I can’t believe I’ve been calling myself a car enthusiast, let alone working for Jalopnik, without knowing that the word “Miata” has a specific meaning for so long. Then again, I guess I don’t spend much time studying Old High German.
I did not have much of a vocabulary at all when the Miata was new-for-1990, but I honestly never even thought to ask if the car’s name was pulled out a dictionary or just some lyrically brilliant product planner’s ear.
Leave it to MotorWeek host and OG American video-car-reviewer John Davis to set me straight: “...the name Miata means reward,” he says in the opening standup of the shakedown video that’s now about 27 years old.
Well, OK, this is John Davis we’re talking about, so he said it more like “Mi-hata.”
Pronunciation aside, every forum and other site I’ve looked at concurs with his definition and Miata.net seems to offer the most complete backstory:
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.”
I did drop Mazda a line to confirm it, and even though it’s Friday afternoon and the company’s communications staff is probably all out Miataing themselves by now, spokesman Jacob Brown hit me back and said “yup,” indeed, this is legit. Not that I’d ever doubt John Davis.
I’m still in shock that I’ve loved cars for pretty much as long as the Miata’s existed, and gone to several Mazda corporate events, without ever learning the meaning of the name. I’m also pretty blown away by the fact that MotorWeek’s costume department was able to color-match Davis’ windbreaker to his press car. So. Big day for me.