I have this list of 愛称

"My dearest Heart," "Dearest Mine," "my love," "my dear," "my darling," "my pet"

that I need to quote in my academic paper (the Japanese author is listing possible pet names[1] that his Japanese friend could use to speak with his new wife plus the ones he himself uses for his fiancée), but when I tried looking up Japanese translations for them, I only found a few phrases repeatedly show up as equivalents for English terms of endearment, but which don't seem to differentiate between the English terms specifically or literally:

「いとしい人」、「親愛なる」、「愛しき人」、and「ねえ君」(this last one seems to be also applicable to people other than non-romantic partners)

Did the author have any Japanese equivalents in mind when he made this suggestion? In Japanese, how can these 6 expressions be differentiated? I especially don't know how to translate "heart" and "mine" (「私のいとしい心」?「親愛なる私のもの」? 「私のもの」doesn't sound right to me, as if the speaker thought of the wife as a possession).

[1] Source: Private letter, 宮部金吾

  • 2
    The author is 宮部金吾 (Miyabe Kingo). This is from an unpublished private letter written in the early Meiji era. It is housed in the 北海道大学植物園図書資料の宮部金吾資料. He wrote most of his letters to friends in English though the recipients were Japanese. I imagine that he anticipated that the recipient would be able to associate the phrases with something comparable in Japanese.
    – seijitsu
    Dec 27, 2015 at 6:54
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    Even harder to translate, perhaps, would be terms of endearment such as "my little cabbage" or "my widdlekins". :) キャベツちゃん, anyone? Mar 17, 2016 at 0:04

1 Answer 1


I'm having difficulty understanding a part of your question, so I might be missing your point, but in general you are not going to find 1:1 mapping between phrases of any two languages. And the same goes to literal translation; you just can't expect to take an expression like "dearest mine", translate each word separately (deatest->親愛なる mine->私のもの) and expect that to come out as a meaningful Japanese idiom. Languages just doesn't work like that.

In English, possessive forms (like "my ..." and "mine") and sweet words (honey, sweety, sweetheart, ...) are often used to show personal affections and intimacy, but this is not the case in Japanese at all. In Japan, the way you refer to someone implies a certain specific distance to that person. Therefore, to show the intimacy & affection, you come up with a different name to refer to that person to show that closeness.

Say the name of this other person is Natsuko Yamamoto. When I first meer her, I might call her Yamamoto-san. The use of the last name and the suffix would show that I maintain a proper distance (and respect) for her. If I'm a school friend with her, I would start calling her Yama-chan (more informal suffix) or Natsuko-san (first name is for more closer relationship.) If I'm a really good friend with her, this might further change to, say, Nacchi.

And for the kind of relationship where one could say "my love", I'd come up with another name altogether. Often it still has some sound of original name left, like maybe Naah or Kocco, but it could also be completely unrelated phonetically and come from some shared experience only she and I would know. One usually keep this class of names secret from other people, and to do so, they are not used in front of other people.

Anyway, the bottom line is that you will not find an easy translation of a generic phrase "my love" in Japanese.

  • These pet names were listed by 金吾宮部 in a letter to 新渡戸稲造 regarding 足立仁: "He is . . . a kind and affectionate husband to his ‘my love’ ‘my dear’ ‘my darling, ‘my pet’, or whatever title he wishes to honor his queen with," or were used in letters to his wife 金吾保子. I needed to translate his letters into Japanese to quote them in a Japanese-language academic journal article. So my question is: how would one responsibly translate these English pet names into somewhat equivalent, distiguished-from-one-another Japanese ones? Would Miyabe have had any sort of correlation in mind?
    – seijitsu
    Nov 13, 2016 at 3:23
  • I submitted the following text: 宮部は妻という立場に尊敬の念を抱いており、札幌バンドの一員だった足立仁の結婚に関して新渡戸に宛てた手紙では、「優しい愛情にあふれる夫」が「愛する妻、愛おしき妻、可愛いわが妻、わが愛すべき妻、好みの愛称、あるいはいかなる呼び方であれ、自分の女王(queen)に敬意を示すための好みの愛称」で呼ぶべきだと書いていた 。彼は、「わがいとしい妻よ、神の祝福がありますように、(中略)あなたのために祈っている、私はいつもあなたへの愛情であふれる夫」だ、といった優しい言葉遣いで保子に手紙を書いた 。
    – seijitsu
    Nov 13, 2016 at 3:23

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