Most popular colour-related kanji for names in Japan

Colour kanji

This post was inspired by a similar post by Abby from Appellation Mountain regarding the most popular colour names for girls in the United States in 2014.

We have the most popular names in English related to colour. How about the most popular Japanese kanji with one or more of their meanings relating to a certain colour?
Well, I can certainly do that.

The table below lists the most popular colour-related kanji in names dating back to 2003 (this table also includes kanji related to metal as if silver and gold are considered colours as well).



Rank Kanji Meanings related to colour Number Rank Kanji Meanings related to colour Number
1 red, scarlet, vermilion 603 1 blue, pale 742
2 blue, green 500 2 blue, green 457
3 crimson, deep red 316 3 blue, green 188
4 red dye, Turkey red 280 4 silver 91
5 indigo 276 5 purple, violet 70
6 blue, pale 196 6 indigo 52
7 purple, violet 163 7 white 45
8 blue, green 126 8 red, scarlet, vermilion 41
9 green 88 9 crimson, deep red 32
10 white 72 10 green 27
11 cardinal, scarlet 65 11 green 12
12 green 39 12 cardinal, scarlet 10
13 red (lead) 5 13 gold 7
14 dark 2 14 red (lead) 4
14= silver 2= 14= yellow 4=
16 dark blue, navy 1 16 dark blue, navy 3
16= red 1= 17 red dye, Turkey red 2
16= yellow 1= 18 red 1
16= black 1=    

As you notice, kanji with meanings that go along the likes of “red,” “crimson” or “scarlet” are most often used for girls, while kanji with “blue” or “green” meanings are most often used for boys.

The top 3 colour groups for both genders are (boys first and girls second):

1. Blue/Green (1,429 – 1.112%) / Red (1,270 – 1.039%)
2. Purple (122 – 0.095%) / Blue/Green (950 – 0.777%)
3. Red (90 – 0.070%) / Purple (439 – 0.359%)

I’ve added a Blue/Green group instead of two separate groups since kanji like 碧 doesn’t have this distinction between blue and green, word examples being 青信号 (aoshingō) meaning “green light” and 青空 (aozora) meaning “blue sky.”
If I did add a separate group with one group including kanji that has “blue,” “blue, green,” “dark blue” and so on & another group only including the meaning “green,” the result wouldn’t be the same, but there is only a slight difference in the numbers and percentages.

Indigo is a bit of a complex colour for me to place into a specific group. In this case, I added indigo into the purple group since the colour bar on the Wikipedia page looks slightly purplish. The image of a natural indigo extract shows that indigo is blue-ish and an extract from the first paragraph says “Indigo is a deep and bright color close to the color wheel blue.”
If indigo is classified in the blue/green group, this is what the top 3 groups look like:

1. Blue/Green (1,481 – 1.153%) / Red (1,270 – 1.039%)
2. Metal (98 – 0.076%) / Blue/Green (1,226 – 1.003%)
3. Red (90 – 0.054%) / Purple (163 – 0.133%)

Notice that there was a really strong preference for kanji belonging to the blue/green group for boys at the time. For girls, you would notice that kanji belonging to the red group were preferred but there is only a slight (or tiny) difference bettwen the ‘Red’ group and the ‘Blue/Green’ group compared to the boys side where the difference between the ‘Blue/Green’ group and the ‘Purple’ or ‘Metal’ groups is huge.

Looking at the 2015 baby name survey data from Tamahiyo (part of Benesse), it seems that none of the names featuring the kanji above were in the top 100, however for boys, 蒼 and 碧, as names, ranked in 38th (0.187%) and 58th places (0.157%) respectively. As kanji used on its own and/or as part of a longer name, they ranked in 16th (1.085%) and 46th (0.456%) places respectively.

Do you have any thoughts on this topic? Please let me know in the comments section below the sources.

Namae Jiten – Boys and Girls (data not full, only represents 22% of all births for 2003)
Tamahiyo – Name and Kanji

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