advertised? Are there specific objections to the guidance page? --Kevin Murray (talk) 17:56, 21 May 2008 (UTC)
"Thakin" is also an honorific, roughly translated as "master". The man's name is simply Nu, though he is almost universally known as "U Nu", and almost never as simply "Nu". Do you really want his article moved to Nu? Note also that many library catalogues make a similar exception for Burmese names because they are more recognizable with the honorific attached. Kaldari (talk) 18:02, 21 May 2008 (UTC)
I think listing it at Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions and WP:PUMP is a good start. I hope you get a lot of input (of which I may just be the first). I did not realize that Thakin was also an honorific, which just goes to show the importance of getting broad-based input on new policies like this. Is Nu a special case? If so it may be necessary to name the article Nu (Burmese politician) or something like that, just as Nu (letter), Nu (kana), and Nu (mythology) are. If those topics can deal with the parenthetical name, I think U Nu can also. Are most Burmese names like this? How big of a problem is it. My preliminary search suggests that it might not be. For example Razak would not require a disambiguation page, nor would Thant. When in doubt I prefer consistency. --Selket Talk 18:19, 21 May 2008 (UTC)
It may be useful to think of names like U Nu, U Thant, and U Soe, like Mr. T, i.e. you would never call Mr. T simply "T". Most books and encyclopedias refer to U Nu as "U Nu" even if they don't normally use honorifics/prefixes. Up until the previous century, it was common for Burmese people to have only one given name and then to assume a title/prefix later in life. The title basically became a part of their name, so it's a bit different than how we think of honorifics in the western world (but not entirely different). Now almost all Burmese people have multi-word names so it isn't an issue. I agree, however, that it would be nice to have consistency. It's a tricky issue I suppose. Kaldari (talk) 19:39, 21 May 2008 (UTC)
I think that this is not a unique situation. In Europe honorifics become attached to names which in turn become a fixture to the historic name e.g., Otto von Bismarck where the von in an honorific. Over time the just become appended to the name in everyday use. Since our guidelines are not meant to be prescriptive, but to document the actual practices which evolve through the consensus of action, we should look at what our editors are doing rather than what we think they should do. Intuitively I like Kaldari's approach so far. --Kevin Murray (talk) 20:08, 21 May 2008 (UTC)
I saw the note at the Burma Project, but I don't know what I'm expected to do here. My view is already stated above: where a Burmese name consists of a single word preceded by the honorific, the honorific should be retained in the article title. Andrew Dalby 21:00, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
If you could also state whether or not you believe this page should be an official naming convention, that would help greatly. Kaldari (talk) 21:03, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
I don't think it would be safe to make absolute rules when it comes to Burmese names, because often, Burmese people will include honorifics as part of their name. For example, someone could have a given name "Maung Maung" (Maung also being a so-called honorific) and be called "U Maung Maung". I don't really agree with "U"/"Daw" being honorifics, because they literally translate to "Uncle"/"Aunt". Also, many people assume "U" as part of their names, so it should be mostly a case-by-case issue, to differentiate those who use "U" as their given name, or whether this is added due to that person's age. Honorifics would more likely be names like "Tekkatho" ("University", indicating college graduate), "Theippan" ("Science", indicating the university degree one graduates with), "Thakin" ("Master"), "Bogyoke"/"Bo" ("General"). We also need conventions for romanizing Burmese, because when it comes to articles with phonetic transcriptions, there is no single methodology. --Hintha (talk) 21:34, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
With people's names there always has to be room for exceptions. Whatever term we use for the initial "U" "Daw" "Maung" etc., it is better to permit ourselves to take these elements as part of the name (especially a very short name) than to compel ourselves to rule them out. Andrew Dalby 12:20, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
Feel free to edit the text if you want to change it. I'm just trying to give us a starting point from which to work, and I left the text of that section almost exactly as it had been agreed on back in 2007. Right now, someone could go and move U Nu to "Nu" or U Thant to "Thant" and people who objected to this would have no leg to stand on. Kaldari (talk) 15:28, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
One syllable Burmese names are always used with a prefix from birth not only later on as Kaldari seems to think. U Nu and U Thant were Maung Nu and Maung Thant from day one, never Nu or Thant which if they were women might have been used by a close friend or sweetheart. Po Nu could mean young Maung Nu or Grandpa Nu. Nga Nu would be used in anger, derogatory or as a criminal. Ma Tin and Ma Mar may also be called Ah Tin and Ah Mar or Mi Tin and Mi Mar. Single syllables must have a prefix. A common mistake is to use Shwe(last name) or Than (first name) instead of Than Shwe. Likewise, Paw Oo Tun ( Min Ko Naing) is not the same person as Paw Tun. Wagaung (talk) 14:45, 5 July 2008 (UTC)
Support. So, just to clarify my position, I do believe that this page should be an official naming convention. Andrew Dalby 12:20, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
It would be better if this article defined all of the honorifics: U, Maung, Daw, Ko and gave an indication of their usage. -- Evertype· 08:44, 6 July 2008 (UTC)

All these titles "U", "Daw", "Maung","Ko", "Ma" etc. can also be part of the name like in Maung Aye. Monks sometimes have the title "Ashin" instead of "U". In general, it is considered very rude in Burma to address a monk without some title. For other ethnic groups in Burma there are also similar titles: Sao, Salay, etc. The other issue is that although Burmese is monosyllabic, there are certain historical names, especially of kings, that are now written together as in Alaungphaya, Bayinnaung, Tabinshwehti etc., but we don't write Thanshwe. Finally as most people know by now, Burmese traditionally do not have surnames, which always create some confusion. Tocharian (talk) 09:26, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for your insight into this issue. How would you recommend that we phrase the guidelines to deal with such honorifics? Kaldari (talk) 18:55, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
Yes, Burmese is monosyllabic but many of its (loan words) aren't. So English translation should reflect the origin of the word. For example, it should be translated "Aung Zeya" in English, not "Aung Ze Ya" as it's spelled in Burmese because Zeya is a Pali derivative. Secondly, Alaungpaya, Bayinnaung etc. are titles not names. You can't compare the name Than Shwe to a title like Alaungpaya. You may however compare it to Alaungpaya's given name (Aung Zeya), and Bayinnaung's (Ye Htut), etc.

Hybernator (talk) 03:04, 4 August 2008 (UTC)

Makes very good sense. Agreed. Wagaung (talk) 16:26, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

Support. I'll side with the prevailing usage for the well-known figures like U Nu and U Thant. Hybernator (talk) 03:13, 4 August 2008 (UTC)

Likewise. Wagaung (talk) 16:27, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

List of honorifics[edit]

Aren't Sao and Saw equivalent? I was under the impression that "Saw" was simply the Burmese version of "Sao", which I assume is Shan(?). Is "Sao" actually a Burmese honorific (separate from "Saw")? If it is only used in the Shan States, I'm not sure it belongs here since this is a list of Burmese (language) naming conventions, rather than naming conventions for articles related to Burma. Kaldari (talk) 18:55, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Saw is just how Burmese say Sao which may apply to both sexes. There's also Karen Saw for men. But back to Burmese honorifics:
For males -
  1. Maung† - meaning younger brother for young or younger men; a one syllable name person may identify/sign themselves Maung X for life.
  2. Ko† - meaning older brother for older men or one's peer group
  3. U† - meaning uncle for mature men or men in a senior position; also for monks
  4. Ashin - monks only
  5. Sayadaw/Saya - older, esteemed monks (like Thitagu Sayadaw)
  6. Nga - in anger, derogatory (a criminal in the old days till the end of colonial rule)
  7. Po† - grandpa or young fellow

* Maung, Ko, U or Po may also be an integral part of a name, e.g. U Ko U or U Po Maung.
For females -

  1. Ma† - meaning sister for young girls, young women, and one's peer group; one syllable names as in males.
  2. Daw† - meaning aunty for mature women or women in a senior position
  3. Mi† - meaning mother, also derogratory
  4. Mè† - meaning mother for younger women or one's peer group
  5. Ah - a generic prefix for one's peer group
  6. Pwa† - grandma

* Ma, Mi, Mè, Ah or Pwa may also be an integral part of a name, e.g. Ma Pwa Mi, Daw Ma Ma, Daw Saw Mè or Ma Ah Tin. Wagaung (talk) 22:44, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

† Those honorifics are in relation to the speaker (they change with age; Po, U, Ko, Maung (from oldest to youngest)) -Hintha (talk) 11:40, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

First names, last names, surnames, family names[edit]

Do Burmese ever have "first" and "last" names or anything that corresponds to the Western ideas of surnames or family names? In the article about Mi Mi Khaing, for example, would you ever refer to her as just "Khaing", or should you always use the full "Mi Mi Khaing" as if it were a single name? Also, how should DEFAULTSORT (alphabetizing) be handled for Burmese names? I see that Aung San Suu Kyi, for example, is listed as "Suu Kyi, Aung San". Is that correct? Kaldari (talk) 23:39, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

Any part of a name may be used by family and friends as a nickname, either one syllable or more. Mi Mi Khaing may be called either Mi Mi or Khaing and neither signifies first or last name in their usual sense. When you have a name that starts with Khin, and called Khin as a first name by foreigners, for a man it sounds like he's changed his sex! Burmese would use either his full name or a different part of the name instead such as Khin Maung Thein or Ko Thein but never Khin on its own which may be used for a woman, and it's also an old fashioned term of endearment like 'honey'.
A nickname may still go with an honorific e.g. Ma Khaing. Even schoolmates, close or not, may call her by the full name Mi Mi Khaing. At school she would have been listed in alphabetical order as Khaing, Mi Mi. ASSK's case is exceptional in the sense that Burmese almost never name their children with the father's full name first! Part of either parent's name may also feature first, last or in the middle, part of her mother's name last in the case of ASSK. So most likely Kyi, Aung San Suu. Wagaung (talk) 22:48, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
I'm confused. If Burmese only use a single name, why would the alphabatization not be based on the first letter of the first syllable? In other words, why would Mi Mi Khaing be alphabetized "Khaing, Mi Mi" or Aung San Suu Kyi alphabetized as "Kyi, Aung San Suu" (or Suu Kyi, Aung San)? Kaldari (talk) 22:59, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
That's how it's normally done in English, not Burmese when it's treated as a whole unsplit. It's easier to understand with names such as Sandar Win, Thandar Shwe, Marla Tun or Thiha Kyaw when Sandar, Thandar, Marla and Thiha are first (Pali names) and Win, Shwe, Tun and Kyaw last (Burmese) names respectively. But in the case of Tayza (another Pali name) or Tay Za as he might spell it in English since Burmese is monosyllabic, you can't split Tay and za. Paw Oo Tun might be called Ko Paw Oo or Ko Tun and listed Tun, Paw Oo, but Paw Oo is likely to be called Paw Oo unsplit and listed Oo, Paw. But I'm only explaining common usage not academic classification. Wagaung (talk) 07:49, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
I guess I'm just wanting to know what would be your recommendation for how to alphabetize Burmese names on Wikipedia? It would be good if we could offer some guidance on that here. Kaldari (talk) 14:47, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
I'd probably just go for the last name. Wagaung (talk) 19:06, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
I just looked up the Myanmar telephone directory and found it was the other way round i.e. the names are now treated as in Burmese and listed in full and in the right order, not by the last name any more as in the past. I suppose it's more natural breaking with the old colonial custom. Hope it helps. Wagaung (talk) 19:46, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

My two pyas: Sort by the full name... even in cases you just "happen to know" that the person's name consists of the father's name as in the case of actress Mo Mo Myint Aung (daughter of director Myint Aung), or historian Thant Myint-U (son of Myint-U). But we can't assume that most people would know that. For example, most people looking for Myo Kyawt Myaing, a popular singer, wouldn't know that he's son of Kyawt Myaing. They'll look for Myo Kyawt Myaing.

One exception would be with mixed names like P. Moe Nin (a famous writer; P for Philip) or James Hla Kyaw. I'd go with Moe Nin, P and Hla Kyaw, James. Hybernator (talk) 00:16, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

Fashion dictates among some urban Burmese to give their children their father's name like a surname today as in colonial times and missionary schools well into the early 60s sans a Christian name, but I'm not sure this will catch on, or that listing them by the father's name is appropriate. I would agree with the full name to avoid confusion. I remember at school when someone with a Christian name and their father's name was called just by their 'last name' as in the West by a teacher it came across as very rude to hear the father's name only without the honorific. Wagaung (talk) 07:17, 5 September 2008 (UTC)


Exceptions should be those brought up in the West

Agreed provided they have adopted Christian names as with many Chinese in Hong Kong or Singapore. Then yes, it'd be like James Hla Kyaw to be listed Hla Kyaw, James. I've known many a Burmese with Christian names in my time but some of them didn't actually use their father's name, either full or the last bit at all, but their own Burmese name after the Christian name probably to avoid being called by their father's name only without the honorific. Wagaung (talk) 07:17, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

Proposed addition concerning Burmese names of people[edit]

Per Wagaung's comments above, and the example of the Myanmar telephone directory[1], I would like to propose adding the following text to the conventions:

In Burmese, each person has a single name that may consist of one or more words. Burmese people do not have "first names" or "last names" in the Western sense (although in informal speech many people use shortened nicknames). Thus when referring to Burmese people in Wikipedia articles, you should always use the full form of the person's name. For example, Mi Mi Khaing should never be referred to as just "Khaing" or "Daw Khaing".

How does that sound? Kaldari (talk) 22:25, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Very good. Wagaung (talk) 23:10, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Following our own guidelines[edit]

Our table of honorifics includes many examples where we are not following our own guidelines (honorifics should only be included in titles for very short names). As such, I would like to propose moving the following articles:

Would anyone object to any these articles being moved? Kaldari (talk) 15:43, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

It runs the risk of being incomplete and unrecognised, amongst the Burmese at least, in all these instances except perhaps Mya Aye and Pandita. Wagaung (talk) 16:25, 22 October 2008 (UTC)
I moved Ko Mya Aye to Mya Aye and Sayadaw U Pandita to U Pandita (I couldn't find any sources that referred to him as just "Pandita"). Let me know if you think it's safe to move any more. Kaldari (talk) 20:49, 22 October 2008 (UTC)
I agree with the moves to Mya Aye and U Pandita. I'd keep the rest as is. (I'd default-sort, if not done so already, some of them: e.g., Phone Naing, Tekkatho; Hmaing, Thakin Kodaw.) Treatment of ethnic honorifics like Nai and Sao should follow the same exception rule that allows keeping "U" in certain cases--i.e. for notable persons known by the whole name including the honorific. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hybernator (talkcontribs) 02:11, 23 October 2008 (UTC)


Geographical Names[edit]

After a discussion (here) about moving Ayeyarwady River to Irrawaddy River, it became clear we are lacking a clear guideline on Burmese geographic names. Per WP:NCGN#General Guidelines we should use the most common English name (being Irrawaddy), but WP:NCGN#Use Modern Names on the same Naming Conventions page says we have to use the modern name (Ayeyarwady, as the river is called by the Burmese government since a range of name changes were put in force in 1989). This example is remarkably similar: "Another example is Mumbai, which officially changed its name from Bombay in 1995. Our choice of name does not automatically follow the official one, however, but depends on two claims: that usage in English by locals (and wider English usage as well, to some extent) has changed to commonly use Mumbai, although many local institutions do not, and that Indian English, as an official language, should be followed, in accordance with our guidelines on National varieties of English."

We should look for a consensus: we use the most common English names (usually the colonial ones), or we switch to the official name (Romanised) used by locals if they refer to a place in English. Right now, we use a mix of both for no clear reason (Ayeyarwady Division, but Irrawaddy Delta) and there are probably more examples. Does anyone have any ideas on this? Pim Rijkee (talk) 20:31, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

I propose we add the following guidelines (based on similar guidelines presented in An Introduction to the Toponymy of Burma): "Names of administrative divisions and populated places (except for the country itself) are spelled as found in the latest available official Burmese sources, as are the names of rivers which flow within Burma only. Names of ethnic groups, languages, and rivers of an international extent are given in their most common English spellings." Thoughts? Kaldari (talk) 22:37, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Personally, I have no problem with that, but I do think it's a bit of a political minefield. Suggest we let this one run for a few weeks (months?) and see what comes out of it. Hopefully, we can get a consensus that can then be incorporated into Wikipedia:Naming conventions (geographic names). Skinsmoke (talk) 01:49, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
It depends. Our principle is use what they're called in English - India is a special case because we consider Indian English as a national variety. If the present government has created a district, it may be called by the name and spelling they gave it; but I see no reason to suppose the Irrawaddy Division has not been in continuous use for a century. It is a question of fact in each case. I strongly oppose Kaldari's suggestion, as mystification. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 22:56, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

I should note that Use Modern Names has examples Constantinople and Stalingrad, which have not been official usage in decades. We should inquire into the usage of sources now (i.e., since 1989), but if Irrawaddy continues to be used, we should follow suit. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:02, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

The problem with use what they're called in English in this case is that there is no standard romanization system for Burmese. So for every place name there are 12 different spellings in English language sources. Figuring out which one is currently dominant is virtually impossible, especially for lesser known locations. Kaldari (talk) 23:03, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
There is no single standard romanization system for most languages, even ones so well known as Greek. So? For places which are too obscure to have a record of (published) English usage, I have no objection to following the official spelling, faute de mieux, but those are exceptions - if only because they have to show notability. Irrawaddy is not among them. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:15, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • For an example of what I mean, consider the five spellings of Chalcidice. If we were only discussing Ancient Greek, there would be about three different systems, which would be easier; but throw in Demotic and see what happens. For a synchronic parallel, consider Arabic. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:58, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
  • It looks as though no consensus was reached on geographical names. --Bejnar (talk) 04:01, 11 October 2009 (UTC)