Lojban Names (cmene)

Watch any film where people don't know each other's language. They start off saying things like "Me Tarzan," which is as good a place to start learning Lojban as any. So here we go.

mi'e robin.
I-am-named Robin
I'm Robin

mi'e is related to mi, which is 'I', 'me' and so on. It's a good example of the apostrophe separating two vowels, and sounds a bit like me heh.

I am lucky because my name goes directly into Lojban without any changes. However, there are some rules for Lojban names which mean that some names have to be 'Lojbanised'. This may sound strange — after all, a name is a name — but in fact all languages do this to some extent. For example, English speakers tend to pronounce Jose something like Hozay, and Margaret in Chinese is Magelita. Some sounds just don't exist in some languages, so the first thing you need to do is rewrite the name so that it only contains Lojban sounds, and is spelt in a Lojban way.

Note: The catch here is, what version of the sounds will you be using? For English in particular, British and American vowels can be quite different. The British version of Robin is reasonably approximated by robin.; but the American version is closer to rabyn. or rab,n.. And within America and Britain, there is also a good deal of variation. So you should take the transliterations given below with a grain of salt.

Let's take the English name Susan. The two s's are pronounced differently — the second one is actually a z — and the a is not really an a sound, it's the 'schwa' we just mentioned. So Susan comes out in Lojban as suzyn..

You may have noticed the extra full stop (period) there. This is necessary because if you didn't pause, you might not know where the name ended and the next word began. In addition, if a name begins with a vowel, you need a full stop there as well. For example:







.IBraxim. or .IBra'im. 




You can also put a full stop in between a person's first and last names (though it's not compulsory), so Jim Jones becomes djim.djonz..

An important rule for Lojbanising names is that the last letter of a cmene (Lojban name) must be a consonant. Again, this is to prevent confusion as to where a name ends, and what is and is not a name (all other Lojban words end in a vowel). We usually use s for this; so in Lojban, Mary becomes meris. , Joe becomes djos. and so on. An alternative is to leave out the last vowel, so Mary would become mer. or meir..

A few combinations of letters are illegal in Lojbanised names, because they can be confused with Lojban words: la, lai and doi. So Alabama can't be .alabamas. but needs to be .alybamas. , for example.

The final point is stress. As we've seen, Lojban words are stressed on the penultimate syllable, and if a name has different stress, we use capital letters. This means that the English and French names Robert come out differently in Lojban: the English name is robyt. in UK English, or rab,rt. in some American dialects, but the French is roBER. .

To give an idea of how all this works, here are some names of famous people in their own language and in Lojban.

Margaret Thatcher 

magryt.tatcys. (no th in Lojban because most people around the world can't say it!)

Mick Jagger 


Napoleon Bonaparte 


Juliette Binoche 




Mao Zedong 

maudzyDYN. (Final ng is in Lojban conventionally turned into n.)

Mustafa Kemal 


Erkin Koray 


Friedrich Nietzsche 


Clara Schumann 


Isabel Allende 


Che Guevara 


Exercise 3

Where are these places?

  1. nu,IORK.

  2. romas.

  3. xavanas.

  4. kardif.

  5. beidjin.

  6. .ANkaras.

  7. .ALbekerkis.

  8. vankuver.

  9. keiptaun.

  10. taibeis.

  11. bon.

  12. delis.

  13. nis.

  14. .atinas.

  15. lidz.

  16. xelsinkis.

Exercise 4

Lojbanise the following names

  1. John

  2. Melissa

  3. Amanda

  4. Matthew

  5. Michael

  6. David Bowie

  7. Jane Austen

  8. William Shakespeare

  9. Sigourney Weaver

  10. Richard Nixon

  11. Istanbul

  12. Madrid

  13. Tokyo

  14. San Salvador