How can I find the Japanese name of a film, person, plant, etc.?

Some foreign movie titles may be translated into Japanese using a transliteration of the English name into katakana, usually with "a" and "the" and plurals omitted. For example, "The Matrix" is マトリックス.

However, sometimes the katakana names of movies have nothing to do with the English name. For example, the thriller from 2001, "Don't say a word" became サウンド・オブ・サイレンス ("Sound of Silence"), and sometimes films are given non-katakana names unrelated to the title. For example "The Big Sleep" became 三つ数えろ ("Count to Three"). Similarly it may be hard to find the correct katakana transliteration of a person's name, place name, or the Japanese name of a plant or an animal.

One tip which works for most popular titles, people and place names, and plant or animal names is to locate an article about the film or a similarly named person on the English-language Wikipedia. Then look for the link to the Japanese article (usually on the lower left of the page, under "日本語") and follow the link to the equivalent Japanese article to find the correct title. However, this might not work for some obscure or old titles which don't have equivalent articles in the Japanese Wikipedia.

Jim Breen's WWWJDIC (see Online dictionaries) also contains information from Wikipedia, but only going from Japanese to English.

Another tip for obscure vocabulary items is to try Google Translate. This online translator contains a huge vocabulary of words, for some reason, and, although it is hit or miss, you may be surprised how many truly obscure words it recognizes.

If you have questions, corrections, or comments, please contact Ben Bullock or use the discussion forum / Privacy policy

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