As part of our Name Origins series of articles, this page intends to try and explain the names of the main characters of Sailor Moon. Like many other fiction authors, Naoko Takeuchi seems to strive to put some meaning or pun into the names of her characters, though some names are less clear than others.
The following has not been confirmed by Naoko Takeuchi or anyone officially connected to the Sailor Moon series and are speculation based on evidence and knowledge of the Japanese language. Take the following with a grain of salt as it may or may not have been the intention of the original creator.
Chibiusa is the nickname of Usagi’s daughter, who’s name is also Usagi. As we all know, it is simply a mix of “chibi”（ちび), which is a word to describe something that is small and cute, and the “usa” （うさ）from “usagi”（兔 うさぎ), which means Rabbit. Chibiusa is simply “Little Usagi” or “Little Rabbit”.
The three Soldiers (not including Saturn) of the Outer Solar System all take their names from their respective planets. Together the three Soldiers cover the three non-terrestrial domains (that is, the Sky, the Sea, and the Underworld). Michiru’s surname “Kaiou” (海王）is from the Japanese word for the Planet Neptune “Kaiousei”（海王星), literally Sea King Star. “Kaiousei”, as a modern planet, is a translation, taken from the Roman God of the Sea, Neptune. Of course, this is where Sailor Neptune’s powers come from. The final kanji from Neptune, “sei” (星 star), is dropped to make Michiru’s family name.
Michiru, is written in hiragana so its meaning is technically ambiguous. When Michiru is not used as a name, it is a verb that we don’t quite have an exact equivalent word for in English, which is why you will receive a number of different entries in a dictionary. The verb is the idea of some sort of process that is reaching its peak, particularly a cyclic one. Though this seems a bit of an odd choice, there is one idea that is very connotative to “michiru” (満ちる) which would be “rising tides” and this is likely how Michiru received her name. A full literal name for Michiru may be “Sea King Rising” and should be extended to the idea of a rising tide.
Haruka’s name is similarly structured to Michiru’s. “Tenou” (天王) comes from Tenousei (天王星), the Japanese word for Uranus, which is literally Sky King Star, which of course stems from a Greek God of the Sky. The “sei” (星star) is dropped from Haruka’s family name though. Sailor Uranus’s attacks seem to extend this sky idea to outer-space too. This is also the reason for the many references to the wind concerning Haruka. Like many names, Haruka can be written in a variety of ways, as it is a hiragana name and a little ambiguous. However when it is a mere word, Haruka（遥か）can mean “distant” or “far-away”, this could possibly be a reference to the Sky from Earth. A full literal name for Haruka might be “Sky King Distant”.
Setsuna keeps in line with her companions with her name being from the word for Pluto, “Meiousei” (冥王星). Though the understanding of its literal meaning is slightly more complicated than Uranus or Neptune. Reading literally can give either “Dark King Star” or “Underworld Star”, but this makes little difference. Of course, the idea of Darkness is very tightly connected to the idea of the Underworld so much so in Japanese, that occasionally the context of the afterlife is assumed just by the kanji “dark”（冥）, so it should be understood that the word is coming from the Roman God of the Underworld, Pluto. Of course like the other two, the “sei” (星) is dropped out from “Meiousei”.
Setsuna can mean a “moment” (刹那), as in a moment in time. There is a strong link between the word and the concepts of time. It can also be derived from the adjective “setsunai”（切ない） which can mean painful, heartrending, or miserable. These words possibly relate to the sad nature of Setsuna’s story where she is doomed to Stay Alone forever guarding the Gates of Time.
A full literal name for this character may be “Dark King Moment”.
Hotaru, being Sailor Saturn, breaks the trend of the other Outer Solar System Soldiers. Saturn is an ancient planet and therefore does not follow the same naming system as Uranus and so forth. Instead it uses the same system as Mercury, Jupiter, and the others. That is, the name for Saturn in Japanese comes from the five Chinese Elements. Saturn takes the name Dosei (土星) literally “Earth Star”. This earth is in the sense of the ground and no in the sense of the Planet “Earth”. Naoko does not seem to put too much connection between the Japanese name for Saturn and the powers of the character, instead she seems to use more ideas from Greek and Roman Mythology.
However, Hotaru’s name does still contain, like all other major characters (barring Minako), the kanji associated with her planet, the “to” （土）is the same kanji as the “do” （土）in “dosei”. The “moe” means sprouting or budding. The name “Hotaru” （蛍）can mean “firefly”, this is directly referenced in the anime and the musicals. In the anime, an episode titled Shadow of Silence!? The Sway of a Firefly’s Faint Light uses the word “hotarubi” (蛍火”firefly light”) in kanji to refer to Hotaru. Hotaru’s name is in hiragana making it once again, technically ambiguous. In the Sailor Moon Sailor Stars musicals during the song “Sailor Busters”, Usagi recognizes a shining bottom to be Hotaru.
A full literal translation of her name may be “Earth Sprouting Firefly”, in the sense she is a firefly that sprouts from the Earth. It is possible, this is to indicate her assumed short-life span, or to conjure up an image of Hotaru’s weak light flying away from Earth after she passes on.
Written by: Akiko Hime
Edited by: Hikari-Sama