The Meanings of Japanese Names
Most Japanese names are written in kanji, though some names are written in hiragana or katakana. Hiragana is mainly used for girl's names because it gives a softer impression. To learn more about hiragana or katakana, click one of these links. Since there are literally thousands of kanji to choose from, even the same name can usually be written using many different kanji combinations. To learn more about kanji, click this link.
For example, "Keiko" is a common female name. "Ko" is often used at the end of female names, and it means "child". However, there are more than 70 variations that exist to write the name "Keiko" in kanji. Depending which characters are used the meanings differ. Click this link to learn about some of the common kanji combinations used for "Keiko". People often ask if a Japanese name has a meaning in English, but it is hard to know if there is a translatable meaning for a name without knowing the kanji character(s) used to spell it.
How to Name a Baby in Japanese
- From an Image --- Use an image from nature, natural phenomenon, four seasons, color, arts, jewel and so on. Or select one or two kanji characters (ocean, star, spring etc.) to be used in a name as key words.
- From a Wish --- One or two kanji characters (courage, happiness, wisdom, success, beauty etc.) are used in a name to represent what you wish/hope the babies defining characteristics will be.
- From Kanji Characters --- Choose the kanji characters you want to use, then create the name. There are quite a few kanji characters that are popular for names. Some example are: "dai (big)" and "ta (great)" for boys and, "mi (beauty)" and "yuu (gentle)" for girls. When parents wish to name a child after one of their first names or relative's name, they use one of the kanji characters from that person's name instead of giving them exactly the same name.
- From a Sound --- This is a recent trend that is used to name babies. Decide on a name from a sound, and then choose the kanji characters for it.
- As a Memorial --- Name the baby after a historical person, hero/heroine of a novel, celebrity etc.
- From a Fortune Telling --- Some believe that the number of strokes used in the first name and the last name must be compatible. There are many different styles of fortune telling that are used for naming babies.
Typical Endings of Japanese Names
- Male Names --- ~aki, ~fumi, ~go, ~haru, ~hei, ~hiko, ~hisa, ~hide, ~hiro, ~ji, ~kazu, ~ki, ~ma, ~masa, ~michi, ~mitsu, ~nari, ~nobu, ~nori, ~o, ~rou, ~shi, ~shige, ~suke, ~ta, ~taka, ~to, ~toshi, ~tomo, ~ya, ~zou, etc.
- Female Names --- ~a, ~chi, ~e, ~ho, ~i, ~ka, ~ki, ~ko, ~mi, ~na, ~no, ~o, ~ri, ~sa, ~ya, ~yo, etc.
Trends in Japanese Baby Names
Learn about changes in popular baby names and recent trends.
Your Name in Japanese
Try my "Kanji for Tattoos" page to find out how to write your name in Japanese.