The Meaning of "Miata"

Many people have asked the meaning of the word "miata". Mazda has always claimed that it was rooted in an old German word for "reward", but we always had our doubts. There are a number of possibilities - all of which make a certain amount of sense. We'll give you all of them and you can decide!

1. Mazda's claim may be true.
Rod Bymaster, Mazda's head of product planning and marketing for the Miata project back in the early days, claims his "biggest contribution to the project was to have found the word Miata in Webster's Dictionary, which is defined as "reward in Old High German."

There is definitely some truth to this. Glenna R. Rhodes of Medford, Oregon sent in the following:
Thanks for your quick reply to our question about the meaning of the word Miata. Ironically, my co-workers didn't ask me until they had sent the message because I (as a Miata owner since 1990 and a reference librarian) had already researched that question and had the answer. So it is my turn to share with you:

If you look up the word "meed" in the Oxford English Dictionary and the Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language you will find that "miata" is another word for this term and they both can mean "reward". "Meed" is an obsolete German word. So this is verification of the meaning but not verification that this is what Mazda intended the name to mean. Maybe they simply liked the sound - just as I like the sound of my car!

Thanks for help!

Glenna R. Rhodes
Jackson County Library
Medford, Oregon

Still not convinced? Check out the definition of the word meed in the Hypertext Webster!

2. The word "Miata" was computer generated.
Many product branding strategies include using a computer program to come up with a list of names. You know that great ice cream brand, Haagen Daz? You thought it was the name of some village in Scandinavia? Hog wash! It was spit out by a computer and is completely meaningless!

So what if Mazda did the same thing and their computer belched out the word "Miata"? The next logical step the marketing weanies would take would most certainly be to run a check on the selection in every possible language to make sure it doesn't mean "rust bucket" in Swahili or "cow dung" in Esperanto or some such thing. So naturally, the
check process stumbled across the Old High German root which was then passed on to Mr. Bymaster for evaluation.

Hey, it's possible, right?

3. Miata has a derivation in the Japanese language.
Many people assume that since Mazda is a Japanese company, the word "Miata" must be some Japanese word. Well, it turns out there is a possible connection there as well. Raymond Chan did some searching and came up with a link to the Japanese Romanji character "miataru", meaning "to find", "to come across" or "to be found". An entry
in the on-line Japanese/English dictionary seems to verify this meaning.

 

Which of these is the true derivation? We don't have a clue. They're all possibilities. We think the first one is a little far-fetched. Why would someone be flipping dictionary pages looking at obsolete German words, listed not as definitions, but only as etymological background for other words?

We tend to think it's more likely to be number 2 or 3, with number 1 being a result of the subsequent marketing and research.

BACK