Translating Japanese motorcycle names

People might ask what “Ford” means. Others will say, “It was the guy’s name.” But of course a “ford” is a crossing point in a river. “Messerschmitt” means “cutler” in English. So what are the literal translations of the names of Japanese motorcycles?

A friend of mine, Ms. Kawasaki says her name means “toward the lower part of the river” ("downstream?). I recall that suzuki is “sea bass”. But what of “yamaha” and “honda”?

Yama is “mountain”. Ha seems to mean “tooth”, “sabre” or “blade” (of grass?)

Honda, IIRC, translates literally to something like “The One”.

Certainly these are Japanese surnames, but can anyone say specifically (i.e., know what characters are used) what they translate to?

Kawa is river, and I saki is a cape or promontory. I think it’s originally a name of a particular area that has both. There are a couple of towns named Kawasaki, the major one near Yokohama.

The Ha in Yamaha is a leaf (as in trees). It’s a different character from the word for “tooth” or “blade.” I had to look up the Yamaha homepage to find the Kanji though - currently the name of the company is written in katakana (phonetic characters) that don’t reveal any etymology.

Hon in Hona does mean “main” or “primary.” The da (or ta) means rice paddy.

Suzuki can mean sea bass, but I’ve never seen that character used as a surname. When used as a surname Suzuki is written with a character for “bell” and “tree,” though I don’t know the exact origin of the name - to my knowledge there is no tree with that name.

So the question is “What do Yamaha and Honda mean?”

You’ve guessed, but you want confirmation?


Don’t be surprised, though, if it turns out that they aren’t real Japanese words, but coined terms, sorta like “Datsun” and “Sony.”

No, the companies listed by the OP are all named after their founders. They are surnames which are in use today. In fact Suzuki is the most common surname in Japan. Another Mr. Suzuki founded the Suzuk Method of music education.

IIRC, all family names in Japan are some type of place name. For example, Yamamoto may be translated as Foothill. A few others have already been provided above.

Do you hace a direct link to the page that shows the Kanji? Does it also show the Katakana?