Thanks to peppygrowlithe for the inspiration!
Sometimes fans aren’t sure how to pronounce certain names in Final Fantasy. Is it TIF-fah or TEE-fah? Is it TY-dus or TEE-dus? How do you actually pronounce the names of Final Fantasy characters? Peppygrowlithe has a guess, with this transcript of his post below:
I made this post a little while ago in the Final Fantasy Record Keeper Reddit, and it was pretty well received! I thought I would share the fruits of my research (/random guesses) with you all here, using some of the information shared by other commenters.
In my ever-expanding efforts to broaden my understanding of the Final Fantasy series, I decided to look into the pronunciations for some of the less phonetic characters in the series!
Turns out, there were some (well, a lot of) characters I was mispronouncing. Some (Irvine) I can be blamed for, but others I never would have guessed (Cyan, I’m looking at you). Take a gander if you care and see what I was able to dig up. Much of this comes from the FF Wiki, and I cross-referenced wherever I could. It took days. Let’s get to it!
Cecil – There are many ways to pronounce the name Cecil, but the one the DS remake and Dissidia have chosen is SEH-suhl. However, there is at least one official pronunciation as “SEE-sil”, so don’t sweat this one too much if you have a preference for sea salt.
Yang – Draw out the ‘a’ into a YAHNG (like yawn). This is the definitive pronunciation as per the FFIV remake (as well as the Japanese spelling), even if we westerners would typically rhyme it with ‘bang’.
Rydia – Rydia is pronounced the same as the name ‘Lydia’ – RID-ee-uh. In fact, ‘Lydia’ could have very well been her localized name way back in 1991.
Edit: Fusoya – foo-SOH-yah. I originally put “foo-SOY-uh”, but in listening to the following clip a third time, I decided to revise it: https://youtu.be/x4Ff0CHpS6I?t=9s
This pronunciation might seem like a no-brainer to some of you newer Final Fantasy fans. For those of us who grew up on the SNES FF2-USA, however, Fusoya’s name was spelled “FuSoYa”, which definitely leads a person to think “foo-soh-YAH”. I still don’t really know why they spelled like a 90’s AOL chatroom name. /u/JoeFro0 states it may come from a combination the names of three of the game’s developers. That would explain that!
Zeromus – Zeromus (“Zeromusu”) seems to be just an extension of the word “Zemus”, which is the big bad’s first form.
The name appears to be a play on words that, interestingly enough, makes sense in English as well! What a rarity! “Zemus” is a word for ‘prayer’ in a Semitic language called Amharic.
Now, ‘Zeromus’ isn’t a word; rather, it integrates the English word ‘zero’, implying a nullifying, giving us an expression which means ‘no prayer’. Pretty cool, and fitting for a final boss!
That’s a fun little anecdote all right, and it plays on my personal leanings of pronouncing him “ZEE-roh-mus”. However, the FFIV remake refers to him as zeh-ROH-mus, so that’s the more official pronunciation.
Proof in the pudding: https://youtu.be/IgDmnAqyLeo?t=1m
Perhaps due to FFV’s relative obscurity in America, I had a hard time finding pronunciations for these guys. Luckily for me, most of the names in the game seem pretty self-explanatory… I think. … I hope.
Galuf – GAL-uff or GAL-off (‘gal’ rhyming with ‘pal’) seem to be closest pronunciations to the romanization of “Garafu”.
Krile – It took me like an HOUR of research and I still came up mostly dry. Here’s what I found.
Krile is pronounced in Japanese similar to “Kururu” or possibly “Klulu”, so in Japan her name is probably pronounced similar to kah-RILL-uh, KRILL-uh, or just KRILL. Frankly, if you want to keep rhyming her name with ‘vile’, ‘creel’, or ‘villa’, I’m not gonna stop you. I’m just going to call her “Mary Sue”.
That said, in the previous thread, /u/Meowing-Kittens tells us that Krile is pronounced like “Guile” or “vile” (CRY-uhl) when alluded to in Final Fantasy XIV. I can’t confirm for myself, having never played FF14, but it seems very likely. This is most likely a case of a localization (which we’re about to see a LOT of in the next game), where the English-translated name sounds a little different than the original intent in order to be more accessible.
I know a few early unofficial translations of the FFV script call her ‘Cara’, and I kind of wish they’d have kept it. She looks like a Cara!
Terra – This isn’t a pronunciation (‘Terra’ is pretty easy to pronounce), just a Fun Fact because I’m an awful, awful Woolsey fanboy. Terra’s Japanese name is ‘Tina’, which sounds foreign and mysterious to Japanese speakers but is much more mundane to us. Terra was a localization (“Woolseyism”) that stuck, and has a great synergy with Celes – together, they are Earth and Sky).
To paraphrase /u/glossolalicmessenger in a comment original thread, it illustrates a chilling and contrasting irony. One of the most climactic moments of Terra (“Earth”) is her first transformation and subsequent taking flight, whereas Celes (“Sky”) later in the game falls from on high during her attempted suicide. Unintentional parallels, or chilling proof of Woolsey’s subtle brilliance? You be the judge!
Locke – LOCK. ‘LOCK-uh’ or even ‘lock-AY’ are somewhat commonly used, but the ‘e’ at the end is probably more the result of a clever Woolsey allusion to the altrustic philosopher by the same name.
Sabin – Much like Terra, ‘Sabin’ is a complete localization; his Japanese name is Mash, which, although quite accurate considering his personality and body type, is not the sort of name English speakers would expect to see for a Figaro prince.
Anyway, since this is a localization, you can really pronounce it however you like. The French pronunciation for Sabin is SAH-been, the little town in Minnesota is SAY-bin, and the 1928 Olympic gold winner for the pole vault Sabin Carr is SAH-bin. Take your pick. I prefer ‘SAY-bin’ myself.
Figaro (Edgar & Sabin) – This was a surprisingly controversial one. FEE-gah-roh is the only true pronunciation of this word. Related: https://youtu.be/9-tkJbuQPnk?t=1m22s and https://youtu.be/RTk79LAd0eM?t=3m18s . ‘fih-GAH-roh’ or ‘FIH-gah-roh’ (Figger-Os, now with extra fiber!) is how most Americans would be inclined to pronounce it, and if you still want to pronounce it that way, live your life, baby, it’s yours!
Cyan – Another controversial one, and kind of a headache. Being a common English word and all, Cyan seems very easy to pronounce. “SYE-ann” or “SIGH-ann”, right? Well, his Japanese name is ‘Cayenne’, like the pepper. From this, we can deduce that KYE-an is the correct pronunciation.
What exactly happened here? I really don’t have a clue. I always wondered about this growing up, since ‘Cyan’ is a mellow, pastel color that doesn’t really fit the character’s kinda intense and serious personality. It’s possible that Ted Woolsey needed to fit the name within the six letter limit, but then why not stick to ‘Kyan’ or ‘Kayan’? It’s possible that he simply thought ‘SIGH-ann’ was a better sounding name, and, well, Woolsey has some notoreity for going a little off the rails with his translations (not a ton, mind – just a little, such as in cases like that). Whether ‘Cyan’ is a mistranslation of ‘Cayenne’ or a simple Woolseyism is up in the air. Pronounce him however you like – just know the “proper” way for trivia’s sake.
Gau – I’m GOW! I’m your friend! Let’s travel together!
Celes – This gets a little tricky. FFVI has by far the most complicated set of names to find pronunciations for.
The name ‘Celes’, as I indicated above during Terra’s section, is almost certainly a reference to the word ‘Celestial’. As such, her name would seem to be best pronounced sell-ESS.
However, there may be more to the story. Given the kana of her name, ‘Celes’ is not a perfectly accurate translation. ‘Celice’, ‘Celis’, or ‘Cerise’ all would have been closer to the mark, which leads me to suggest that sell-EES, not sell-ESS, may in fact have been the intent of the character designers.
This is probably yet another incident in which we have to weigh localization versus authenticity. There’s not a single doubt in my mind that Woolsey intended “SELL-ess”. The parallel with ‘Terra’ is simply too close to be a coincidence. My best guess would be that he tweaked the word just a bit, adding his own personal touch even if it it was a little bit off. There are countless examples of Woolsey forgoing a literal translation for the sake of localization – stuff worth Googling, and if you’re a fan of SNES RPGs such as Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and of course FF3/6, it’s definitely worth seeing for yourself where Ted went off the source material. It really is fascinating, and will give you a newfound appreciation for these beloved classics. In any case, if you want to be true to the original creators, call her sell-EES. If you don’t care, or if you like the FF”3″ translation, stick with sell-ESS.
Just for posterity’s sake, I’ve always pronounced her name as “SELL-ess”, and I still have a hard time doing otherwise.
Strago – Ugh. Going in, I was 99% sure of myself that STRAY-go would be utterly correct, no questions asked. However, ‘Straggus’ is one possible translation of the original Japanese name, which would imply a pronunciation like’STRAG-gus’.
According to the Wiki, ‘Strago’ may be an allusion to ‘stregone’, the Italian word for ‘wizard’, and that is pronounced ‘stray-GOH-nay’. Given that Woolsey has a known knack for wordplay like this, that’s the tipping factor for me, and I’m sticking with STRAY-go. But if you really /really/ like to rhyme him with ‘haggis’, go crazy, yo.
Umaro – Curiously, both French and English pronunciations prefer OO-mah-roh, and the etymology agrees. I grew up saying “oo-MAR-oh” though.
Tifa – TEE-fa.
Red XIII – (omg spoilers) NAH-nah-kee, though the second syllable is a little louder than the last.
Cait Sith – As far as I can tell, there are approximately nine hundred billion ways to pronounce Robocat’s name, and they’re probably all wrong. The most (tentatively) agreed upon pronunciation is something close to “KETT-shee”, but “KAT-shee”, “KEET-shee”, “KAT-sett”, “KUT-SHEE”, and “KEET-sett” are all definite possibilities. In fact, the only thing people can agree on is that it’s not “Kate Sith” (Tom Jedi’s greatest rival). Part of the confusion stems from Cait’s Irish/Scottish inspiration, and, like when you run the same sentence through Babelfish too many times, the nuance gets tricky when you have to translate words from another language that have already been borrowed by words from a different language.
/u/jnb64 , who told me ‘cut-shee’ or ‘caught-shee’, tells me it comes from a creature of Irish folklore called ‘cat sidhe’. The word ‘banshee’ also comes from this Irish lore, where it’s pronounced similarly but spelled ‘bean sith’. As you can see, Irish does not seem very phonetic to English-only speakers! But it does show that ‘sith’ gives a ‘shee’ sort of sound.
/u/Dan_Tsukasa gives us this bit of advice too! “Cait Sith [is] rather easy since in Japanese its Ketto-shi, becoming Cat-shi in English.” That helps!
my best advice is to pronounce “Cait” as somewhere halfway between ‘kett’ and ‘kite’, and “Sith” as somewhere halfway between ‘she’ and ‘seat’, all with a little Scottish twist. Try it now, it’s actually kinda fun! Something like “Kyet Shee” is close enough. Alternatively, you call him ‘Cat On Marshmallow’, ‘Robocat’, ‘Reeve’s Fursona’, or just ‘Kate Sith’ so the muggles don’t think you’re choking on your own tongue.
Yuffie – YOU-fee.
Edit: Aeris/Aerith – Her name is tied in with the word ‘Earth’ (a counterpoint with Cloud – not quite unlike Terra/Celes from the previous game), so I thought it was possible a pronunciation like “UR-ith” could be used. According to Crisis Core, Zack pronounces her name as AIR-ith: https://youtu.be/cqmWcrkII1g?t=2m5s .
Since I gushed so long about localization in FFVI, I’d like to bring up the curiosity that is how Aerith’s new name has stuck, despite the ravenous popularity of FFVII and its representation of her as Aeris. I rather prefer Aeris, as the word ‘Aerith’ kind of slows down a speaker mid-sentence, and it doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well. But whatever, that’s just, like, my opinion, man. ‘Aerith’ (an anagram of “I, Earth”) fits her do-goody-naturey personality quite well, and the name Aerith has been well-integrated into the mindsets of players now. Most gamers prefer to refer to her as ‘Aerith’ even when speaking of the original FFVI. Contrast with FFVI, where if they tried to throw Tina, Mash, and Cayenne at us, I simply don’t think we’d stand for it.
Edit: Sephiroth – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgf1D3pjKaE&feature=youtu.be&t=1m13s
HAM AND CHEESE
Quistis Trepe – Oh boy! Let’s start with the first name. There’s a lot of talk about the etymology of Quistis’s name, and no guarentee that either way is correct. Going off of the romanization, as well as the hunch and oft-brought up implication that her name was localized with a French twist, Quistis is most likely supposed to be pronounced KEES-tiss. (Just think of ‘quiche’ whenever you see her name.)
The last is surprisingly a little more complicated. I thought it would just rhyme with crepe (so “TRAYP”), but her name could be translated as something closer to Tureep or Treep (or even “Tulip”? I dunno where that’s coming from). Her last name is best pronounced as TREEP, but don’t overdo it. Spoken in French, the ‘EEP’ isn’t as hard and coarse as it would be in English. Think just a nudge in the direction of ‘trape’. Perhaps a pronunciation like “TRAEP” is more accurate, but I think that would just throw people off!
Selphie – Yep, it’s SELL-fee. That’s an easy one. You knew that, I knew that, her weapon is a Selphie Stick, and we’ve all seen this: http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/000/844/347/9e0.jpg
Rinoa – rih-NO-ah – Her name could have also been translated as ‘Lenore’.
Irvine – Another messy case, Irvine could potentially be “UR-vine”, “UR-vinn” or even (my personal favorite, but the least likely) “UR-veen”. The romanization of “Avain” does verrry little to help us out here. Going off of his appearance, with his cowboy boots and trenchcoat and snazzy hat, Irvine very clearly has an ‘American’ feel to him, and here the boy’s name (and city in California) is most commonly pronounced UR-vine.
Edit: Truth be told, it’s a little closer to say something like AH-vine. I brought up Irvine as being ‘American’ inspired, but FFVIII has much stronger European roots and influence, and AH-vine sounds a lot more British. Pip pip cheerio, guvnah.
Seifer – Basically, just like ‘cypher’: SIGH-fur. It’s a German surname, so no disambiguation here!
Loire (Laguna) – The Loire is the longest river in French (and the name of a department store in France as well), and that’s pronounced luh-WAHR (more like “L’Wahr”). But was this a localization? Well, romanized, Laguna’s name is “Rewāru”. The “Ā” in this case is not a long vowel (although some romanizations do use it like that!). For example, to say “R” would be “Āru”. This leads me to think something like “re-WAHR-uh”. A ‘u’ at the end of a word in Japanese pops up all the time and is oftentimes snipped right off, so we get “re-WAHR” or “le-WAHR”. Hot dog!
Dincht (Zell) – Another actual German surname! Dincht is pronounced (brace yourself) DEENscht. Hopefully that ‘scht’ doesn’t throw you off too much; it sounds like half-‘sh’ and half-‘ch’, to my very non-German speaking ear. If you’re struggling, just go for “DEENsht” and you’ll be like 90% accurate.
Just one more until we get actual voice acting to help us with ~~all~~ most of our pronunciation needs!
Zidane – The name ‘Zidane’ could have been translated a whole bunch of different ways, nearly all of which would have been way more phonetic. Dissidia sets us all straight: The correct pronunciation is zih-DAHN. Don’t worry, it upsets me to pronounce it that way too.
Steiner – I thought this would be a no-brainer, but then I remembered that ‘Stein’ can occasionally be pronounced like ‘steen’, especially in last names, such as ‘Bernstein’. Steiner is a last name itself, so I thought I’d better check! Thankfully, Steiner really is STINE-err, which is most likely how you’ve been pronouncing it. Kudos to you! Have a gyshal pickle, on me.
Eiko – Everybody’s favorite Bratty Half Pint (top five? … Top ten?), Eiko’s name has stumped English speakers for years now. Thankfully, it’s a common name in Japan (and, fun fact, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s wife is named Eiko). As such, the pronunciation is definitely EIGH-koh (‘eigh’ as in sounding like ‘a’ in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’!).
Quina – Believe it or not, Quina’s name is what actually inspired me to write this post in the first place. How do you pronounce something like ‘Quina’? Much like the bizarre chef him/herself, the pronunciation of ‘Quina’ is a bit of a mystery, and the result is likely something different than what you’d expect.
Just getting this out of the way: The word ‘Quina’ is a Spanish word for a type of tree bark, and that’s pronounced ‘KEE-nah’. There’s a chance this is correct, but it’s not where I’m putting my gil down.
Consider the following: Quina hails from a race of people called the ‘Qu’. Other examples include Quale and Quan. You first meet Quina in a place called “Qu’s Marsh”.’Qu’ is pronounced “koo” (and references a certain way of saying ‘eat’ in Japanese). You may already see where I’m going with this. Quina is not “KWEEN-uh” or “KWIN-nuh” or even “KEE-nah”. It’s KOO-EE-nah!
Edit: Pronounce it fast enough, and the KOO-EE does make a “quee” sort of sound. So if you really don’t like ‘KOO-EE’, you can mash ’em together into something ‘close enough’. As /u/the_bearclaw says, “KWEEN-uh” is likely the intended localized pronunciation anyhow!
Something worth knowing (because everybody loves Quina! Right guys?!): his/her full name, “Quina Quen”, is a Japanese pun that means something along the lines of “Eat, But Can’t Eat”.
Here’s where my job comes to an end, because the games after this point all have voice acting! Most character names are stated over the course of the game! Nobody can ever argue seriously on how to pronounce ‘Balthier’!
There’s one exception in FFX, and you know exactly who I’m talking about.
Tidus – “TIDE-us” makes sense, doesn’t it? There’s tons of water throughout the game. You fight enemies in water. Tidus and Yuna fall in ~lurrrv~ in the water. His profession in Zanarkand was basically a star player of underwater rugby. Having his name sound like the word ‘tide’ simply makes sense. Unfortunately, the correct pronunciation is definitely TEE-dus.
There’s overwhelming evidence for “TEE-dus”, and I’m positive it was the intention. However, if you’re one to cling to slim lights of hope, there is one ‘official’ instance where it was not. In Kingdom Hearts 2, Selfie calls him ‘TIE-dus’, shown here: https://youtu.be/tcOU3Us4HpU?t=1m29s (WARNING: Profane language and a general snarky attitude in that video, but sorry, it was the only one I could find!)
TEE-dus still stands as the official pronunciation. It’s worth noting that in Kingdom Hearts 1, Wakka employes TEE-dus as well. Still, you can rally behind Ms. Perky Trainlover if you still prefer TIDE-us.
So, what do you do with this?
Exactly what you want to do. If that’s ‘nothing’, hey, that’s exactly what’s stopping you. Pronunciation doesn’t mean a thing in written communication. If you say “KWISS-tiss”, we all know what you mean. And if anybody says to you in real life, “You know, technically it’s pronounced ‘KEET-sett’, you philistine”, you have my express permission to Meteor them into the ground.
But to those of you who, like myself, take this game series waaay too seriously and strive for some semblance of authenticity, I hope at the trivia was of interest.
If you would like to know the pronunciations of any more characters, just comment and I’ll do what I can!
It raises the question as to why this pronunciation is canon. It’s because the names are a variation of the original Japanese, pronunciation and all!