Kimberly has had a long run as a popular girl’s name, and royalty-inspired baby names are on the rise today.
Put them together, and you’ll have our Baby Name of the Day: Kimiko.
Kimiko: Made in Japan
Kimiko is a Japanese name. You might recognize the -ko ending shared by names like Akiko. And there are a handful of uses of the name that might be vaguely familiar, even to Westerners who have never travelled farther east than Prague.
Way back n 1935 movie called Kimiko, which seems to have been a romance. Even earlier, Lafcadio Hearn published a series of essays called Kimiko. His Kimiko is a beautiful geisha.
I’m not sure how popular this name would be today. I’ve heard that -ko endings are considered old-fashioned in Japan, but one of the most popular names for girls is Riko, so maybe not. Or perhaps Kimiko feels nicely vintage, Japan’s answer to Esther.
Now, about the kanji – the characters – used to write the name. The first part – kimi – translates to empress, or perhaps noble. The ending -ko is familiar from girls’ names like Akiko and Yukiko. It means child.
The royal meaning might appeal to parents in our age of Kingsley and Reign.
Kimiko: Kim’s Cousin
In the US, this makes an obvious choice for parents seeking a Japanese-English crossover, thanks to nickname Kim.
Kim originally comes from surnames like Kimball and Kimberly. There’s some history of use for men – Rudyard Kipling’s 1901 novel Kim was about a boy named Kimball O’Hara. But in the US, Kim is usually Kimberly, and overwhelmingly feminine. It became a Top Ten choice in the 1960s and 70s, making it the perfect choice for privileged daughter Kimberly Drummond on long-running sitcom Diff’rent Strokes when it debuted in 1978.
Kimiko: Notable Bearers
There are a few places you might come across this name:
- In 1981, Andy Warhol painted one of his signature portraits of modern art patron Kimiko Powers.
- There’s also Japan Open winner Kimiko Date-Krumm, who started her professional career in the 1990s, briefly retired, and then returned to the sport in 2008. She and her husband, a German race car driver, live in Tokyo.
- There’s a character named Kimi introduced later in the Rugrats universe. She’s Chuckie’s stepsister, and first appears in the movie Rugrats in Paris, way back in 2000.
- Cartoon Network’s Xiaolin Showdown includes a character by the name. Along with three fellow warriors in training, Kimiko battles the forces of evil. The show first ran on the WB in 2003, and, ten years later, a sequel debuted on Disney XD. The animated character is a tech-savvy fashionista, and the only girl in the group.
- Netflix’s successful series Orange is the New Black introduced Brook Soso in season two. She’s played by Arizona-born actress Kimiko Glenn.
Kimiko: By the Numbers
28 girls were given the name in 2014, up from 14 in 2013. That’s about the range for this name since the 1990s.
Back in 1924 there were 40 newborn girls by the name, but the number almost disappeared while the US was at war with Japan. In 1987, there were 46 girls, likely reflecting the use of Kimiko as an English-Japanse crossover name.
Overall, if you’re after a Japanese name that would work well in the US, this could be one to consider.
What do you think of Kimiko? Does it feel like a great crossover name, or are all of the Kim names dated?
Sumiko Glenn says
I am Kimiko Glenn’s mother. Kimiko was my high school friend’s name and I always thought it was a cute name although not a very common name in Japan. I selected Kimiko out of all other Japanese girls names because it’s also easy to spell and pronounce in English or any languages… We called her “Kimi” when she grew up.
Thank you so much for commenting, and sharing the story of how you chose your daughter’s gorgeous name!
Christina Fonseca says
I like it.