Help me name the 赤ちゃん!
January 19, 2009 4:15 PM   Subscribe

BabyNameFilter: Help me name my son. Difficulty level: a boy's name that works both in Japanese and English.

So Mrs. zardoz and I will be proud parents at the end of March. We found out recently we're having a boy, and are thinking about names. My wife is Japanese, I'm American, so the baby will have my English family name. The middle name will be my wife's maiden name, so that leaves a first name. Among Japanese girls' names there are a lot of names that work both in Japanese and English: Hana/Hannah; Anna; Risa/Lisa, etc.

For boys, though, the dual name thing isn't so common. There's Ken, but it's too obvious and there will be confusion on the American side with people who assume his name is Kenneth--a name I'm not crazy about in the first place. Dan, Tomu/Tom, are in the same category.

Also, we're not dead set on a Japanese first name, or an English first name, for that matter. Basically anything that sounds good, and if Japanese, one that has a lucky kanji stroke count (that's somewhat silly to me, but the wife doesn't think so). Also the rhythm is important--his middle name will be four syllables, last name two syllables. Last name starts with an "M".
posted by zardoz to Human Relations (42 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Haru / Hal
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 4:21 PM on January 19, 2009

posted by jadepearl at 4:24 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by kanemano at 4:26 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ron / Ran
posted by buriednexttoyou at 4:28 PM on January 19, 2009

れお (Reo/Leo) is a fairly popular one, or so I've been told. (It's number 58 on this list of name readings from 2006.)

As far as ateji go, perhaps you might discuss some of these with your wife?
posted by armage at 4:29 PM on January 19, 2009

Ford / Wataru
Roy / Ryoichi
Tad / Tadashi
Troy / トロイ (j/k on that . . . thanks, Mom)
posted by troy at 4:35 PM on January 19, 2009

ご懐妊おめでとうございます, incidentally.
posted by armage at 4:35 PM on January 19, 2009

posted by QueenHawkeye at 4:36 PM on January 19, 2009

Oh, I'm sure the resident anime buffs will have plenty of suggestions...

Ken can also be short for Kendall or Kendrick, so I'm not sure if the "Kenneth" assumptions will be that common.

There's Jin. Rei. Kei (although I think of that as a girl name). Kaz/Kazuo perhaps.

Is he gonna grow up in Japan? Otherwise I'd stress that his name be easy to pronounce for Westerners, and not prone to teasing (eg, Go or So).

Normally I'd suggest the Japanese cinema-inspired Akira or Toshiro, but if his middle name is gonna be all-out Japanese as well, I suppose something more Western sounding would be preferable to balance things out.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 4:48 PM on January 19, 2009

posted by plinth at 4:58 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the kanji or the lucky strokes therein, but my very good friends (she's Japanese, he's American) named their son Owen with her two syllable maiden name as his middle name. It suits him beautifully.
posted by mostlymartha at 5:10 PM on January 19, 2009

I have a friend whose son is named Noah which they spelled as Noa when he was living in Japan.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:19 PM on January 19, 2009

I don't know what a lucky kanji stroke count is either, but (lame TV show notwithstanding) Hiro is a badass name.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:26 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Taiga (Tiger)?
posted by Tawita at 5:48 PM on January 19, 2009

My son's middle name is Armeniam but I wanted Americans to be able to say it and spell it without problems. (Ara) Maybe go with a list of Japanese names and see what sounds appealing?
posted by k8t at 5:49 PM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: Kai?
posted by wsquared at 6:01 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

My cousin's name is Michinaga, which can be shortened to Michi or Mitch.
posted by illenion at 6:11 PM on January 19, 2009

Hiro would work.
posted by Oktober at 6:22 PM on January 19, 2009

posted by ad4pt at 6:31 PM on January 19, 2009

You could do what George Harrison did -- find a benign word that sounds like an English name and use that. His son Dhani is named after two notes in the Indian music scale (which would be like naming a kid "Do-Re" or "Fa-So"), but it sounds like "Danny".

You have Tomi/Tom, there's also Jo/Joe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:46 PM on January 19, 2009

My friends have a kid named Kai (father Indian-American, mother Chinese-American), which they picked because it works in so many languages.
posted by swift at 7:36 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

If not Hiro, then Andrew, and you could call him Ando?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:01 PM on January 19, 2009

Some Japanese names that I think sound awesome in English:
Riku (easily anglicized to Rick or Ricky)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:09 PM on January 19, 2009

'Ken' can also be 'Kennedy' - trust me there.
posted by kcm at 9:16 PM on January 19, 2009

Another vote for Kai, which is really cute. Also chosen by my Canadian/Dutch/Italian friends
posted by Joh at 9:33 PM on January 19, 2009

Rei/Ray (This is actually my friend's child's middle name, spelled the Japanese way.)

You can also pick some thing you like and see what the Japanese word is for it.
posted by CoralAmber at 10:02 PM on January 19, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for your input. I forgot to mention the ones we were considering: Kai is one, also Eiden/Aidan. Hiro I like but the mrs. doesn't, it's a really common name in Japan.

Anyway, thanks again, all!
posted by zardoz at 10:27 PM on January 19, 2009

Some others that haven't been mentioned yet:

Eugene/Yuujin(Like the singer from Yuzu. Your son could also choose to go by Jin.)
Kaz/Kazu (-hiro, then he could choose to go by Kaz or Hiro)
Jay or John (For example, written 慈英 and 慈音 as in the Kabira brothers)
Shin (My brother's name, worked well when we were growing up in the States.)

posted by misozaki at 11:21 PM on January 19, 2009

I don't know how common these names are in Japanese, but they're pretty close to some English names that wouldn't be considered too weird here.

Ben/べん, Guy/がい, Han/はん, Joe/じょう, Ren/れん, Cy/さい, Ty/たい Eugene/ゆうじん.

A word about Aiden (and its variants). The name is extremely common amongst kids being named right now. According to the Baby Name Wizard (and a little calculations to account for variants), one out of every 160 boys born in 2007 in the US was named Aiden (or a variant). Could be the "Jennifer" of the next generation.
posted by ErWenn at 11:27 PM on January 19, 2009

posted by paperzach at 11:40 PM on January 19, 2009

I knew I'd come up with some more...

Atom/Atomu (There's an Japanese actor actually named Atomu, written in katakana.)
Claud/Kurodo (Again, there's an actor by this name. Written 蔵人)
Mondo (Written 主水. This name is so cool - sounds both old and new at the same time.)
posted by misozaki at 11:58 PM on January 19, 2009


i'm really bad at names. i suggested my sister name her daughter ramune or suika (jokingly, but still...).

I had a friend named Lucas/ruka. girl names are so much easier.
posted by vaguelyweird at 12:15 AM on January 20, 2009

"Nikko" is a great Japanese boy's name (to me, anyway) that will work very well in the U.S. and pretty much everywhere in Europe (definitely Greece!) ... probably most everywhere in the world. Don't know about the lucky strokes though.

You'll have to update this thread when you decide!
posted by taz at 12:26 AM on January 20, 2009

Saneatsu (Sonny)
posted by McGuillicuddy at 4:27 AM on January 20, 2009

Since you like Kai, I'll suggest a name that's high on our list as long as you promise not to turn it trendy so that we can still use it when/if we have #2: Kaio. The "o" at the end almost makes it sound almost like "Kyle" but it stays very usable internationally.
posted by wallaby at 4:30 AM on January 20, 2009


An ancient Irish name. A friend of mine named Oisin often has his name mistaken as Japanese by those not familiar with Irish mythology.
posted by Mephisto at 4:46 AM on January 20, 2009

Parallelogram Rollover Zardoz?
posted by Cantdosleepy at 5:43 AM on January 20, 2009

A haafu boy I used to teach was named Kairu (his kai was 海, can't remember what they used for the ru) but we were instructed to call him Kyle.

Other options:

Reon/Leon (for however you want to pronounce that [e] in the English version)
posted by emmling at 6:33 AM on January 20, 2009

posted by hellboundforcheddar at 7:48 AM on January 20, 2009

Don't forget about the option of choosing a name that has multiple readings. So if you like Hiro, you could use a rare kanji like 啓, that also may be read/said as Kei. Or you could choose 礼, for "Rei (Ray)" but also for Hiroshi. This practice is very common in Japanese history, and you and eventually your son later in life could choose which name he uses for which cultural context without changing the kanji of his name.

Someone above said Leon and that's an intersting choice. It's a less common variation of the very popular and trendy "Leo" and it would evoke the character 恩 to Japanese speakers, although you'd spell his name in hiragana, since "re" isn't a native Japanese sound, i.e., there are no kanji to represent it. And you wouldn't have to worry about getting little Leon getting confused with the word for rayon (レーヨン) as the pronunciation differs a great deal.
posted by vincele at 8:33 AM on January 22, 2009

Ok, one more: 譲二/譲治 and then you could call him Joe or George in English.
posted by vincele at 8:38 AM on January 22, 2009

You could use 莉 for re. There's a talent that does.
posted by emmling at 5:41 AM on January 29, 2009

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