Many online Katakana generators will create デービッド for the name David but looking at some texts you'll see デイビット. Is there a difference to how the name is being used, e.g. in a sentence, or is it purely a preference on how the name sounds?

On wikipedia you'll see lots of different translations:

David Beckham - デビッド・ベッカム

David Bowie - デヴィッド・ボウイ

David Attenborough - デイビッド・アッテンボロー

David Copperfield (book) - デイヴィッド・コパフィールド

David Copperfield (illusionist) - デビッド・カッパーフィールド

Are they all correct, does someone in the north of Japan use the same spelling as someone in the south, does it change over time? I'm surprised there isn't an accepted single translation?

  • 1
    Does this count?
    – Skye-AT
    Dec 9, 2021 at 2:55
  • You will notice variations in katakana spellings of names depending on where they are from. I was shocked the first time I heard ダビデ for David by Michaelangelo, but Michaelangelo wouldn't have pronounced it like an American. I had a Portuguese student, Raquel, whose name was written ハケル on school paperwork, but I asked the student for the pronunciation and it was correct. The downside was that until I intervened, they made her wear a Hakeru name tag in English classes. Dec 10, 2021 at 11:36

3 Answers 3


There are multiple factors contributing to great spelling variation of this English name.

  1. ビ vs ヴィ: To many Japanese speakers, //b// - //v// distinction is merely orthographical and thus interchangeable.

  2. デー vs デイ: Distinction of these sounds is optional for most dialects. I believe Tokyo people nowadays can hear the difference, but little existing vocabulary requires it; moreover, the English //eɪ// is a diphthong and its last part is not always pronounced clearly.

  3. デー vs デ: English does not have phonemic vowel length. Which it strikes Japanese long or short usually depends on relative lengthiness to other syllables around, and of course, how you pronounced every time. "A" in "Dave" would be consistently recognized long, but since English speakers tend to insert a non-phonemic "checkedness" before a closing consonant, Japanese speakers tend to stably hear a mora ッ in the second syllable of "David", and this complicates the length recognition.

So if it's your name, you have the right to choose which variant to use, and I don't think people would find it wrong either way. (As long as you are fine that people would always use that katakana pronunciation to call you.)


デービッド sounds kind of funny to me but it's not so wrong, probably acceptable. I think デイビッド or ディビッド is much common and natural to Japanese. Basically, there is no compatible spelling and pronunciation with English word and name, we can just pick up Hirakana/Katakana which sounds similar.

  • Thanks for the answer. I've added some more examples to expand on the question, which I find fascinating.
    – Dave
    Dec 7, 2021 at 17:02
  • 2
    Wouldn't ディビッド sound like "Divid" rather than David?
    – Leebo
    Dec 7, 2021 at 22:09

It is sometimes difficult to express foreign sounds in kana, leaving fluctuations in transliterations. 'David' is one of those.

E.g. this web site says



So ultimately it is decided by the one who writes the name. Dicken's book has several translations with title ディヴィッド, デイヴィッド, コッパーフィールド, コパーフィールド etc.

I think デービッド is commonly used only for Camp David

Not an English example, but Goethe had many 'Japanese names'

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