The Meaning of "Miata"

Many people have asked the meaning of the word "miata".

The true story

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 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

Bob Hall, the acknowledged "Father of the Miata" also confirms this explanation.

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


Over the years, several other speculative "explanations" were sent to us. None of them are the true story, but they are interesting nonetheless.

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 weenies 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?

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".

Another Japanese translation came from Shingo:

If you break the word down as follows you would have this.

The word "Mia" means "Shrine" in Japanese.

The word "Ta" means "Rice Field" in Japanese.

If you put the two words together you have in English "Shrine in a Rice Field" -- "Miata".

The Italian "Siata Roadster" inspired the "Miata Roadster"

It seems possible that the name "Miata" is a direct derivative of the old Italian "Siata" roadsters. Since the designers had relied heavily on a British roadster in the look of the car, it makes sense (sort of) that the marketing people would look to the other great roadster tradition for the name of the car. "Siata" is recognizably Italian while being obscure enough to keep it from being too obvious what they were up to - "Miata" isn't as obvious as "Malfa" would have been, for instance. The story about the German definition would have made a very useful cover story if any heirs from the Siata estate had shown up and started asking for royalties.

As you can see on this site, the Siata Amica, while not a direct inspiration for the Miata the way the Elan was, is at least a similar sort of car: 

(Contributed by John O'Brien)

Miata has a derivation from the Italian language

Due to the roadster tradition in Italys automotive history, the Miata name may have been derived from the Italian dialect "Calabresse". If so "MIATA" should be the femanine past tense of the phrase "On Her Way" or "Ready To Go", which is true in every sense of the car !

(Contributed by Louis Palermo)

...and last but not least...

Miata Lewis-Harris (that's her name) sent us this:

My name Miata comes from the name Amenata, of the Ivory Coast in Africa. It means "She who pleases everyone, or makes everyone happy"

I had the pleasure of meeting the head of the japanese "division" of the Mazda corporation in Hawaii, while I was with my parents, around the age of 4 or 5. He took down my name, (by my parents concent) and took several photos with us. I still have some of these photos. He mentioned to my parents that he would be in contact with them , because he liked the sound of the name, and the way it was spelled. We recieved photos in the mail from him, which included a letter with his idea to use my name as possible concept for a car. I still have the photos, but not the letter.

I believe the first Miata came out in 1990, which would have made me around the age of 13. So around 8 years later, the car comes out, and I have considered it to be because of me! You may believe this or not, but I just thought I would give you another definiton of Miata.

So there you have it!


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