Japanese Names - How are they chosen?


Have you ever stopped to think about the Japanese names and your anthroponymy? Have you ever wondered why names differ so much compared to other countries? It is unusual to find someone with the name of Maria and João in Japan, but it is easy to find Tanaka, Sato, Sasaki and Yamada… But… so what? Do you know where they get these names from and what are their meanings?

A Japanese name called jinmei [人名] is composed primarily of the family name and followed by the personal name or first name. The first name is usually used among acquaintances who have a certain intimacy, or on other occasions.

How do Japanese names work?

  • Japanese names are often written with ideograms known as Kanji;
  • Names can have several different pronunciations and even spellings, since a single Kanji has several pronunciations. Making it normal to create nicknames based on kanji the name;
  • Names can also have several meanings, since a Kanji it can also mean several things, in addition to the meaning of the pronunciation;
  • It is also common for people to write their names in Hiragana according to informality or occasion;
  • Male names usually end in: Ro,To and OK while the female: Ko, At and Mi;
  • It is not common for Japanese to have a surname or middle name;
  • Suffixes or honorary titles, in names, can be very useful, and should not be left aside, to differentiate a word from name, since Japanese names are usually the name of common things;

Read too:
Name of Pokémon in Japanese
Name of kitchen utensils in Japanese

Meanings of Japanese names

Have you ever stopped to think about what meanings of Japanese names? Sometimes people have names of fruits, colors, numbers, but their name does not always mean that. See some examples below:

  • Ichigo - Strawberry
  • Sakura - Cherry blossoms
  • Tsukushi - Weed, Horsetail
  • Nana - Seven
  • Juuichi - Eleven
  • Hisoka - Secret, Reserved
  • Kuro - Black

Did you imagine calling someone strawberry or black? Japanese does not usually have zillions of syllables and variations like Portuguese, so many words resemble others, but it does not mean that if your child is called a strawberry. Ichigo can also mean the first [一護] and not strawberry [いちご].

That's why Japanese people use suffixes like [-san, -kun], so it prevents people from confusing someone's name with fruit or other words.

In writing this confusion does not usually happen, since in most cases Japanese names are written with 2 or more ideograms:

  • Sawako 爽子 - (子 KO - Child.) (爽 Sawa - Happy, refreshing, sweet.)
  • Naomi 直美 - (美 - Mi - Beauty.) (直 No - Frankness, Honesty.)

Not to mention that common Japanese names can be written with other Kanji and have other meanings, however, only one of them is correct. For example Haruma can be written: 

  • 春馬 - (春 - Haru = Spring.) (馬 - Uma = Horse)
  • 春間 - (one can read Haru-Kan.) (春 - Haru = Spring.) (間 - Ma = Time, space)
  • 晝間 (one can read Hiruma)

This varies in Japanese, they can choose one kanji and use another not very common pronunciation, as in the cases above. Another example It's Haruka that can be written = 晴香 / 春香 / 遥 / 遥香 (香 - aroma; smell; incense.) (春 = spring.) (晴 - good weather; cloudy.) (遥 - distance; walking.)

Also, the name Hajime can be written with kanji 始, 治, 初 and many other examples.

It is very complex to understand about the writing of names, an example of this is the surname Saitō. Although there are more than 100 characters that are read as leaves and more than 200 that are read as , only four of these leaves can be used for a surname.

The problem is that each of these characters has a different meaning: the leaves eight-stroke (斉) means “together” or “parallel”, the leaves 11 stroke (斎) means “to purify”. As mentioned, A name written in kanji may have more than one pronunciation, but only one is correct for a particular individual.

For example:

  • 陽翔 -Can be read: Haruto, Hinato, Yōshō ..;
  • 春間 - Haruka Haruma can be read
  • 斉 What is said Hitoshi can be used to write Sato; Saikichi and Others

Your Head must be confused, very confused, and for this reason that the Japanese usually write their names in Hiragana, even in documents there is a space for the name written in hiragana so that we know the right way to say the name. And it is also for this reason that we must use suffixes to avoid being lost.

When someone introduces himself and goes to speak the meaning of the name, he will write his name in kanji, say the meaning, and also say about each kanji used and its meaning. Although it is difficult to understand in the beginning, mainly in the brief form that I explain, I find it beautiful and interesting, your name has several meanings, pronunciations, writings, you can have a lot of fun with it ...

The coolest thing is to know that the name is made up of words that mean common things, although it seems strange to us, being called some fruit or object is totally cool and normal in Japan. If I were to choose a Japanese name, I would like to Tue: Kyouma 凶真 (Can be read Kyoshin.) Which means: 真 - True, Genuine / 凶 - Calamity, disaster, villain…

Of course this is a fool, choosing a name takes time, and it has many options, I would spend years deciding which one is best. Is that you? Which name would you choose?

The video below can help you find more Japanese names and their meanings:

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