I can imagine if someone is not familiar with the foreign name, it may be difficult to tell where the given name ends and the surname begins. Perhaps then it's better to write foreign names with spaces for clarity. What is the norm in Japan?

For example, when writing the name Mary Smith, is it more common to write:

スミス メアリー



1 Answer 1


I think you'd normally keep it in the same order, first-name last-name. And usually it's a dot to separate names: メアリー・スミス and an equals sign instead of a dash: シャルル・アンドレ・ジョゼフ・ピエール=マリ・ド・ゴール (Charles André Joseph Pierre-Marie de Gaulle).

  • Thank you for that explanation. So then do native Japanese speakers expect foreign names to retain their order? I've heard spoken introductions go either way. As another example, if your given name is also a common surname (like Carter), perhaps the person would want to specify what they go by? E.g. カーターと 呼んで ください
    – Ryan
    Mar 24, 2019 at 17:55
  • Oh, I don't know, it seems like articles I've read online tend to keep names in the same order, but in conversation I don't know.
    – Axe
    Mar 24, 2019 at 18:05
  • 2
    Just to be pedantic, the character looking like an equals sign should be a double hyphen instead. See: Why are equal signs used to substitute an English hyphen? and = sign in a katakana name
    – user27479
    Mar 24, 2019 at 20:31
  • I always put my last name first with the dot. Most forms you fill out require last name first anyway, and it's not like putting your last name first is completely unheard of (America in my case)
    – By137
    Mar 25, 2019 at 5:25

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