I've heard that when it comes to naming their first born sons, Japanese parents often use the kanji for "one", "一" like "一郎" for example, as their given names, and for second or third sons the kanji for two and three may be used respectively.

However, is it strange to come across names where " 一 " Is used in one's given name even if they aren't the first born son? I ask this because I'm reading a Japanese light novel where the character's name is 一温 and not much is known about his siblings but it seems as if he might have an older brother.

  • The usage of 一 is not limited to order, afaik. You can use it to prioritise, or distinguish (single out) things or ideas.
    – macraf
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 2:53
  • 1
    Tendency vs. Reality. Check this person's name out while waiting for a good answer : ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – user4032
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 3:34
  • I have found similar naming with 一葉, 二葉 & 三葉 (pronounced 'hitoha', 'futaba' & 'mitsuha' respectively). The numbering doesn't indicate order of siblings, instead in favor of the family's decision (in my case "一" refers to the grandparents' name). Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 4:52

1 Answer 1


一, 二, 三 are used for the part of boy's given name, and they are few to be used for girls. Although they are not decided to use them in order of birth, generally they are used in order of birth. For example, if 三 is used for the eldest brother in the family as part of the name, and a brother born later is given 一 in its name, they would be asked the reason sometimes in various occasions for the rest of their life, which is easily understood to be very annoying for them. Therefore it is not clever to force such an exception.
By the way, examples such as "加藤一二三 Hifumi Kato", a master of Japanese Shōgi also known as Japanese chess world, and "山本五十六 Isoroku Yamamoto", a Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Navy and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II until his death, have nothing to do with the oder of their birth. As for "五十六 lit. fifty-six in 山本五十六 is the age of his father when he was born.

  • Interesting, thank you for your response. So I'm guessing people won't be curious if say an older brother had a name with no numbers like 優空 for example and his younger sibling is called 一郎 which does have a number that happens to be 1 despite being brother number 2? But there's a chance they may ask if both brothers have numbers in their names that don't coordinate with the order of their birth.
    – Nila-a
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 15:39

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