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The Guide to Translating Names


      I've noticed a certain constant in nearly every anime. The names have meanings. Whether it's based on mythology or using puns, there is almost always something to them. Sometimes people don't have a clue how to begin translating these names to see how they fit in with the character. So, I'm here to help.
Either have a few translations for the original name or the original katakana or hiragana spelling. If you have the katakana/hiragana spelling, make sure you know how to translate the letters. I may put these up on the site later, but it's not too difficult to find a good dictionary. Also, knowing some Japanese helps quite a bit. You have to know what you're dealing with.

      One of the hardest parts is figuring out how you want to separate the name. For this, I use the example of Kaolinite from the series Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon. Other translations for the name : Kaorinite, Kaori Night, and Kaori. I'll assume it is Kaorinite first, since in the Japanese language there is no letter for 'l', and Night is much closer to English.


      Kaori means Aroma. Ninite means similar to. So does Kaorinite mean to be like an aroma?

      Not necessarily. Kao means face (as in, to face a person). Rin can mean several things. One is companion, and another is cold (There are others, too). Ite means archer, however, iteru means to freeze. So could her name mean to have a cold face? In Japan there is a concept of 'saving face'. It's a terrible thing to be embarrassed or confused in front of anybody. So most likely, her name is a concept of that. She has a cold appearance to 'save face'.


      Next is a more simple one. Unazuki, from the same series, is Motoki's younger sister. That is Andrew in the dub. So, how to split this one up? Simply enough, unazuku means to nod. See how much simpler that one was? She is named after a word.


      Ah, but what about people who are named after myths? Usually it's very easy to find out where the myths came from. You can look up the myth, and may often find other information that fits in that you weren't even looking for. A fine example is Sephiroth, from Final Fantasy 7. His name is based around Norse mythology, and so are many of the places in the game, and the summons as well. So it all fits together like a puzzle.


      Lots of anime characters are named after food. In DBZ several characters are. One of the most obvious is Vegeta ('Vegeta'ble). But that is translated into English. 'B' and 'v' are interchangable just like 'l' and 'r' in Japanese translations. It's good to be aware of that.


      Basically, if you have a favorite character you can easily do some research to learn more about that character. And you don't have to go hi-jacking other people's discoveries when you can find your own and put up your own findings on your site. Or just know it for yourself. Sometimes it takes time and effort, but often it's a nice find. Be careful though. MOST characters have names that have meaning. That doesn't mean ALL characters.

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