What’s in a Name? Female Japanese Names Using the Character for “Beauty” (Mi – 美)

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What’s in a Name? Female Japanese Names Using the Character for “Beauty” (Mi – 美)

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Perhaps one of the most difficult things about Japanese is how kanji has so many different readings, depending on the situation and where they are placed in words.

This is particularly challenging when it comes to reading names, especially as parents have started trying to give their children names with increasingly unusual readings of the characters. Here is a look at some female Japanese names that feature the character 美 (mi) which means “beauty”. It looks quite similar to the character 実 (mi) which can be translated as “truth”, “reality”, “sincerity”, “honesty”, or “fidelity”. Just like the previous article about names with the character for “love”, there will be some light analysis about the meanings of the names but, don’t take it too seriously. As it was done in the previous article, Romanized names will be in given name/family name order and Japanese names will be written in Japanese order (family name/given name).  


As far as we know, there are no names that use the single character 美, meaning “beauty” and is read as “mi” or “bi”, as in bijutsukan (美術館) which is Japanese for “museum”. This is probably for the best since it might sound too pretentious for someone to name their child “beauty”, even though there are names like Belle and Bella in other languages which mean the same thing. It might be safe to say that many of the characters used with 美 are ateji (宛字), a term used when kanji is being used simply for the phonetic reading without concern for the meaning.

Mina (美奈) is a relatively common name which combines 美 with the character 奈 (na) from Nara prefecture (奈良県), possibly a reference to Japan’s most historic regions. While 奈 has no meaning by itself, perhaps the image of beauty combined with traditional refinement is what parents have in mind for their daughters when naming them? At the very least, it is easy to read and is used as a name in many other languages. It can also be written with 那 (na) from Naha (那覇), the capital of Okinawa.

The order can be switched and additional characters 千 (chi/sen) meaning “1,000”, 澪 (re) meaning “waterway”, or 菜 (na) meaning “leaf or greens”, can be added to create other names as well like Chinami (千奈美), Naomi (奈緒美), Mirena (美澪奈), and Nanami (奈菜美)!

If you don’t like the first way Nanami is written, you can easily use the character 々 which is used anytime you want to repeat a character without having to write it!

Another common name that combines 美 with a character that doesn’t really mean anything on its own is 亜美 (Ami). The character 亜 (a) is sometimes used to refer to things pertaining to Asia as well as in scientific word compounds but, is likely another ateji.

Ami can also be written using the “a” readings of the characters 杏 (apricot) and 安 (cheap). If you wanted to be literal (or cruel) it is technically possible to translate them as “beautiful peach” and “cheap beauty” but not recommended..

By adding additional characters like 紗 (sha/sa) meaning “silk/gauze” or 佑 (yuu/u) meaning “help/assist” in between, you can make the names Asami (亜紗美) and Ayumi (亜佑美) as well.

If it’s not enough to make the statement as a parent that you believe your daughter is beautiful, you can take things further by adding a character like 麗 (rei) which also means “beautiful” or 玲 (rei) meaning “the sound of jewels” to write the name Mirei in 2 different ways!

By adding the character 穂 (ho) meaning the “bud or head of a plant”, the name Miho (美穂) may carry with it the hopes that parents have for their daughter to grow up to be a beautiful woman.

Also agriculturally related is the addition of the character 咲 (saki) which means “to blossom/bloom” which makes the name Misaki (美咲).

Chisami Ito - 伊藤 千咲美 - GEM

Chisami Ito – 伊藤 千咲美 – GEM

The characters can also be flipped around and with the addition of the character 千 (chi/sen) meaning “1,000”, great expectations of a beautiful blossoming can be hoped for with the name Chisami (千咲美).

Impart some history by adding the character 紀 (ki) meaning “(geological) era” or “chronicle” to get the name Miki (美紀).

Of course, you can also flip them around and with the addition of the characters 有 (yu/yuu) meaning “existence” or 優 (yuu) meaning “kindness”, you get the names Yukimi (有紀美) and Miyuki (美優紀)!

Miki Nonaka - 野中美希 - Morning Musume.’16

Miki Nonaka – 野中美希 – Morning Musume.’16

The character 希 (usually read as “ma-re”) meaning “rare” can also be used to write Miki (美希), making a “rare beauty”. But then again, aren’t we all unique individuals?

Miki Fujimoto - 藤本 美貴 - ex Morning Musume.

Miki Fujimoto – 藤本 美貴 – ex Morning Musume.

The character 貴 (tou-to) meaning “precious” can also be read as “ki” and be used to convey the same kind of message with a different nuance.

Since ancient times, lapis lazuli, written with the character 瑠 (ru/ryu) has been valued for its intense deep blue color so, it makes sense that it would be combined with 美 to write names like Miru (美瑠) and Rumina (瑠美奈). There’s an obvious pattern that anything precious or rare is an attractive combination when it comes to naming a daughter.

If you have read all the way to the end of this article you may be excited at all of the possible ways of writing a beautiful Japanese name or how you might be able to use this knowledge to compliment a lovely young lady? These are only a small sampling of the names that use the character 美 because after all doesn’t everyone want to feel pretty? While there is the possibility of a person’s name having a deep and personal meaning, a lot of the names mentioned in this article seem to just be using the other characters to fill out the sound of a name. That’s the great and sometimes frustrating thing about kanji though, there are so many readings in Japanese!

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Kai Okudara

Writer, researcher, photographer, foodie, KSDD

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