Mongolian students say their names define who they are and where they come from

Written by: 
Zeek Cheng

Mongolian names are structured very differently from other cultures because they do not have surnames and are personal to each individual, said BYU-Hawaii Mongolian students.


Sergelenbaatar Oyungerel, a senior from Mongolia studying accounting, said because Mongolians do not have a family name, the father’s first name will be used as the child’s last name for official documents. He explained how the “Oyungerel” in his name was his father’s first name and his first name “Sergelenbaatar” will be inherited by his son as the last name. “Even for the married couple, the husband and wife both remain to carry their fathers’ first names as their last names.”


Ganbold Tsendayush, an accounting alumni from Mongolia, said this culture regarding Mongolian names has made it hard for him to do geneology. “For my genealogy, I can only trace back to two or three generations.”


Ulziijargal Sukhbaatar, a senior from Mongolia studying anthropology, said she has found up to fifth generations back, which is considered successful in Mongolia.


“It is hard to trace back to past generations because we do not have a consistent last name system.”


Tsendayush added, “We were under the control of the Manchurian and because of the wars, the records of our ancestors have been lost.” He said church leaders in Mongolia encourage members to do geneology work by asking for information from parents and the elderly. “That’s all we can do for now.”


Sukhbaatar shared why she wouldn’t choose an Americanized English name. “Some people will choose an English name that is easier to pronounce for foreigners, but names are something I value. I love my name. It has a deep meaning for me. A name defines who you are, where you come from, and helps us to remember our roots. Nobody can take it away from you.”


Oyungerel mentioned situations with friends who have married foriegners and how the couples have determined their last names. “My Mongolian friend got married to an American girl, so his wife took his first name as her last name. A Mongolian female friend of mine got married to an American guy and she took her husband’s last name as her last name, but her father wasn’t happy about it. It’s a cultural difference.”


Another interesting thing about Mongolian names is that each Mongolian’s name has a special meaning behind it. For instance, Sukhbaatar’s first name is “Ulziijargal.” She said the first part “Ulzii” means eternal and the second part “Jargal” means happiness. “So the whole name means never-ending happiness,” said Sukhbaatar.


Oyungerel said his first name is Sergelenbaatar. He explained how “Sergelen” is his birth place, and “Baatar” means hero. “My dad wanted me to honor my birth place.”


Tsendayush said, “I don’t think our names are unique. It’s very common for us to have long names. It might be hard for the foreigners to pronounce, but it’s easy for us.”

Date Published: 
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Last Edited: 
Saturday, November 11, 2017