Kai Name Meaning

baby holding teddy bear

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What Does Kai Mean?

Kai is a strong name used most frequently for boys. The name appears to have roots in a great variety of cultures. In Hawaiian culture, it means "sea." In Japanese culture, "shell." In Europe, Kai is perceived as having Frisian roots, a short form of the name Kaimbe, meaning “warrior.” Kai is also considered to have Welsh, Scandinavian, and Greek roots; its meaning is "keeper of the keys; earth." African, Chinese, Korean, Native American, and Turkish cultures all use the name Kai. 

  • Origin: Kai derives from a multitude of origins. In the U.S., it is often connected to its Hawaiian roots, meaning “sea.”
  • Gender: Kai is most commonly a boy’s name but it’s occasionally given to girls.
  • Pronunciation: Kye

Although many baby names are separated by gender, Verywell Family believes that sex does not need to play a role in your name selection process. It’s important to select a name that you feel suits your new baby the best.

How Popular Is the Name Kai?

In 1979, the name Kai first appeared in the top 1000 boys names in the U.S. where it sat at 958th place.  Over the years, it has remained within the top 1000. The name has become increasingly popular. With a fairly steady incline over the past decade, Kai made it into the top 100 baby names for 2019, when it sat at No. 100. In 2021, it placed 71st. For girls, it placed 770 in 2021.

Name Variations

For those considering the name Kai, you might also like some of the following variations:

  • Cai
  • Caius
  • Chi 
  • Kaleb
  • Kian
  • Kyler
  • Ky
  • Kylo

Similar Names

If you like the name Kai, you might appreciate some of these other short, strong names:

  • Ash (Old English)
  • Beck (German; Hebrew)
  • Bay (Latin)
  • Jude (Hebrew)
  • Kaz (Japanese)
  • Kylo (American)
  • Luca (Italian)
  • Seb (Egyptian)
  • Teo (Greek)
  • Theo (Greek)
  • Ty (American)
  • Zale (Greek)

Other boy names starting with K:

  • Kace 
  • Kain 
  • Kaleb
  • Karter
  • Kash
  • Kaylen
  • Kian
  • Kingston
  • Kendall
  • Kent
  • Kylan

Other Hawaiian boy names:

  • Akamu (of the earth)
  • Bane (long-awaited child)
  • Kainalu (surf)
  • Kaimana (beach)
  • Kainoa (place)
  • Kaleo (the sound)
  • Keanu (the breeze)
  • Koi (urge; implore)
  • Kana (God has judged)
  • Makani (wind)
  • Iulio (youthful)

Suggested Sibling Names

Looking for some names that go well with Kai? Perhaps you'll like some of these:

  • Aria (Hebrew) 
  • Arlo (Old English)
  • Freya (Scandinavian) 
  • Lily (Greek)
  • Kamilah (Arabic) 
  • Katie (Greek)
  • Koa (Hawaiian)
  • Leilani ( Hawaiin) 
  • Mei (Chinese)
  • Micah (Hebrew)
  • Milana (Russian)
  • Milo (Latin) 
  • Nani (Hawaiin)
  • Noah (Hebrew)
  • River (Latin)
  • Sienna (Italian)

Famous People Named Kai

Actress Jennifer Connelly named her son Kai in 1997. And, in 2008, Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts gave their son Samuel the middle name Kai. There are some other notable people with the name Kai, including:

  • Kai Alexander, British actor
  • Kai Altair, American singer-songwriter
  • Kai Althoff, German multimedia artist
  • Kai Bird, American journalist
  • Kai Budde, German gamer
  • Kai Diekmann, German journalist
  • Kai Greene, American bodybuilder
  • Kai Wen Tan, American gymnast

More Baby Names

Still searching for the perfect baby name? Check out these related baby name lists for even more options:

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ancestry.com. Kai name meaning.

  2. Social Security Administration. Popularity of name.

By Shannon Day
Shannon Day is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, lifestyle, and women's humor. She has been published in several online parenting and lifestyle sites as well as in print. Shannon is also the co-author of Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?!