Multi-Lingual/Cultural names!

Hello all, new member here. I'm from the USA originally, but am currently living and working in Japan. My girlfriend (not married) is pregnant--which is a bit of a new development. I'm 26 and of course a little scared/surprised, but I'm also excited. She's a bit younger (22), but equally as excited. Even though this was unplanned and unexpected, we're both comitted to one another and to the child we'll be raising before too long. Anyway, we've been discussing names, and we're trying to come up with options that can work in both English/Japanese.

I also have a great desire to maintain some of the naming traditions in my family. I've researched my family back to 1200s England when they were minor nobility and there are names that have been maintained despite the family's loss of status/wealth and relative exile to the "colonies". I'd like to include parts of my grandfather and fathers' names. I'm not going to write out my actual surname, but it's very close in length and sound to "Washington" so we'll use that as a general example. So, my paternal grandfather was James Murray Washington. My father is William Murray Washington.

If our child is a boy, I had thought about using the name Murray. It can be "Japanified" easily enough into Marei (slightly different pronunciation), also has Kanji (Japanese writing script for those of you who don't know) to where it could be written as an official name = 真霊 whichs translates to "true spirit". If our baby is a girl, we could really still use the name, but the Japanese version transliterated into Roman characters as above--Marei--which is also a German girl's name.

So, to my question: If I chose Murray or Marei -- what are some good middle names? Murray _____ Washington OR Marei _____ Washington (for a girl)

I also really like the names Alexander and Penelope, just to throw them out there. Thanks! :)


April 22, 2014 1:16 PM

Hi there,

Congratulations!  I'll go ahead and share a suggestion for the name we gave our son, Kai.  It has historical roots in many different areas of the world including Japan, China, Africa, Hawaii and England, and has different meanings (fire, water, warrior) in several different languages.  We were a little concerned the name Kai has seen increased popularity among girls' names as well as boys', but fortunately (for us) the majority of use seems to still be as a boy's name.  I've heard of it being used as both a boy and girl name among Japanese children.  The kiddos we meet are particularly fond of the association with the Lego Ninjago character named Kai.

Good luck!  

April 22, 2014 2:12 PM

A couple of ideas for you - hope these are not too obvious:

Murray Kenneth/Kenji (or Kento) Washington

Murray Ren Washington - Ren is such a popular name right now in Japan for boys - but maybe Ren isn't traditional enough for you as a boy's name in English. Rene is more common, and really, it's French.

Marei Naomi Washington

Marei Mae/Mai Washington

Marei Ria Washington - Ria (with characters Jasmine Love) is one of those "kirakira" names, and maybe you don't want to go that direction if you're looking for traditional. On the English side of things, Riya as a girl's name is just starting to crack the top 1000 in the US. Riya/Ria is in the family of Leah, Mia, Tia, etc. that have been around for a long time, so even if it isn't a classic like, say, "Margaret", it's still sounds like a real name.

April 22, 2014 2:14 PM

My first thought is to ask if there are any names from your girlfriend's family that could be used as the middle name. Or perhaps just names she likes?  You're using a first name from your family & your last name, so it seems balanced for her to have more say in the middle name.

If your girlfirend doesn't have any names she is particulary fond of, I'd suggest you look for Japanese names that will work in English, since you already have an English name that works in Japanese.  I'm not very familiar with Japanese names, but off the top of my head I can come up with a handful that would probably work fine in English.  Aiko, Mika, Mei.  Someone else recently posted on another thread that Naomi is a Japanese name.  

Behind the name has a list of Japanese names, perhaps something there will pop for you.

April 22, 2014 3:18 PM

It seems like you already have them picked! Murray Alexander for a boy and Marei Penelope for a girl? But, I will brainstorm some more...

April 22, 2014 5:20 PM

I have a friend who's also an American ex-pat in Japan.  He and his Japanese wife named their son Asa.  It's an Old Testament name, and was in his family tree - a bit unusal in America, but fits right in with Noah and Ezra that are now popular.  And it seems very easy to pronounce and spell in Japanese.  Could that work instead of Alexander?

April 22, 2014 7:41 PM

Wow, "If I chose Murray or Marei" -- don't you mean "we?" You get to pick the first and last names, maybe she should choose the middle. I agree with the previous commenter than a Japanese name that works in English would be good. Better yet, switch them and have Murray/Marei as the middle and the Japanese name first since presumably your kid is going to grow up in Japan.

April 23, 2014 12:12 PM

I may be incorrect, but I believe that it is Japanese tradition for the father to name the children.  It is his responsibility to research and find the right name.

April 23, 2014 2:46 AM

I haven't regularly spoken Japanese in a while but from what I remember Murray would be a hard name to say in a Japanese accent, it's at least counter-intuitive. Penelope and Alexander also both pose challenges. Maybe you should get some ideas from your girlfriend first, and then try combining them for names that are fluid in both languages? Unfortunately Murray doesn't seem to have a meaning (place name) but William means protector or determination, in Japanese the names Mamoru or Katsuo seem to have similar definitions and can be pronounced by English speakers. If preserving family heritage exactly is important to you, can that be done in the last and/or middle name, while making the first name truly bi-cultural? Good luck.


By mk
April 23, 2014 1:14 PM

I would suggest trying out the names to see if they truly works well in Japanese. If not, bumping it to the middle name position may be a better option, and still preserves tradition. Or is Marei an option for both boys and girls?

Some Japanese names for girls that would be easily recognizable in English: Hana, Naomi, Mei, Mai, Emi, Rina


April 23, 2014 2:02 PM

Hello congrats on your bundle of joy.

I have to admit I am not a huge fan of Murray though I like the idea of the nickname Ray if you are looking for one. I do think it sounds like a good choice since it can be used in Japanese as well.

I have never heard of the name Marei for a girl though it does look like a nice name on paper. Is it the same pronouciation as Murray in English? If so then I am not much of a fan again, though if pronouced differently maybe it might be nice.

However either one would be a good middle name for the baby if you want a middle name.

One name I would like to suggest is Naomi. In English is a Hebrew name meaning pleasant. It is prononouced Nay-o-mee or Ni-o-mee, depending on your wished ir when you are from.

Naomi is also a girls Japenese name. However the pronouciation is something like Now - mee. 

Kai for a boy is lovely and handsome. It one of my favourite names. It also has some use in Japan among other countires.

May 9, 2014 11:20 AM

In Japanese, there isn't middle names. I don't know if there's even a place on Japanese birth certificates for a middle name. Your kid should have a middle name, yes, because it's part of you and your girlfriend's culture. But it's a part of your culture that isn't going to flip over to Japanese very easily. I'd say use the name that you love, but that is hardest to do in Japanese, as the middle name.


May 10, 2014 9:30 PM

An alternative to Marei could be Mirai, a girl's name meaning 'future'.

Mirai Ayana Washington (Aya = colorful/iris)  Marei Ayana Washington

Mirai Suzuna Washington (Suzu = double happiness) Marei Suzuna Washington

Mirai Etsuko Washington (Etsu = delight) Marei Etsuko Washington

Mirai Mizuki Washington (Mizuki = beautiful moon) Marei Mizuki Washington

Mirai Hiromi Washington (Hiromi = great beauty) Marei Hiromi Washington

Mirai Ayumi Washington (Ayumi = walking as in walking one's own path) Marei Ayumi Washington

May 11, 2014 11:52 PM

Though it's not similar to the names you've suggested, I thought I'd throw in the name that my (Australian) friend and his Japanese wife have chosen for their (as yet unconceived) baby, if it's a girl - Juno.  A name easily pronounced in both languages and known as an English language movie, and is the name of a Japanese singer.


(also, as an aside, as a Penelope myself, I always go by Penny, which has seemed easy for Japanese people I know to pronounce).

May 12, 2014 2:33 AM

That's super-interesting -- I know a little Juno with similar heritage. I was distinctly charmed by her name previously, and even more so now!