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Updated May 1, 2024

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Girl name origins & meanings

What does Kai mean and stand for as a girl's name?


  • Hawaiian: Sea
  • Japanese: Forgiveness; restoration
  • Navajo: Willow tree
  • Scandinavian: Keeper of the keys; pure
  • Maori: Food

Gender: Female, Unisex

Syllables: 1

Pronunciation: The name Kai is pronounced kye

As a girl's name, Kai carries a blend of grace and strength drawn from its meanings in various cultures. In Hawaiian, it evokes the endless beauty and mystery of the sea. The Japanese interpretation of forgiveness and restoration speaks to an inner resilience and a capacity for healing. 

Boy name origins & meanings

What does Kai mean and stand for as a boy's name?


  • Hawaiian: Sea or ocean
  • Scottish: Fire
  • Scandinavian: Keeper of the keys; earth
  • Japanese: Shell; restoration
  • Maori: Food
  • Welsh/German: Rejoicer; fort; joyful
  • Native American: Sea, willow tree

Gender: Male, Unisex

Syllables: 1

Pronunciation: The name Kai is pronounced: kye

The name Kai has many origins, but it most often thought of as Japanese and Hawaiian origin and means "sea". It is a possible Frisian diminutive of Gerhard, Nicolaas, Cornelis, or Gaius.

Boy name variations

How Popular Is The Name Kai

Family name origins & meanings


Dutch and North German: topographic name for someone living by a quayside, from Dutch kaai "quay", German Kai (which was borrowed from the Dutch).

Danish and Frisian: from the Danish personal name Kai, Kaj, Kay, which is of uncertain origin, most likely from Frisian or Latin Caius.

Japanese: the original meaning is probably "shell", but the name is written phonetically with two characters meaning "first class" or "shell", plus "beauty." Though the surname is found mostly in the island of Kyūshū, some families could have connections with the ancient province of Kai (now Yamanashi prefecture) in the mountains of central Honshū.


Famous people who gave their babies this name

Kai in Pop Culture

Do you know these fictional characters that share this first name?

  • Kai Anderson from American Horror Story - A cult leader navigating the complexities of political influence.
  • Kai Hiwatari from Beyblade - A dedicated and skilled Beyblader, known for his leadership in the Bladebreakers.
  • Kai Parker from The Vampire Diaries - A charismatic yet sociopathic witch with a complicated family background.
  • Kai Azer from Powerless - A resourceful prince with the unique ability to neutralize others' powers, striving to balance the challenges of his ability while uncovering the mysteries of a society built on superhuman abilities.
  • Kai Ulikir from Snow White With the Red Hair - A kind and gentle herbalist who supports the protagonist, Shirayuki, in her adventures.

Popularity of the Name Kai

According to Social Security Administration data, Kai has seen a notable surge in popularity in the United States in recent years. While previously considered a more unique name, it has climbed significantly in the rankings, breaking into the top 100 as of the latest data. Kai's appeal spans various cultures, signifying its global resonance. In Hawaiian, Kai means "sea" or "ocean," reflecting a natural and serene imagery.

Jennifer Connelly and Donald Trump Jr. have named their children Kai, and Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber chose it for their son's middle name. Famous namesakes include Kai Alexander, Kai Ryssdal, and Kai Wulff.

The name Kai has historical significance with various individuals bearing the name, including notable figures like Kai Keyser, a Swedish author, and Kai Ryssdal, an American radio personality. Moreover, the name Kai has been featured in popular media titles such as Kung Fu Panda 3, Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, and The Legend of Korra, contributing to its widespread recognition and appeal.

Where Is the Name Kai Popular?

This name is most popular across certain states in the U.S., including those highlighted on the map below.

Nicknames for Kai

These shortened names can make great nicknames for your baby.

  • Kay

Kai Pairs Well With These Middle Names

Looking for a middle name that fits perfectly? Consider these!

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