The obscurity of the origin of the Jurchen is reflected in the confusion surrounding their name, particularly in older English works. It is recorded variously in different languages and different eras.
 The apparently cognate ethnonyms
Old Chinese: */siwk-[d]i[n]-s/) and Jizhen (
稷真, Old Chinese: */tsək-ti[n]/)
 are recorded in ancient Chinese geographical works like the
Classic of Mountains and Seas and the
Book of Wei.
The present name dates back to at least the 10th century, when
Balhae was destroyed by the
Khitans. Jurchen is an
 an attempted
reconstruction of this unattested original form of the native name,
 which has been preserved
Middle Chinese as Trjuwk-li-tsyin (
[a] and into
Khitan small script as Julisen. It was the source of
Fra Mauro's Zorça
Marco Polo's Ciorcia,
 reflecting the
Persian form of their name.
Vajda considers that the Jurchens' name probably derives from the Tungusic words for "
reindeer people" and is cognate with the names of the
Province and the
Sakhalin. ("Horse Tungus" and "Reindeer Tungus" are still the primary divisions among the Tungusic cultures.)
Janhunen argues that these records already reflect the
Classical Mongolian plural form of the name, recorded in the
Secret History as J̌ürčät,
 and further reconstructed as *Jörcid,
[b] whose medial -r- does not appear in the later
 or Jušen (
 In Manchu, this word was more often used to describe the
slaves—of the free Manchu people, who were themselves mostly the former Jurchens. To describe the historical people who founded the Jin dynasty, they reborrowed the Mongolian name as Jurcit.
Khitan form of the name was said to be Lüzhen; the variant Nrjo-tsyin (now Nüzhen, whence English Nurchen) appeared in the 10th century after the Khitans came to power in northern China as the
 At the same time, the Jurchen were interchangeably known as the Nrjo-drik (now Nüzhi). This is traditionally explained as an effect of the
Chinese naming taboo, with the character
真 being removed after the 1031 enthronement of the Liao emperor Zhigu (later the
Xingzong Emperor of the Liao dynasty) because it appeared in the
sinified form of his personal name.
Aisin Gioro, however, argues that this was a later
folk etymology and the original reason was uncertainty among dialects regarding the name's final -n.
Under the Liao, a distinction was also made between the "Charted Jurchens" (
女眞) who submitted to their rule and the "Uncharted Jurchens" (
女眞) who lived beyond their frontier. The former were divided into the
Haixi Jurchens and the latter included the
In English, references to all of these names has been further confused by the numerous variant romanizations of the Chinese characters involved prior to the general adoption of
Pinyin in the late 20th century.