I don't know if it's even called ateji in this case and maybe there's another name for this stylistic device? But I wonder how to translate (to English) custom ateji made by author. For example when furigana indicates something from context, but is not official reading, even as ateji. I don't remember exact examples, but I saw this many times. Only last time I recall is something like: 自分の娘 with name in furigana (although 自分 works with first two letters of the name, rest is totally different). Meaning is the same, but I wonder if it's even possible to translate it somehow to convey both nouns.

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    It is just to give more depth, you can then read at two levels: the general word in kanji, and what really mean in furigana. It is not rare to see 未来{あす} in songs, 開放{リリスー} in manga (when doing invocations or so). I have seen a lot of other usages especially in light novels (for example the name of a group can be a full kanji compound with an English pronunciation given in furigana). Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 11:59
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    Possible duplicate of Is there a name for this furigana convention Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 12:03
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    At least it can be called "a kind of ateji": 読みの意味に漢字を当て字した例. I don't know the specific name for this.
    – naruto
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:35
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    For translation I would probably drop the "ateji" but try to make the phrase a little more expressive to make up for it. That's the kind of thing you have to do all the time when translating. Some things just can't be translated properly so you have to be creative.
    – kuchitsu
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


Translating is always a challenge. More so when typographical conventions like this aren't shared between the source and target languages.

If you're translating for an audience that is expected to know about the Japanese language and its writing conventions, you might try adding a [ruby]{annotation} to the word(s) in question.

Alternatively, you could add a comment (parenthetically, to provide the additional sense or context) immediately following the relevant word(s).

Or perhaps find some other means of conveying the overlap in meaning -- perhaps by choosing a word from another language, such as the borrowed Russian terms droog (друг = "friend") and gulliver (голова́ = "head") used in A Clockwork Orange, or by May King a deliberate Miss Spelling (easier with names, where spellings tend to be a bit more fluid anyway).

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