Etymology of Godzilla

The name Godzilla is a transliteration of Gojira (ゴジラ), a combination of two Japanese words which means half gorilla, and half whale. : gorira (ゴリラ), and kujira (鯨(くじら).

At one planning stage, the concept of Gojira was described as “a cross between a gorilla and a whale”.

The word alludes to the size, power and aquatic origin of Godzilla. A popular story is that Gojira was actually a nickname Ishiro Honda and colleagues used to described a fellow employee of Toho who was “oversized and tough-looking”. Since Godzilla was neither a gorilla nor a whale, the name had to be devised in a different way for the film’s story; Godzilla’s name was originally spelled in kanji  by the Oto Island people – however, Toho chose these characters for sound only; the combined characters mean “give you net”.

Contrary to popular belief, the unconventional Godzilla spelling was not the idea of the American distributor. Before they sold the film to US distributors, Toho’s international division had originally marketed an English-subtitled print under the title of Godzilla. Toho came up with Godzilla as a crude English transliteration of the name Gojira, as discovered by Godzilla historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewki.