‘Dragon Ball’: What Does Goku Mean in Japanese?

Dragon Ball: What Does Goku Mean in Japanese?
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Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball franchise is, without a doubt, one of the most popular manga and anime franchises in history. The story of young Son Goku, a brilliant and kind-hearted fighter who evolves to become the mightiest fighter in the universe and the protector of the world, has attracted millions of fans ever since the manga debuted in 1984. And while fans usually wonder about Goku in terms of his powers and abilities, the character has a lot of intriguing aspects that we can actually talk about and one of them is the meaning of his name. In this article, we will focus on the full name of the story’s protagonist, as you are going to find out what Son Goku means exactly.

Goku’s full name, Son Goku, is written as そんくう in Japanese, and it literally means “Grandson of the Enlightened Sky.” The first kanji in the series, 孫, means grandchild (mago), but since he is a boy, we know it can be translated as “grandson.” The second kanji, 悟, means enlightenment, and when combined with the final kanji, 空 (sora), which stands for the sky, you get the phrase “Grandson of the Enlightened Sky.” His real name, Kakarot, is written in katakana as カカロット, which means that it has no special meaning – it’s just a name.

In the remainder of this article, we will explain the meaning of Goku’s name further. We will explain the name’s etymology, its translation, and what it actually means in the story’s context. We’ve gathered all the known and relevant information about this phrase, as well as how it ties into the narrative. Be careful, though, as there will be spoilers in this article.

Goku’s name seems simple, but it is actually quite noble and very symbolic

As we usually do when we have to explain the meaning of some Japanese words, names, or phrases in our articles here on Fiction Horizon, we are going to strip the phrase down to its bare essentials so that you know exactly what you’re dealing with. The full name of the series’ protagonist, Son Goku is, in Japanese, written as follows: そんくう. (You can see the furigana readings above). As you can see, the name itself consists of three different kanji combined in one phrase that reads “Son Goku.” We are now going to analyze these kanji:

  1. 孫 (mago) – this kanji actually means “grandchild”; since Japanese grammar does not have grammatical genders, it is unclear, generally, what the gender of the grandchild is, but since Goku is male, we can translate this as “grandson” in this case;
  2. (satoru) – this kanji means “enlightenment” or “to apprehend, realize, become aware” (if used as a verb);
  3. (sora) – this kanji means “sky”.

So, as you can see, Son Goku’s full name is composed of the three kanji meaning “grandchild,” “enlightenment,” and “sky,” but in order to give you a proper interpretation of the name, we have to connect these three words into a phrase that actually has some meaning. Based on that fact, we can translate Goku’s name as “Grandson of the Enlightened Sky.” Why?

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Well, we chose “grandson” over “grandchild” as it is clear that Goku is male, so there is no need to use a gender-neutral word in this case. As for the second part of the name, the “Goku” part, we decided to use the first noun as an adjective as it simply makes more sense in this case. It wouldn’t make much sense otherwise. So, that is why we translated it like this and why the final translation of the name actually makes sense in that aspect, and it looks, actually, like quite a meaningful name. Does it fit Goku?

Well, it actually does. Namely, one day (in the story, before the start of the manga), a space shuttle crashes not far from where old Son Gohan lives. Going immediately on the spot, the old man discovers a baby on board the craft. He calls him Son Goku and decides to take care of him, raise him and teach him martial arts.

Initially, Goku was very tough to handle due to being a Saiyan; Saiyans are known for their violent natures, and Goku, who had also been sent to Earth to conquer it, was no exception. But, as a child, Goku fell into a ravine and hit his head, which caused a memory loss that changed Goku into a normal, happy child, thus making Gohan’s job easier.

As you can see, old Grandpa Gohan was a very perceptive character. When he landed on the planet, Goku was young enough to be his grandson, which explains the “Son.” As for “Goku,” Goku did really come from the sky, and Gohan, at the time, had no idea that Goku was sent there to kill everyone, so, as it usually is when people come from the sky, Gohan thought that there must be something enlightening in him, which is how he probably coined the phrase “Goku.”

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And it turned out to be like that, as Goku would go on to become the planet’s mightiest protector, an enlightened fighter who came from the sky and protected the planet from various threats. So, yes, the name is actually quite befitting, and Toriyama did a great job here.

Goku’s real name, on the other hand, has no meaning

If you’re wondering about Goku’s real name, Kakarot, we must inform you that it has no meaning. The name is written in katakana as カカロット (Kakarotto), meaning:

  1. カ – katakana writing for the sound “ka”, used wtice in the name;
  2. ロ – katakana writing for the sound “ro”;
  3. ット – katakana writing for the sound “tto” (the small ッ is used to double the letter that comes after, and while reading, it signifies a small pause in pronunciation).

Japanese names written in katakana usually are foreign names and have no meaning, so Kakarot actually doesn’t mean anything in particular. It is just a name.

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