I recently found out that Jordan (the country) is spelt ヨルダン, not ジョーダン, which is how it's spelt in a person's name.

Is this based on how it's pronounced in Arabic and/or Hebrew, or how it's pronounced in a European language other than English?


1 Answer 1


Wikipedia says that Jordan was indeed ジョルダン(・ハシェミット王国) until 2003, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs changed it to ヨルダン(・ハシェミット王国).

Jordan is not pronounced ヨルダン in either Hebrew or Arabic (see Wikipedia for a romanization), but in Hebrew the J is [j] rather than a [dʒ]. Whether the change ジョ > ヨ occurred because J was known as [j] from Hebrew (via the Latin Bible: Iordanis "River Jordan" > ヨルダン川, see Chocolate's comment below; also cf. ユダヤ人 "Jew"), from loanwords from Germanic languages (like Dutch, German, Scandinavian languages) or from all of those together is unclear. What seems to be clear, however, is that the Japanese regarded ヨ to be the more natural choice for the transcription of Jordan into カタカナ, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to change ジョルダン to ヨルダン, together with 59 other country names and 88 place names. (See this archived newspost from the 朝日新聞). The people of Japan had apparently been complaining that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was spelling country and place names differently from everybody else.

  • 4
    Strange that Korean also spells it with a y like Japanese. (요르단)
    – Dono
    Dec 27, 2012 at 13:01
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    – user1016
    Dec 27, 2012 at 13:48
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    @Chocolate Most Germanic languages pronounce J as [j] (like the y in yard) and not [dʒ] like in English. Maybe the Japanese, too, are used to pronouncing ja/ju/jo as や・ゆ・よ in other loanwords from Dutch, say, which is why the 外務省 went for ヨ...?
    – Earthliŋ
    Dec 27, 2012 at 13:54
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    あ、そうか・・・ We Japanese are more familiar with ヤコブ、ヨセフ、イエス、ヨハネ、ユダ and ヨルダン川 in the Bible, でも聖書のヤコブが英語のジェイコブ、ヨセフがジョゼフ、ヨハネがジョンだ、等を知らない人が多いです。あ、ジーザスやジョン等の名前はみんな知ってますけど、「ヨルダン=ジ‌​ョーダン」「マタイ=マシュー」「ヨハネ=ジョン」というふうに、「聖書の名前」と「英語の名前」を関連付けて知ってる人は少ない、って意味です。
    – user1016
    Dec 27, 2012 at 15:33
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    I think that what you wrote in your comment is likely to be the answer to the question. “Just dropped the ジ and made the ョ a full-sized kana” is very unlikely; why would that happen only for ジ? Dec 27, 2012 at 16:01

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