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20 American Names That Have Funny Pronunciations in Other Languages

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Searching and settling for a child’s name is one of the most fun (and stressful) parts of pregnancy and parenting. There are many things to consider when choosing a name, and the meaning of the name is top of the list. However, language is strange, a name or a word may mean one thing in one language and have a totally different meaning in another language.

We live in a global village these days that is connected via the internet and travel. Thus, American parents might be more mindful of the meaning of their child’s name in multiple language than they were in the past. However, if they like the meaning and sound of a name in a language that’s more relevant to them- they shouldn’t worry too much.

An online user asked, “What American names are funny in non-English languages?” Sometimes it has a very different meaning in another language. More often, the way a name is pronounced simply sounds like a totally different word or phrase that catches locals off guard.

Is yours on the list? If you plan to show your child the world, be prepared for confusion or laughter with some of these names when visiting foreign locations.

1. Kayla

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Kayla is a common girl name in America of Irish origin that means, “fair or slender.” In Urdu, the official language of Pakistan and secondary language in India, Kayla means “bananas.”

This could lead to some funny situations in these countries when they travel to a country where Urdu is spoken. Locals may think they’re asking where to find bananas.

2. Randi

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Randi is a common name of Latin origin that means, “shield-wolf.” Randi is also the Hindi name for a commercial sex worker.

Primarily in India, this name can create a lot of confusion and awkwardness. It might be worth using a code name or nickname if your child is ever actually in the country.

3. Randy

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There are quite a few “Randy’s” in America- and in this case the spelling makes a difference. In Australia and the United Kingdom, the name Randy connotes sexual excitement. Randy was also originally used to describe a beggar displaying rude behavior.

Given that these are other English-speaking regions, there might be lots of blushing and laughter from locals. But at least you can explain yourself!

4. Sophie

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The extremely popular name Sophie is a Greek name that means wisdom. But in Korea, the name, which is pronounced as Sopi, it means “cow blood.”

A girl named Sophie and her parents may be surprised to know this if they first interact with local Koreans. It’s such a common name, that Koreans are bound to know the difference, though.

5. Butch

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You may have met several people in America called Butch. In Czechia, a country in Eastern Europe, “Butch” pronounced out loud sounds the same as “Buč”, which is translated as “make a cow noise” (moo).

Czechs may raise an eyebrow for a moment when first introduced to Butch. The name might sound a little odd to them, but it adds another layer of personality and excitement for the travel experience.

6. Nora

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It’s a beautiful name for a girl whose parents are looking for a two-syllable name that’s short and sweet. In Japanese, however, the name means “stray dog.”

Since most Americans don’t plan to spend much time in Japan, Nora remains a popular name. Plus, the meaning doesn’t change how lovely the name sounds in English.

7. Micah

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Micah is derived from the Bible, and in Russian the name means “shirt.” Although it might sound odd to Russians, it’s still a nice name in America.

Just like with Nora, if one does not plan on speaking Russian or living there for an extended period of time, of course the name can stay as is.

8. Linda

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Linda sounds like an awesome name (Spanish for “pretty”), and it is unless you translate it into Gujarati. (a sub-language in India). In Gujarati, Linda means “turd.”

For most American that don’t plan to spend any time in India or other countries with Gujarati speakers, this revelation isn’t a deal breaker.

9. Erik

Cute little toddler child, eating homemade plum pie at home
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Erik means “eternal ruler” in Old Norse and “earth-shaker” in Greek, making a strong name pick. Yet, the popular male name has a rather peculiar meaning in Turkish. It means “plum.”

While this translation wouldn’t deter most American parents from choosing Erik, it’s still something interesting to know about the name.

10. Peter

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In Greek, Peter means “rock” or “stone.” However, if you’re in France and your name is Peter, don’t be surprised if people seem to giggle at the mention of your name. “Peter” translates to “fart” in French.

Thankfully, Peter is pronounced a lot differently in French than in English, so it may not be as obvious of a translation to them. Written language would be the true indicator of embarrassment.

11. Sheba

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The Hebrew origin name, Sheba is a cute name for a girl and is common in many countries, meaning “promise.” Except, if you’re in Korea, the pronunciation of Sheba is very close to the Shebal, which means sh**.

In this case, it may be best to use the alternative name Sabrina or Abigail if you plan on being in Korea for an extended period of time or have Korean roots. Or just embrace the cultural difference and have a good laugh about it!

12. Brad

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This common American name means “broad” or “wide” in Old English. Yet, it has never deterred parents from naming their son this word in fear of teasing or bullying. In Tagalog, the second most spoken language in the Philippines, “brad” means “friend.”

Some names are popular simply because they sound appealing, and the meaning is secondary. But it’s still interesting to know how a word can have multiple meanings in different languages and cultures.

13. Pitt

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Brad Pitt made the surname Pitt common, but it fetches quite a good laugh in Sweden. Pitt is the Swedish slang for “pen*s.” The name Brad Pitt would therefore translate to “broad pen*s.”

While it may seem like a joke, there are probably several Swedish people with the last name Pitt who have never thought about this connection before. But at least now they know!

14. Barrack

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While it’s not a very common American name, Barrack is widely known. Barrack’s pronunciation is very close to “berak” which means “poop” in Indonesian.

Sorry, Mr. President. But on a positive note, Barrack is also an alternate spelling for the word “barricade” meaning to block off or secure something.

15. Boston

Happy Boy Jumping Into Balls Pool in Amusement Park
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Boston is a somewhat common name for American boys or girls, after the city. The pronunciation of the East Coast city sounds a lot like “bostão”, which means “big sh**” in Portuguese.

The Brazilians would be pretty tickled by this city. It’s just another example of how words sound alike in different languages but can have totally different meanings.

16. Henderson

Smiling boy in the park
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Henderson is an old Scottish name meaning “son of Henry.” Apparently, it can sound like a full sentence in Japan. It sounds funny in Japanese because it’s pronounced Hen (weird) da (verb for is) San (Mr. or Mrs.) so it sounds like you are saying “Mr. Weird.”

This certainly isn’t a translation that would make a parent hesitant to name their child Henderson, but it’s something funny and interesting to know about the name.

17. Derek

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Derek is a name that traces its origin to Germany meaning “gifted ruler.” But in Slovene, it means “sh**.” It’s not a popular name in Slovenia and probably won’t be after this revelation.

Slovenia is such as small European country that many Americans might never visit. Thus, it’s not likely to be an issue or concern for most parents when choosing the name Derek for their child.

18. Matt

Happy little boy swinging on a swing
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Mostly used as a diminutive of Matthew, Matt is a common name in America, Hebrew for “gift of God.” It also sounds a lot lie the Arabic name for “dead.” But the word for “dead” in Arabic is actually “maat.”

It’s interesting how slight variations in pronunciation can change the meaning of a name, especially when translated into different languages.

19. Emma

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Derived from German, the name Emma means “whole or universal.” In Afrikaans (a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa and other African countries), it sounds a lot like “bucket.”

While Emma is a beautiful name that has been popular for decades, it’s unlikely that many people in Afrikaans speaking countries would be deterred from naming their child this simply because of its translation in their language. The meaning and sound are still appealing to most parents.

20. Justin

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Everyone probably knows a Justin, Latin for “just” or “righteous.” The pronunciation of Justin in Cantonese means “pig sh** bowl.” What a strange three words to put in one phrase?

Ultimately, none of these revelations should deter parents from choosing their favorite names. Most people don’t even know what all these translations are, so it’s not a major concern. Plus, the meaning and sound of the name to you is what matters most when naming your child. Just be sure to do some research beforehand if you plan on living in a country or speaking a language where your chosen name has a completely different meaning!


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