I know it's a stretch, and I'm pretty sure it's not, but is 名前 related to name? I always thought it was weird that they were so similar in pronunciation.

  • They are also not close in pronunciation, only in Rōmaji spelling. /neim/ vs /na.ma.e/ – ithisa Oct 30 '13 at 12:04
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    @user54609 However, it's not as far off from German's "Name" (ナーメ). – Kaz Oct 30 '13 at 15:33

It's just a coincidence and an example of a false cognate.

The etymology is covered here in Japanese.

Basically, the term "名" has been around for a pretty long time with the same meaning as 名前. It's thought that the 前 part is an honorific that was added some time later. Early uses of the full word 名前 can be seen in use in relatively modern times. The English term for it seems to be "modern" in the historical sense, but in Japanese 近世 seems to refer roughly to the Azuchi-momoyama period through Edo, roughly 1500s to mid 1800s. Not quite sure exactly when the first recorded use was. It was widely used from the Meiji period onward.


It might be a true cognate.

I see responses above that say they aren't close in pronunciation, but the roots are close. In Old English name was "nama" and linked with similar sounding words in other languages. 「なまえ」is a similar pronunciation. https://www.etymonline.com/word/name

I've definitely seen other similar cognates while learning Japanese that appear coincidental and potentially connect to ancient roots, even though the etymologies tend to document the Chinese character development, rather than linking to other potential influences.

Consider 青空. 青空 or あおぞら or aozora appears linked through ancient roots to the English word azureus. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/青空 https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/azureus

  • As explained - regardless of Chinese characters or anything, 'namae' is a simple combination of much older 'na' and 'mae'. As for 'aozora' - why would that be linked to 'azureus', rather than simply being 'ao' blue 'sora' sky? – Aeon Akechi Jan 19 '18 at 22:53
  • It is clearly ao, blue, and sora, sky. Isn't in possible that in addition to this the current word 'sora' and the current word 'azureus' are connected through ancient roots that go back to 'lapis lazuli'? – Ryan Davis Jan 20 '18 at 0:15
  • Regarding what you said about 名前, "'namae' is a simple combination of much older 'na' and 'mae'" Do you know the ancient 'na' didn't share a root with the Old English 'nama' through some ancient middle language? From what was shared so far, I'm not sure you actually have enough evidence to call this a false cognate for sure. – Ryan Davis Jan 20 '18 at 0:29
  • Even if 前 was added in the Meiji period, if 名 has roots outside Japanese, it could be a kind of convergent cognate. – Ryan Davis Jan 20 '18 at 0:40
  • Thinking about this, and since we know the Loloish languages have had some influence on Japanese, I looked up first name in Burmese. It was နံမယ် or narmai. Do you think 'narmai' and 'namae' have some kind of shared origin story? I do. – Ryan Davis Jan 20 '18 at 1:03

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