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Mother’s Day & Words for “Mother” in Vietnamese Posted by on May 10, 2021 in Culture, Events, Vocabulary

Photo taken and used with permission from Kandle Dart

I always know when Mother’s Day week is in America because my bearded Irish flower patch begins to bloom. For years, I observed this phenomenon and I now consider it a beautiful gift from mother nature to all mothers in the world. We all have a mother, and for many of us the first word we learned to speak as a child is “Mother”. Even when learning other languages, the word “mother” is one of the first vocabulary words learned in memory exercises.

Generally, Mẹ is the Vietnamese word for “Mother”. However, each region has its own words for “Mother”. Knowing how one identifies his/her “Mother” naturally, you could tell a lot about that person’s family background. Let’s test to see how many words for “Mother” that you recognize. These are the ones I know.

NORTHERN REGION

  • Mẹ: Most commonly used nationwide, a modern word for “Mother”, derived from the French word “Mère”.
  • Mợ: A derivative from “Mẹ” that is more popular in Hanoi and among the “bourgeois” class in the city.
  • Bu: This word is more popular in the countryside, especially in Thái Bình Province.
  • Bầm: A derivative from “Bu”, still being used in Bắc Ninh Province.
  • U: A derivative from “Bu”, still being used in Hà Nam Province.
  • Đẻ, Cái, Nạ: Old words that are only found in literature.
  • Mẫu thân: Is an old Sino-Vietnamese word that was used among the aristocrat families in the past century. It is only used in literature today.

CENTRAL REGION

Photo taken and used with permission from Kandle Dart

  • Mạ: This word derived from the Chinese word “Mama” 妈妈, commonly used in Central provinces.
  • Mệ: Phonetically variation of Mạ.
  • Me: Phonetically variation of Mẹ.

SOUTHERN REGION

  • : This word derived from the Chinese word “Mama” 妈妈, commonly used in Southern provinces
  • : Old word, used more in the countryside.
  • Măng: It came from the French word “Maman”, used more among the French educated families before 1975.
  • Me: Phonetic variation of Mẹ.

In short, the most common words for “Mother” are Mẹ (Northern), Má (Southern), and Mạ (Central). Mẹ is the universal one.

WHEN IS MOTHER’S DAY IN VIETNAM?

Vietnam doesn’t really have a particular national Mother’s Day like the United States. They honor their mothers along with other significant women in their lives on March 8, International Women’s Day.

For people who practice Buddhism, they celebrate their mothers during Lễ Vu Lan (Vu Lan’s Celebration day). Lễ Vu Lan is one of the main Buddhist holidays, falling on the 15th of July of the lunar calendar year. It’s a day for children to demonstrate their filial piety to their mothers.

Being Communist, Vietnam is officially an atheist country. However, the Vietnamese generally are not atheists. Buddhism once was the official Vietnamese national religion and still is the main religion that the majority of Vietnamese practice. Therefore, Lễ Vu Lan has long become a big cultural celebration day and is considered as Mother’s Day for a lot of people.

To all the wonderful mothers out there: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Photo taken and used with permission from Kandle Dart

 

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