Tag Archives: names


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Happy new year!

Here’s a nice resource if you would like to know how to say the name of a client, a penpal, or even a character in a book that you’re reading: Hear Names (howtosaythatname.com). You can search for a family name (surname) or personal name (M=male, F=female), and then click for audio to hear it. They don’t have every name, but they have a lot of names. (They don’t have my personal name, but they do have my surname.) It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start if you don’t know how to pronounce a name at all.

There are some nice features, such as having different “origins” for one name. Names like “Laura” are pronounced very differently in English-speaking countries like the USA and Canada compared to how they’re pronounced in countries in Europe, South America, etc. There may be many pronunciations for one name.

If there’s no information for a name, you can click on Request a Name. I don’t know how quickly they add names, but I hope they’ll add my name someday!

There is another website you can try, Pronounce Names, but it’s less good. They use a strange way of spelling the names’ sounds that will only make sense to some native English speakers.

In an older post, I mentioned that there is a way to find out if a name is usually male or female.

Quick Tip: Check a Name’s Gender

Sometimes it’s important to know if a person is a man or a woman, just from his or her name. Julia, Julio, Ben, Beth, Hiram, Hillary, Abdul, Abril: which of these personal names are male and which are female?

silhouette of a boy and a girl, uploaded by johnny_automatic at openclipart.org

Americans probably learn which is which by exposure through books and by meeting people. However, I’ve noticed that many of my students and clients are often confused by these kinds of names in their textbooks and workplaces. There are a few rules of thumb, but they don’t work very well–for example, if a name is Latin-based, an “-a” ending is usually female and an “-o” ending is usually male. So, probably, Julia is a woman and Julio is a man. But that doesn’t work for Joshua, a common American male name originating in Hebrew.

Here are two quick ways you can check on a name–however, note that name creativity is part of American culture, so parents sometimes “break the rules” and give a girl a boy’s name or vice versa.

Method 1: Try the Baby Name Voyager! Click on “Launch Name Voyager,” then type in the name you’re interested in. You can see the popularity of names in the US over the last few decades, based on US Social Security Administration data. Names for females are pink, and names for boys are blue (I guess it’s sexist, but that’s the current tradition in the US). You can also see how closely related names are divided as you type–Juliet (female), Julian (male), Julia (female), Julio (male), etc. I think it’s fun to play with, and you can pick up some historical information this way–did you know that in the 1920s the Japanese name “Hiroshi” made it into the top 1000?

Method 2: If a name is more rare, you might not have any luck at the above site. In that case, you can try Google Images. If you check on my name, you’ll see nearly all women and girls in the photos. (You’ll get a few unrelated results, such as a picture of the actor Sean Bean from a TV production of the novel called Clarissa.) It’s not perfect, but it works pretty well. Actually, I do the same thing to check Chinese names sometimes, if I can’t tell from how it’s written.

If you have any other solutions to this problem, make sure to leave a comment.