I'm trying to create a name for my fictional character and I was trying to translate something like "wolf of the snow" in Japanese. I was using Jisho.org and Google translate (just because it reads the Kanji. I would never use it to translate something) and I basically wrote ookamiyuki together, just to see if it sounded nice. Strange thing is that the romaji translation comes out as "Setsurō" and the pronunciation becomes "yukioino". What is that Setsurō? Thank you very much!

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    Is the question What is that Setsurō? Setsurō is the on'yomi of the characters 雪 and 狼.
    – dROOOze
    Nov 24, 2019 at 11:02
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    You can't trust Google Translate to come up with readings for kanji, either. A lot of the questions we get here are because someone thought Google Translate would be useful for something besides inputting Japanese and ended up wasting their time on its output :-(
    – user1478
    Nov 25, 2019 at 1:00

1 Answer 1


So first of all, Japanese kanji can almost always be pronounced in several different ways, and which way they are pronounced will depend entirely on the context (what other kanji or non-kanji (kana) characters they're combined with in which ways). This is due to a long history of intermingling of meanings and usages between Chinese characters and the Japanese spoken language (which is not like Chinese in many ways), and in many cases pounding a lot of square pegs into round holes, but I won't go into all of that in detail here. In general, each one has at least one (possibly more) "on'yomi" readings (based on the original Chinese reading), and one (or more) "kun'yomi" readings (Japanese sounds assigned to the character for use in some Japanese words).

The short of it is that the characters for "wolf" and for "snow" each have two different possible pronunciations:

  • 雪 (snow) -- "yuki" (kun'yomi) or "setsu" (on'yomi)
  • 狼 (wolf) -- "ōkami" (kun'yomi) or "rō" (on'yomi)

In general, a very rough rule of thumb is that when kanji are used by themselves, the kun'yomi reading is usually used, whereas when they are combined together into multi-kanji words, the on'yomi reading is more often used (but this is only a very rough rule, and there are lots of exceptions). This is why when you combined "yuki" (kun'yomi) and "ōkami" (kun'yomi) together, you got "setsurō" (on'yomi) as a result.

(As for "yukioino", did you mean "yukioinu"? According to jisho.org, "oinu" (おいぬ) is an "outdated or obsolete" pronunciation for "wolf" in Japanese (using the same kanji), so I'm not sure what spit that out for you, but that's probably where it got it from.)

All of this, of course, isn't even getting into the subject of Japanese names. As I suspect you're already aware, names in Japanese are generally made up of combinations of kanji characters (sometimes they're spelled out in kana instead, but this is less common). However, even for common combinations of kanji characters, the normal pronunciation when used as a name can be notably different than when it would (potentially) be a Japanese word. There are also many different kanji which can have the same sounds, so it's possible to come up with several different written forms which are all pronounced as the same name, and in some cases, you can even have a single kanji combination that can be pronounced multiple different ways depending on whose name it is (confusing!).

As it happens, "Setsurō" is actually not an uncommon (masculine) Japanese given name, but it is generally spelled either 節郎 ("honor" + "son") or 節朗 ("honor" + "cheerful"). Therefore, if you wanted to name your (I'm presuming male) character "Setsurō" spelled 雪狼, the name would probably not seem out of place (and if somebody read it they would probably not have a lot of trouble pronouncing it correctly), but it would be a subtle thing as people would have to know that the name is not spelled the usual way in order to know its true significance (as is the case with many Japanese names in general, actually).

If you instead chose to have the character write their name with that character combination but instead pronounce it using some other readings, you could, but it would probably be confusing if a Japanese person actually encountered the name, as they would assume when reading it that it would be pronounced differently, and the character would likely have to keep correcting people all the time (if they were living in a Japanese-speaking environment, at least). There are some real people who do have this sort of problem too, of course..

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