This guidebook page explains how we handle the translation (or not) of One Piece names from Japanese to English.
The Names Translation Issue and Our Stance
For the most part, translation from Japanese to English goes very smoothly so long as it is done correctly. If a One Piece consumer is reading a good manga translation or watching a good anime sub or dub, they should be able to clearly understand what the characters and narrator are saying and how that impacts the overall plot. However, consumers may find themselves differing on how to properly handle the transition of specific names and terms from Japanese to English, for certain reasons.
- Some terms do not translate well from Japanese to English, due to either having no exact English counterpart, being rooted in a Japanese idiom or other cultural quirk, or being a pun based off another Japanese word. One major example is characters adding Japanese suffixes to their speech, which may be a reference that would be lost on any non-Japanese speaker or inflect a tone that may be harder to capture in English.
- Foreign names are not commonly translated in real life, even if they mean something in your native language. However, some view that if a character has a Japanese name, translating it into English creates the same effect for English readers as the Japanese name does for Japanese readers. For example, a place called "Egg Island" might be more informative to an English reader than "Tamago Island" would. On the opposite side, other fans would rather keep names as they are without translating them.
- The consumer may feel the quality of the translation is "purer" if it keeps names and terms Japanese as much as possible. Fans (typically people who watch subbed anime) may also hear certain Japanese words used frequently and get attached to those words in their untranslated form, even if it can be perfectly translated into English. A prominent example in the One Piece community is the word "nakama", which some fans took to have a special meaning beyond just "comrade" or "friend".
We at the One Piece Wiki wish to ensure that everything we document is easily understandable to English readers, while at the same time informative about elements and references that may be lost in translation. Thus, we do not seek to use Japanese gratuitously, but at the same time remain as faithful as possible to the meaning and significance of the original Japanese terms.
As a result, you can expect us to differ slightly at times from the official One Piece translations by VIZ and Funimation. The goal of the official translations is not to just translate the words in the manga and anime into understandable English, but to also communicate the intended tone and references communicated in the original Japanese. In order to do this, they often have to rephrase dialogue and names to something that's not exactly fully accurate to the original text, but gets the point across to English-speaking readers.
For example, Hitsugisukan's name is based off of the Japanese words for "Sheep" and "Genghis Khan". In order to fully communicate what the name is referencing, the VIZ translation wrote his name as "Genghis Baan". We have more freedom to preserve the name in its original form, because we can explain what it means on its article. Neither VIZ nor Funimation has the luxury of including footnotes to explain references like this in such detail, as their focus is on telling the story. Our purpose is to inform you about what specific idiosyncrasies come from various Japanese names, with the luxury of also telling you about what non-English names mean.
Another thing to note in regards to name translations is that a lot of One Piece names aren't even Japanese. They may be written in Japanese, but are actually just Japanese pronunciations of words from other languages, with many of these words being English or recognizable to English-speakers. If you look at the "Romanized Name" section on a page's infobox, you can see how the name is pronounced in Japanese, and you'll probably find that many of the pronunciations are English words. This is one of the major factors in the explanations below for why we don't translate certain names, as when it comes to certain categories some members' names may be purely Japanese words, while other names are loanwords from other languages.
Some fans have suggested that we use all of the names that the official translations use, and strictly adhere to their spellings and translations. However, we will not do this, as we are an English wiki covering a Japanese manga, not an English wiki covering the official English translation of a Japanese manga. We will seek to communicate names in the most accurate way possible, and explain any facts that might not be apparent due to language or cultural barriers. For more information on our naming policies, see our Page Naming Guidelines.
What We Do Translate
- Titles of series segments, such as chapters, episodes, movies, specials, etc.
- Character titles and occupations, such as Pirate, Admiral, Swordsman, Bounty Hunter, etc.
- Epithets, such as "Straw Hat", "Pirate Hunter", "Surgeon of Death", etc.
- Names of most groups, such as Straw Hat Pirates, Marines, etc.
- Location suffixes, such as -mura (Village), -chō (Town), and -tō (Island)
- Any general term that can be sufficiently translated and improve understanding (such as Nakama in particular).
What We Don't Translate
Certain character names are also the Japanese words for certain real-world objects, and thus Viz and Funimation can sometimes translate their name into the English word for that object. One example is the boys from Syrup Village: Ninjin, Piiman, and Tamanegi, whose names were changed to their English translations: Carrot, Pepper, and Onion. However, the official translations are not particularly consistent when it comes to this, as they do translate some names, like the Syrup Village boys mentioned above, but they also leave other names untranslated like Nami (which means wave) and Kuma (which means bear). Additionally, some character names contain words from other languages (like Senor Pink and Diamante), but these are never translated to English by either us or the official translations.
For simplicity's sake, this wiki solely transliterates character names from the Japanese text, meaning that we take the Japanese pronunciation and give it the spelling that the pronunciation most accurately conveys. Thus, if a character's name is a Japanese word, their name will stay as that word, just like a character whose name is a direct pronunciation of an English word such as Crocodile.
Devil Fruit Names
Overall, Devil Fruit names are where we differ the most from the official translations, as we do not translate them at all. The reasoning lies in the two-syllable pattern found in every Devil Fruit name.
- Some of these syllable patterns directly translate or transliterate to an English word, such as Hana Hana no Mi and Gasu Gasu no Mi.
- Some syllable patterns are shortened versions of a Japanese or English word, such as Shari Shari no Mi (from Sharin, meaning Wheel) and Jake Jake no Mi (from Jaketto, the Japanese pronunciation of the English word Jacket).
- Some syllable patterns are Japanese onomatopoeia depicting a sound relating to the fruit's power, such as Bara Bara no Mi (sound effect for pieces dispersing) and Sube Sube no Mi (sound effect for smooth or slippery objects)
While the official translations translate these syllable patterns into short words that indicate the fruit's power, we have decided to retain them in their original form due to their diversity of meaning and explain their significance in the "Etymology" section.
Similar to character names, attack names come from a variety of languages and allude to a vast number of real-world objects, such as weapons and food parts. Some attack names are purely Japanese, while others when transliterated are actually English or other languages (including French, Spanish, and German). For example, Gomu Gomu no Pistol is read as Gomu Gomu no Pisutoru, with the word "Pistol" being borrowed directly from English. In contrast, Gomu Gomu no Kane uses the Japanese word for "Bell", and while the official translations translate it to Gum-Gum Bell, we have opted to simply transliterate it like we would with all the non-Japanese attack names.
Island and Ship Names
These subjects are rarely contentious as they are often written with katakana or furigana which gives them a pronunciation that resembles an English or non-Japanese word. However, islands and ships that are an actual Japanese word, like Nanimonai Island and Shiro Mokuba I, will simply be transliterated like every other name. Island suffixes, however, are translated as "Island", as noted above.
Like attack names, the key factor in us not translating song names is that many of them are not Japanese to begin with. For example, openings like We Are! and Hope are explicitly marketed with English titles, even in Japan. Thus, if a song name is in Japanese, like Kaze wo Sagashite, most people tend to know it by the Japanese name anyway because they take it at face value like the English song titles.
Oda has oftentimes written names in English letters, thus usually giving us a clear idea of how a name is meant to be spelled. Thus, depending on the type of name, Oda may translate it into English or leave it as transliterated Japanese. The latter is typically more prevalent. Thus, if Oda transliterates a name that we would normally translate, such as a group name, we will leave that name untranslated. The opposite is also true. The same applies to romanizations found in databooks, unless contradicted by a manga romanization.