What is Your Name in Japanese? Name Generator and Katakana Chart

Last Updated on 02.06.2022 by Coto Japanese Language School

What’s a better way to dip your toes into the Japanese language besides claiming a Japanese name? In general, English-base or foreign names are normally written using the phonetic katakana alphabet. An exception would be a name with Chinese characters, which you can choose to be read with Japanese reading.

In fact, it has become more common in Japan (at least in newspapers and other media) to refer to people with Chinese and some Korean names that are kanji-based using the original pronunciation, instead of reading the kanji in the Japanese way. For example, if your Chinese surname is 林 (which is pronounced Lim or Lin), you can pronounce the character as “Hayashi” — which is the most common surname in Japan in the 19th century.

Luckily, building a Japanese name is easy. In fact, you don’t need a name generator — just basic knowledge of hiragana and katakana.

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How to Say “What is your name?” in Japanese

In Japanese to ask someone their name, you can say these:

お名前は何ですか?
Onamae wa nan desu ka?
What is your name?

Here’s a quick question: Why don’t we say “あなたの名前は何ですか“?

The reason is that the Japanese often omit words if they are clearly interpreted through context. In this instance, if you are speaking directly to someone, you don’t need to use the word “your” or “you”. If you’re not talking with anyone else, your conversation partner should know that you’re referring to them directly.

An even easier way to ask someone “what is your name” in Japanese is to use:

お名前は?
Onamae ha?
Your name is…?

If you’re curious about Japan’s second-person pronoun, check out our guide here.

How to Say “My name is” in Japanese

There are several ways to introduce your name to someone in Japanese. It depends on who you’re speaking with, your social hierarchy and your relationship with the listener.

For example, the most basic way to say it is:

私の名前はサムです。
Watashi no namae wa Samu desu.
My name is Sam.

However, although this is technically correct, it’s not the most natural expression. The same way you don’t include “you” in a lot of Japanese sentences (if it’s clearly indicated), Japanese people tend not to use first-person pronouns.

The easiest and most common way to tell someone what your name is in Japanese is to simply state your name and attach です (desu). For example:

サムです。
Samu desu.

This is entirely different if you’re in a more formal environment, like a business meetup, or if you’re meeting someone new who might be older than you.

サムと申します。
Samu to moushimasu.
My name is Sam.

Also check out: Watashi, Boku or Ore: How to say me in Japanese

name in japanese conversion

How the Japanese Language Recognizes English Vowels and Consonants

Think of your name as a borrowed English word that is directly transliterated to Japanese in katakana form. A katakana transcription of foreign words is based on how the word sounds — and not how it is spelled.

The English language has 20 distinct vowel phonemes, making it one of the most complex vowel systems of any language in the world. In comparison, the Japanese language has only 5 vowels: a, i, u, e, o. They are terse vowels, pronounced clearly and sharply.

So what does this mean? How a word appears as katakana depends on how the word is heard by native speakers. Japanese has fewer different sounds than English, and it does not have many ending consonants. Words tend to gain extra vowels — or reduced to the closest sound the language has.

For example, the English word “cat” becomes katakana キャット (kyatto) with an extra “o” at the end. The word “hug” has the vowel that’s closest to “a”, so Japanese people will say it as “ハッグ”.

How to Write Your Name in Japanese

Japanese has two alphabets and one pictorial writing system based on Chinese characters.

The writing systems in Japanese are:

  • Kanji (Chinese characters)
  • Hiragana (Japanese phonetic alphabet)
  • Katakana (Japanese phonetic alphabet used for words of foreign origin)

If you’re new to learning Japanese, don’t worry. We have a 30-day hiragana challenge to speed up the process and motivate you. 

Japanese people have their names written in Kanji. If you’re a foreigner, you’ll mostly have to write your name in katakana. Below you can see a katakana chart.

Some sounds in Japanese don’t directly transfer from English.  For example, the “v” is not a sound that naturally occurs in Japanese. The pronunciation sounds similar to bee in English when translated to katakana.

For example, if your name is David, it becomes “デービッド or De-biddo.

In reality, there are no set ways of writing English names in Katakana, but there are more popular ways of doing it.

For example, the name Samuel can be written as “サミュエル” or Samyu-e-ru, or can also be written as “サムエル”. You can use the above chart to create your own name! Or, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can also use a Japanese name generator.

Rules of Conversion to a Japanese Name

Traditionally, some names have unusual pronunciations — at least in Japanese. Vowels are usually changed into the nearest equivalent Japanese vowel. Japanese has fewer vowels than English, so the two different vowels in “fur” and “far” both get turned into Japanese ファー.

This might look complicated, but look at the table below that outlines the rules for transcribing English sounds. They consist of short and long vowels, consonants, schwa sounds and dipthongs.

Conversion to Japanese Vowels

English PhoneticExampleJapanese TranscriptionExample
ɪitイ, iピット (pitto)
ɛpetエ, eペット (petto)
æSamア, aサム (samu)
æ after kcapキャ, kyaキャップ (kyappu)
ʌmugア, aマグ (magu)
ɒsocksオ, oソックス (sokkusu)
ʊbookウ, uブック (bukku)
əTimothyBased on spelling ティモシー
ɑːcarアー, ア aaaカー (kā)
shieldイー: iiシールド (shiirudo)
ɔːhorseオー: ooホース (hōsu)
Mayエイ, eiメイ (mei)
myアイ, aiマイ (mai)
ɔɪboyオーイ, ōiボーイ (bōi)
əʊphoneオ, oフォン (fon)
nowアウ, auナウ (nau)
ɪəpierceイア, iaピアス (piasu)
ɛəhairエア, eaヘア (hea)
ʊətourウアー, uaaツアー (tsuā)
Data taken from www.sljfaq.org

Conversion to Japanese Consonants

English PhoneticExampleJapanese TranscriptionExample
θthinkシャ, シ, シュ, シェ, ショ sシンク (shinku)
ðthezザ (za)
rrightラ, リ, ル, レ, ロ: r-kanaライト (raito)
llinkラ, リ, ル, レ, ロ: r-kanaリンク (rinku)
ŋ spelt “ng”singerンガ, ンギ ngシンガー (shingā)
ŋ spelt “nk” or “nc”sinkン, nシンク (shinku)
vlovebラブ (rabu)
vヴ (the u katakana) plus a small vowelvisualヴィジュアル (vijuaru)
wwinウィ: u + small vowel kanaウィン (win)
ffightファ, フィ, フ, フェ, フォ: hu + small vowel kanaファイト (faito)
ti, diDisneyティ, ディ (te or de + small i) (newer method)ディズニー (dizunii)
tutwoツ: tsuツー (tsū)
dzgoods, kidsッズ zzuグッズ, キッズ (guzzu, kizzu)

Japanese Name Generator: Make Your Name in Japanese

If you want a more lazy way of finding out how to write your new name in Japanese you can also use a katakana name generator, we have linked to a few that you can use:

Learn more than just your name in Japanese with our Japanese lessons!