I'm starting to study Japanese — and of course, it seems one of the first things one is taught in any language is how to introduce oneself. So, according to some (admittedly sketchy looking) online transliterators...

リック です。

But I wonder: The name I go by in English (Rick) ends with a consonant, so why 「ク」 and not any of the other k-series kana? Is it something to do with this name in particular, e.g. it's a masculine name? Simply because of the tendency (which I don't fully understand just yet) of final ~u to become devoiced? Something else entirely?

More generally, are there general rules for transliteration that lead to this result? I'm afraid I'm too new to the language to know what to search for in that department (at least, my tries so far have come up empty).

  • 2
    Aside: a perhaps better way of finding "canonical" transliterations for names is to find the Wikipedia article of a famous person with that name and then seeing what the title of its Japanese version is.
    – senshin
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 22:51
  • 1
    Per responses to other questions, I did go looking for what Wikipedia has on articles about a name itself. In retrospect, I guess I should have expected a Rickroll. ^_^ But the general question stands: why is that choice "canonical", and when should I make the same (or a different) choice if I were trying to transliterate a novel English word (e.g. the made-up name of a new product or service)?
    – rickster
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 23:17
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    In I believe the intermediate level version of the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar there is a comprehensive appendix about the various patterns and rules for this.
    – ssb
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 1:47

1 Answer 1


There are at least general tendencies, if not necessarily hard-and-fast rules regarding the matter.

Just off the top of my head ---

Japanese vowel assigned vs. Ending consonant of English name

「ウ」: b, f, g, sh, k, l, m, p, s, v, z (ボブ、ジェフ、グレッグ、ジョッシュ、リック、カール、トム、etc.)

「オ」: d, t (トッド、マット, etc.)

「イ」: ch (リッチ、ミッチ)

When an English name ends with "r", our usual practice is to elongate the preceding vowel and ignore the "r". (Oscar ==> オスカー)

Not even sure if that covers all the possible name-ending consonants in English. Feel free to edit.

Please remember that we are ONLY discussing the transliteration of English names, not of names from other European languages. I mention this because, for instance, even though "Oscar" as an English name is 「オスカー」 as I stated above, "Oscar" as a French name is written 「オスカル」. Likewise, "Charles" as an English name is 「チャールズ」, but it is 「シャルル」 for the French.


  • 5
    Good point with the final note—you're not transliterating a foreign spelling, you're transcribing a foreign pronunciation.
    – rickster
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 2:07

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