Vietnamese Language Blog

Names of Vietnam Throughout the History Posted by on Oct 4, 2021 in Culture, History

Image taken and used with permission from Kandle Dart

Many quốc gia (country) have their quốc hiệu (name) changed throughout their courses of history due to various reasons. Vietnam is not an exception. Indeed, officially and unofficially, she has been known by more than a dozen names in its history. Each triều đại (dynasty) may want to change its quốc hiệu. Do I know them all? Yes, because any kid who grew up in Vietnam like I did, had to learn these quốc hiệu during history lessons from elementary all the way through high school. Well, that doesn’t mean I would remember to list all of them in the correct period. Sourced from Wikipedia, I got it all sorted out in chronological order for you for an easy reference.

  1. Xích Quỷ (2879 – 2524 BC): A legendary period under King Dương Vương of the Hồng Bàng dynasty.
  2. Văn Lang (2524 – 258 BC): A legendary period under the Hùng Kings of the Hồng Bàng dynasty.
  3. Âu Lạc (257 – 207 BC): A legendary period under the King An Dương Vương of the Thục dynasty.
  4. Nam Việt (204 BC – 111 BC): Claimed by Lord Triệu Đà of the Triệu dynasty.
  5. Giao Chỉ* (111BC – 40; 40 – 203; 607 – 622; 1407 – 1424): A provincial name of China under the periods of Chinese domination.
  6. Lĩnh Nam (40-43): A short period of independence from China by the Trưng sisters, claimed by queen Trưng Trắc.
  7. Giao Châu* (203 – 544; 602 – 607; 622 – 679): A provincial name of China under the periods of Chinese domination.
  8. Vạn Xuân (544 – 602): A short period of independence from China, claimed by Lý Bí, the Lý dynasty.
  9. An Nam* (679 – 757; 766 – 866): A provincial name of China under the periods of Chinese domination.
  10. Trấn Nam* (757 – 766): A provincial name of China under the periods of Chinese domination.
  11. Tĩnh Hải Quân * (866 – 905; 905 – 968): A provincial name of China under the periods of Chinese domination. During the latter period, the house of Khúc, Dương, and Ngô, successfully gained some semi-independence for the country.
  12. Đại Cồ Việt (968–1054): An independent period from China. The name first claimed by Đinh Bộ Lĩnh under the Đinh dynasty, then continued to use by the Lê and Lý dynasties,
  13. Đại Việt (1054 – 1400; 1428 – 1804): Name used by the Lý, Trần, Hồ, Lê, Mạc, Trịnh, Tây Sơn, and the beginning of the Nguyễn dynasties.
  14. Đại Ngu (1400 – 1407): Named by Hồ Quý Ly, the Hồ dynasty.
  15. Việt Nam (1804–1839): King Gia Long of the Nguyễn dynasty asked for the name Nam Việt. However, the Chinese emperor at that time refused and switched the word order, changing it to Việt Nam.
  16. Đại Nam (1839–1945): A short name of Đại (Great) Việt Nam, changed by King Minh Mạng of the Nguyễn dynasty.
  17. Việt Nam (1945 – Current): Well, these recent periods are a bit complicated but ultimately, whatever the official name was called, it has the word “Việt Nam” in it.
    1. Đế Quốc Việt Nam (Empire of Vietnam) (1945)
    2. Việt Nam Dân Chủ Cộng Hòa (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) (1945 – 1947; 1954 – 1976)
    3. Quốc Gia Việt Nam (State of Vietnam) (1948 – 1955)
    4. Việt Nam Cộng Hòa (Republic of Vietnam) (1955 – 1975)
    5. Cộng Hòa Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa Việt Nam (Socialist Republic of Vietnam) (1976 – Current date)

*: Named by the Chinese


  • Now you can see the pattern. Most names have the word Đại” or/and Việt” or/and “Nam.
  • Quốc hiệu (country name) Đại Việt (Great Viet) has the record of being used in the longest time,  for over 700 years!
  • Meaning of the current name Việt Nam: Viet means the Viet people. Nam means the south. Together, it means the Viet of the Southern.


  • By including the word Đại(Great)/Big) in the past country names, the Vietnamese ancestors showed their pride and the ambition to expand their territory. As a matter of fact, the current territory of Vietnam was the expansion to other southern neighboring countries that have long gone for some past centuries ago.
  • Will the country change her name again and break away from the word “Việt” or/and “Nam” in the future? Who knows? But I believe when there is a change of a political system, a shift of political ideology, a collapse of a regime, a name change is likely to happen.  The name Đại Việt  had been used for so many centuries before, perhaps some political leaders in the future may like to use that historical name again.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

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