Apparently Japanese family names in most cases consist of two kanji. Do Japanese people associate a meaning with these?

Take for example a name like 栗山. Is a Japanese speaker conscious about the fact that the kanji mean "chestnut mountain" or is it just the sounds put together without additional meaning?

  • 4
    Do people called "Taylor" or "Miller" or "Snyder" or "Smith" think of their name as professions? They are certainly aware of the meaning, but most people probably keep "Taylor" (the name) and "tailor" (the profession) in separate mental drawers.
    – Earthliŋ
    Sep 24, 2016 at 9:02
  • Good point, @Earthliŋ. That would make it weird to say something like: "Ah, your name means someone who makes clothes" after exchanging business cards. Would it be weird as well to make a comment like: "Ah, your name means chestnut mountain" towards a Japanese?
    – elzell
    Sep 24, 2016 at 11:22
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    That was my point, yes. I have had people explain the (traceable) history of their family name, but in general Japanese family names are just names.
    – Earthliŋ
    Sep 24, 2016 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


It is compatible with English or German last names. Both cultures used last names to tell the public what their family did or where they came from. (Though in this day and age its no longer used for this reasoning.)

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