Need help with English names for a half Japanese baby girl.
August 8, 2013 8:09 AM   Subscribe

We are trying to think of names for our impending baby girl. I am American and my husband is Japanese. We plan to give her an English first name, Japanese middle and last name. We have settled on a middle name, Miyuki (美幸). So her name thus far is _______ Miyuki xxxxshi. Criteria for English name: [1] must be easily writable in katakana (For example, Wi- isn't great, or Gl-, or x. All of these sounds can be written, but they come out complicated.) [2] must not sound silly in Japanese (this is subjective and related to [1].) [3] must not end in a long e sound, since middle and last names already do. [4] Prefer a classical name (i.e. something my Grandma would recognize as a name) but no need for it to be especially popular right now. We'll probably avoid the top five or ten most popular names. We are NOT looking for names that do double duty (which is what most of the threads I've found are about). So, not Naomi (always the first name that gets trotted out in these situations). We want a name from each culture that the grandparents on the opposite side can pronounce and that the kid can write when she gets to kindergarten. I'd especially appreciate input from fluent Japanese speakers here, and/or members of mixed families. Thanks!
posted by telepanda to Human Relations (51 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by amtho at 8:11 AM on August 8, 2013

I came in to suggest Anna, then saw amtho's reply.

Anna is a little easier in Japanese than Ann, and can be written in kanji.
posted by V'Ger at 8:17 AM on August 8, 2013

posted by modernnomad at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:21 AM on August 8, 2013

posted by Carillon at 8:21 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Deeana / ディアナ
Diana / ダイアナ
Karina/Carina / カリナ
posted by Dimes at 8:22 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nora and Maria are both still somewhat common in the US, but neither is in the top 50 girl's names in recent years.

Some less-common names: Ramona, Cora, Ida.

Hannah or Sarah might be work but both have been fairly popular recently.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:23 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am the Anglo half of a Anglo-Japanese marriage. We took the different route of "double duty" first names and English middle names. I am also a speaker of Japanese.

That said, Condition 3 is tough because it knocks out a lot of candidates. I think it narrows things down to those that end in -a or -n. Some ideas:

posted by Tanizaki at 8:24 AM on August 8, 2013

I think Mia Miyuki is beautiful.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:25 AM on August 8, 2013 [25 favorites]

Dorothy. Can be shortened to Dot or Dottie. It's one of those old grandma-would-be-super-comfortable names that for whatever reason hasn't made a resurgence (yet?). And I think it's cute.
posted by phunniemee at 8:26 AM on August 8, 2013

posted by Infernarl at 8:27 AM on August 8, 2013

I forgot to add in my answer above: My mother is a third-generation Japanese-American, so a lot of my family and relatives have Japanese first names or middle names. I studied Japanese in high school and college but am far from fluent, so I don't know how my choices would sound to a native speaker.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:32 AM on August 8, 2013

How about Alice?
posted by lyssabee at 8:33 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think Maureen Miyuki xxxxshi has a lovely tone to it.

The "n" avoids the long e you don't want, but it still goes well with the rest of her name.
posted by zizzle at 8:34 AM on August 8, 2013

Lisa/Risa works really well in both languages.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:34 AM on August 8, 2013

Megan is pretty and also avoids the long E
posted by Sophie1 at 8:35 AM on August 8, 2013

Sorry--I totally read that as "must end in a long E sound."
posted by phunniemee at 8:36 AM on August 8, 2013

Erin? It's somewhat classic, easy to pronounce, and pretty while being less overtly feminine than a lot of the other choices.
posted by AmandaA at 8:36 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd like to suggest 'May'. It's a lovely old-fashioned English name that is easily pronounced by both sets of grandparents, easily written in katakana as 'Mei', easy for the daughter to write in kindergarten, and while it is kind of double-duty (as Mei is a Japanese name), it's a beautiful name in both cultures.

My sister is part of a Anglo-Japanese couple, and it was one of the frontrunners for their daughter. While they eventually went with something else for my niece, I always thought it was the prettiest of their possibilities.
posted by Concolora at 8:43 AM on August 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

I think Karen sounds beautiful with the middle and last names.
posted by mercredi at 8:48 AM on August 8, 2013

I know you said no long E sound, but I think Susie Miyuki Nameshi sounds pretty aewsome.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:49 AM on August 8, 2013

A Japanese friend with an English wife, had a baby girl and named her Sachi ("child of joy"), which is a lovely name and doesn't strike an odd note in English.

But as you want an anglo-oriented name how about Sasha, which works in katakana?
posted by MuffinMan at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by tilde at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2013

posted by grar at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2013

Donna, Hannah
posted by Mizu at 9:11 AM on August 8, 2013

Coming in to second my name, Lisa. It's got a few acceptable kanji combinations or can be easily written in katakana. I'm second-generation Japanese-Canadian. :)
posted by sillymama at 9:13 AM on August 8, 2013

I would suggest looking at some Italian girl names. Italian is very easily transcribed into katakana, there are no sounds that don't exist in Japanese and Italian girl names tend to be very traditional in the US too.
posted by lydhre at 9:27 AM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was coming in to suggest May as well.
posted by Fig at 9:52 AM on August 8, 2013

You might looking through lists of names that end in -a--lots of traditional, low-consonant-density names. Theresa, Rosa, Lucia, Helena, Maya, Layla, Julia, Amanda, Elena, Diana, and Lydia are all names that (from my very minimal Japanese) would fit 1,3, and 4.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:53 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

A few more ideas:

(NB: Can't guarantee any of these names actually sound OK--not fluent in Japanese [yet]. I dunno about Emma though, given what it means in Japanese Buddhism. Also, I remember reading a blog post about "names to stay away from" in this situation, and Deborah was one of them. Probably because "debu" can mean, like, "fatty" or something like that.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:54 AM on August 8, 2013

Also seconding my name, Anna, which I know in kanji (and works both in Japanese and Chinese, as well as being a pretty neat meaning that's similar to its Hebrew original that means "grace"):

There are some neat other suggestions too! Just wanted to chime in since I'm most familiar with my own, obvs.

Super bonus: it works everywhere (which I know for having been around the globe).
posted by fraula at 9:55 AM on August 8, 2013

posted by ptm at 9:56 AM on August 8, 2013


Flows well with miyuki
Easy to write, even fun to write for a child with the sort of smiley face
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:57 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm an Alyssa. It was a convenient name to have while I lived in Japan because it translates so well (being similar to Arisa--maybe too much like double duty for you). It's harder to spell in English because there are so many variants: initial A or E, I or Y, different numbers of Ls or Ss, confusion with the Alicia-type names. On the other hand, you can pick whichever spelling you like best. It was very common in the late 80s and 90s, so I encounter a lot of Alyssas my age and younger. It's an okay name, but I wouldn't say it's anything special.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:07 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine just gave birth to Emma (英舞). Fits all your criteria; classic, easy to represent in Japanese, not a "double duty" name.
posted by Televangelist at 10:27 AM on August 8, 2013

posted by mulligan at 10:27 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Emma" has been a top-5 US girl's name in recent years.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:29 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had similar concerns and ended up naming our daughter Leila. No pronunciation issues on the Japanese side although they tend to use her Japanese middle name more often. Nina and Sophia/Sofia were also contenders.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:42 AM on August 8, 2013

I'm trying to push for a resurgence of Pamela.
posted by pyjammy at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2013

posted by marble at 11:32 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think Mia Miyuki is beautiful.

And to expound on it, her nickname can be Mimi, which is cute and easy for all family members to pronounce.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:58 AM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hannah is a pretty name...and I think "hana" means "flower" in Japanese?
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:31 PM on August 8, 2013

posted by coolsara at 12:35 PM on August 8, 2013

I have an American friend married to a Japanese woman. They named their daughter Maya which is a nice "double duty" name.
posted by radioamy at 1:43 PM on August 8, 2013

Wow, I came in to say Ann, and the first two answers beat me to it! I don't know why, but Ann seems like the perfect first name here. It popped into my head immediately when reading your question.
posted by HotToddy at 2:31 PM on August 8, 2013

Someone I know picked names for her kids that could be easily pronounced in Japanese. She lived in Japan for a year or so and as her name is Christina it wasn't the easiest to pronounce. Her girls names are Cassandra (Kasandara) and Catalina (Katarina).
posted by poxandplague at 8:24 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thea / Teya / Teiya
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:41 AM on August 9, 2013

And to expound on it, her nickname can be Mimi, which is cute and easy for all family members to pronounce.

"Mimi" means "ear" in Japanese, so this is not likely to catch on with the Japanese grandparents.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:05 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know any Japanese, but Anna was my immediate thought as well.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 9:29 AM on August 9, 2013

Having two grandmothers named Dorothy, that would be my vote.

Also, Ruthless Bunny is correct, Mia Miyuki is beautiful.
posted by nenequesadilla at 6:43 PM on August 10, 2013

For posterity's sake, I just wanted to thank everyone for their suggestions and update the thread that we are now the proud parents of Lila Miyuki. And all the grandparents are happy. :)
posted by telepanda at 8:51 AM on January 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

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