Meanings and themes of surnames

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Mitsukara

Luna Crescens
Apr 1, 2017
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#1
(I apologize if there was already a thread about this and if this winds up getting merged; I couldn't find a search bar on the updated forum design. Also, I don't really speak or read Japanese, so this is all from my clumsy attempts to look up translations.)

All the know surnames of characters, as far as I recall, are:

  • Minako Aino
  • Hikaru Sorano
  • Amano (not sure if this is a surname or a first name)
  • Natsuna Sakurada
  • Toshio Wakagi
  • Usagi/Usagi "Small Lady"/Shingo/Ikuko/Kenji Tsukino
  • Haruna Sakurada
  • Naru Osaka
  • Gurio Umino
  • Mamoru Chiba
  • Ami Mizuno
  • Rei Hino
  • Masato Sanjoin (presumably fake name, so I'm not sure it counts)
  • Makoto Kino
  • Yuuichirou Kumada
  • Setsuna Meiou (sometimes romanized Mei'oh)
  • Haruka Tenou (sometimes romanized Ten'oh)
  • Michiru Kaiou (sometimes romanized Kai'oh)
  • Hotaru/Souchi/Keiko Tomoe
(If I missed anybody known, let me know. I'm sure some of the one-off characters probably had surnames. I believe the Animamates had civilian surnames too, but maybe one of us can get into all that in subsequent posts.)

The "Inner" Sailor Senshi all seem to follow one pattern- "something-no". I believe "no" means of, and then the thing before is generally a word: Ai meaning Love, Tsuki meaning Moon, Mizu meaning Water, Hi meaning fire, and Ki has several meanings but I think one of them is 'nature' which is probably the relevant one. All logical choices so far. (I know the first name "Usagi" plays into the theme too, since Usagi means "Rabbit", but I'm not sure about the others. I've heard them say "Mina!" with subtitles consistently inferring that as "Everyone!" or "Everybody!", and the suffix -ko is feminine, so maybe Minako means 'every-girl' or something like that? And I believe "Mako" is wood, so Makoto probably means something thematic too. "Ami" means friend, so that sort of makes sense too. No idea which meanings of Rei are intended, though.)

But the first three Outer Senshi have a different pattern- "something-ou". Tennousei means the planet Uranus, Kaiousei means Neptude, and Maiousei means Pluto! So their names refer to their actual planets instead of their themes. (Intriguingly, "Tennou" bears a resemblance to "Shitennou" which are the four... um, well, translations seem to disagree a lot, but the four heavenly kings, or sometimes the 'four winds,' and Haruka had that thing about wanting to be the wind, though I think wind is usually 'kaze'. She also seems to have some sky themes going on, and I'm not sure if the planet's Japanese name was partially based on this connection somehow. Also she looks kind of like Jadeite and acts kind of like Kunzite.)

And then we have another break of pattern with Hotaru Tomoe. I'm not sure if this is relevant, but Wikipedia defines Tomoe as meaning "hoping" or "wishing". (It also bears resemblance to the name 'Moe' which I've heard defined to mean someone cute and pitiable, which I would argue applies to Hotaru and also to the '90s anime version of her father.) Wishing seems related to their troubled and wistful situation, wishing to be freed and for the happy family life that was taken from them. But I'm not sure. Maybe this was a tactic to make it less obvious to readers/viewers that Hotaru would become Sailor Saturn, instead of giving it away in the name? That's the only guess I have as to why she breaks the theme.

Mamoru's surname is "Chiba". I think this means Prince Rose's greatest enemy City, but "Chi" also means Blood, and seems to have some deeper thematic implications.

I'd love to know if Masato Sanjoin has a meaning. I'm pretty sure the meaning of the name "Maxfield Stanton" is soap opera schlock awesome.

Haruna and Natsuna respectively refer to Spring and Summer, and Sakurada... I'm not as sure, but I think it has to do with Sakura (cherry) blossoms?

"Wakagi" apparently means young tree or sapling, and I'm not sure about Toshio. I guess this might be because he's a junior officer, not in a position of authority?

Sorano definitely fits the theme of the senshi names (Sora meaning Sky), and I wonder perhaps if Ami was developed out of this character due to their aesthetic similarities and Ami being Usagi's first partner to join, whereas Usagi herself seems to have been adapted from Minako. If that were the case, Hikaru might've become a Sailor Senshi if Minako had remained the main character and the school hadn't been replaced, but then the idea might've been split along two separate lines into Ami and Naru. I don't really know, though, this is all pure guesswork.

Osaka does not seem to fit any theme, instead being the city of Osaka, which was itself means "large hill" or "slope". Perhaps we can infer this to mean that Naru has to climb a bigger slope in order to reach for her dreams due to her lack of powers, or maybe Naoko Takeuchi just liked the city or thought it was a funny name. Or, more likely, since she has an Osaka accent, she's simply named for her region of presumed origin, like if you called a character with a Texan accent "Tex" or somesuch.

Interestingly, "Umino" might also fit the theme of the Inner Senshi names (Umi meaning sea or beach), although I seriously doubt he was ever meant to become one. And I'm not sure what "Gurio" means. Also, unlike most characters, he usually gets referred to by his surname, often with no honorific- I assume this is an informal or presumptuous way to refer to him since he isn't respected among his peers, and then Naru keeps doing it later on out of habit and because once they're dating, they're close enough that it's become personal? I don't remember her ever once saying "Umino-kun" or "Gurio-kun", just "Umino" (often in exasperation).

Of course, the names seem to have changed with reincarnation. Usagi Tsukino used to be Serenity, and Mamoru Chiba used to be Endymion. The latter is a greek mythological human, and the former is related to the greek Moon goddess Selene, as everyone here probably already knows. But this means the other names might also change from one incarnation to the next. As far as I'm aware we have no data on what the original names were, unless perhaps their Senshi names are their original names, so maybe Rei was just "Mars", etc. It might also make sense for them to be the greek equivalents of the Roman gods, which would make Mercury be Hermes, Mars be Ares, Jupiter be Zeus (awkward), Venus be Aphrodite (appropriate). Uranus is Greek, so maybe a reversal to be the roman equivalent, Caelus? Neptune exists in Greek and Roman mythology, so I'm not sure what she would be. Pluto also exists in both mythologies, but is also intriguingly identified with Hades (befitting "Dead Scream"). Saturn's greek equivalent is Cronus... who is actually mentioned in Sailor Moon whenever Chibi-Usa uses the Key of Space Time, which might offer a fascinating unseen story hook of some sort; it's been often mentioned that Saturn and Pluto's roles seem to be reversed in terms of who's in charge of time versus life and death, though, and Chibi-Usa is extremely fond of both, so... who knows).

Other names which are not official and are never used, but have some relevance due to the theme name of the firts three Outers:
  • "Suisei" means Mercury;
  • "Kasei" means Mars;
  • "Mokusei" means Jupiter (Which can routinely be heard during her chant preceeding "Supreme Thunder");
  • "Kinsei" means Venus;
  • "Dosei" means Hotaru.

So if you dropped the 'Sei' as in Haruka Tenou, Michiru Kaiou, and Setsuna Meiou, they could become Ami Sui, Rei Ka, Makoto Moku, Venus Ki, and Hotaru Do? Those seem a little short for surnames, but who knows.

I'm not sure if Usagi would take Mamoru's name upon marriage, becoming "Usagi Chiba". A blood rabbit sounds a little offsetting, but it might make more sense than I think. Of course, they probably become Neo-Queen Serenity and King Endymion anyway, so I'm not sure what becomes of their old legal names. They probably still apply since Chibi-Usa claims to be named Usagi Tsukino, though, in addition to being Small Lady Serenity. What is Chibi-Usa's full name, anyway? "Princess Usagi Small Lady Serenity Tsukino the IInd, Jr."?
 
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Sep 6, 2014
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#3
(
heard them say "Mina!" with subtitles consistently inferring that as "Everyone!" or "Everybody!", and the suffix -ko is feminine, so maybe Minako means 'every-girl' or something like that?
Minako means beautiful child. So Minako Aino’s name means Beautiful child of love


And I believe "Mako" is wood, so Makoto probably means something thematic too. "Ami" means friend, so that sort of makes sense too. No idea which meanings of Rei are intended, though.)
Makato means sincerity


But the first three Outer Senshi have a different pattern- "something-ou". Tennousei means the planet Uranus, Kaiousei means Neptude, and Maiousei means Pluto! So their names refer to their actual planets instead of their themes. (Intriguingly, "Tennou" bears a resemblance to "Shitennou" which are the four... um, well, translations seem to disagree a lot, but the four heavenly kings, or sometimes the 'four winds,' and Haruka had that thing about wanting to be the wind, though I think wind is usually 'kaze'. She also seems to have some sky themes going on, and I'm not sure if the planet's Japanese name was partially based on this connection somehow. Also she looks kind of like Jadeite and acts kind of like Kunzite.)
Ou meaning King. Kaiou and Tenou: Ocean King and Sky king



.
Mamoru's surname is "Chiba". I think this means Prince Rose's greatest enemy City, but "Chi" also means Blood, and seems to have some deeper thematic implications.
Chiba means thousand leaves



Of



  • "Usagi Chiba". A blood rabbit sounds a little offsetting, but it might make more sense than I think.
    [*]Thousand Leaves Rabbit
    [*]
 
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John

Luna Crescens
Dec 20, 2011
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#4
Keep in mind that the "no" in their surnames is not the kana の which is indeed usually used to represent possession -- it's the kanji 野 which is also pronounced "no" but it means field/plains.

So the last name Mizuno 水野 means "water field" but it is also a homophone for 水の "of water" (more or less).

That's why Usagi's name works as a pun.

月野うさぎ is Tsukino Usagi, literally "moon field Usagi" (the "Usagi" is written in kana so its meaning is ambiguous, but it is pronounced identically to 兎 rabbit) -- the name is pronounced the same was as 月の兎 rabbit of the moon.

Similarly:

Minako means beautiful child. So Minako Aino’s name means Beautiful child of love
愛野美奈子 Aino Minako
愛野 "ai no" -- "love field"
美奈子 "mi na ko" -- "beauty Nara (?) child"

The "na" 奈 in Minako's name seems to be an ambiguous kanji -- it is used in the name for the city of Nara, but it can also mean "where" or "what" -- according to Jisho.org it's a kanji that seems to be mostly used in compounds, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean here. The term "Naraku" for example uses the "na" and that term means hell or Hades, lmao. Can we get a more educated Japanese speaker to weigh in on this? Maybe @mrploddy perhaps? My knowledge is only that of a relative beginner but this guy could really shed some light on the topic.

As for "minna!" for "everybody!" -- it's not the same mi (美) as Minako's name, it's 皆 minna みんな meaning "everyone" -- as you can see, how a word is written really matters here. And of course, spoken Japanese is often figured out from context, which can make things really difficult for English-speakers like ourselves.

Also, Mitsukara: if you drop the "sei" from "Suisei" you just get "mizu" instead of "sui" -- Japanese uses the Chinese pronunciations at times, usually in compounds.
水星 Suisei, Mercury
水 mizu, water
星 hoshi, star

Unfortunately it's not as simple as an English-speaker might first think... XD

I'm sure there are exceptions to this of course, but 9 times out of 10 that's what you'll find.
 
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Ale6

Luna Nova
Jan 10, 2018
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#5
I've heard them say "Mina!" with subtitles consistently inferring that as "Everyone!" or "Everybody!", and the suffix -ko is feminine, so maybe Minako means 'every-girl' or something like that?
For this one, I can tell you that that "everyone" or "all of you" is actually said as "Minna" (informal), "Mina-san" (formal), and "Mina-sama" (respectful), so I can debunk it. The post above says the correct meaning.

I remember reading this amazing article almost 5 years ago, it does a really good job of getting in between the lines of the culture behind Sailor Moon, I really recommend it, it may not be 100% accurate, but it delves pretty deep into its topics.
It's in Italian, so if that throws you off, I get it, but you should be able to read it just fine once translated by you tools bar, if someone is really interested into reading some sections and they are demoralized by the translation, I would be willing to translate the section.

Sailor Moon, between Tales and Culture (the article was not written by me or was I asked to promote it in any way, just a disclaimer)
 
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Jun 30, 2010
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#6
On a side note, I am curious as to why Sailor Moon in the West continues to romanize 王 in the Outers' names as "ou" when it's more often romanized as "oh" or even "o" these days.
 

MariaTenebre

Lumen Cinereum
Jul 22, 2009
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#8
Well as for Mamoru's last name I know that the Chi part of his name is related to the planet Earth like Tsuki is for the Moon with Usagi's surname
 
Apr 18, 2016
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#9
Here is Tuxedo Unmasked's interpretation of Hotaru's surname:
What is a Tomoe and Its Connection to Saturn / Hotaru?
He explains the name "Masato Sanjouin" here:
What is the Story Behind Nephrite’s Alter Ego?
The kanji for "na" in Minako is simply phonetic when used in names, so her name means "beautiful child."
Meaning, origin and history of the name Minako
The characters for "Minako" can also be pronounced "Binasu", which sounds like the Japanese pronunciation of the English word "Venus." Why Isn’t Minako’s Name Associated With Venus?
(Tuxedo Unmasked also explains the Inners' surnames here)
Ami's given name means "Asian beauty," I think. Meaning, origin and history of the name Ami (3)
The "Development" section of this wikipedia article talks about the meaning of Mamoru's name. Tuxedo Mask - Wikipedia
"The kanji in Mamoru's surname translate as "earth" (地 chi) and "place" (場 ba). Together, they form the term "local," with a pun on his identity as Endymion, Prince of Earth. His given name means "protect" (衛 mamoru)." Basically, Mamoru's full name means "protector of Earth," I believe.
Here's what Tuxedo Unmasked says about Rei's name: What Does Rei’s Name Mean?
This means that her name means "spirit of fire," "beauty of fire," "brilliance of fire," or all 3 meanings at once or some combination of two.
"Gurio" probably references "guri guri," or turning. This is because of the turning of his swirly glasses.
About the whole Saturn/Pluto confusion, it's because of confusion of Cronus, the Titan who was the father of the first Olympians, and Chronos, popularly called Father Time. Dies Gaudii says that Sailor Pluto and Sailor Saturn actually do fit their roles: MoonPrincess.com - Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon Pictures, Sailor Moon Images, Moon Princess
(Scratch the Dies Gaudii part lol, but it was there)
Ikuko, Kenji, and Shingo were named after Takeuchi's family.
Fun fact about the Sakurada family! Other women (girls) with the surname Sakurada appeared in Takeuchi's other works, such as Fuyuna (fuyu = winter)! The other one was Akina (aki = autumn). Sakurada is written as 桜田, so it means "cherry blossom field" (not the same kanji for field as used in the -no surnames).
The "ki" used in "Kino" is 木, or "tree."
(Side note: I like to romanize Haruka's surname as Ten'ou because the furigana or how it would be written in hiragana is てんおう)
 
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