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I know plenty of Japanese words that came from English and a few from other European languages (obviously tons from Chinese), but what about words from Japan's indigenous languages such as Ainu? Also if there are any are they all written in kana like the newer borrowed words?

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Ainu itself is an Ainu word. –  Andrew Grimm Jul 1 '12 at 10:47

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

What I think common from them is トナカイラッコ、シシャモ、ノンノ

ref: 日本語に溶け込んだアイヌ語

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I already like "ノンノ" but can't find its meaning other than the name of a women's magazine in Japan. –  hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 1:30
@hippietrail, it is flower in ainu language, but popular as magazine name. –  YOU Jun 27 '11 at 1:32

There are some words in Japanese which were borrowed from the Ainu language, and mostly, they are written in katakana. However, they are mostly very uncommon words. Likely one of the most common is ラッコ (sea otter) -- I don't know that there is another word for it. Another which you have potentially heard is カムイ, which is analogous to the Japanese 神(かみ).

There may also be words borrowed from the language(s?) of the Ryukyu Islands (e.g. Okinawa), but I am not aware of any specific examples. If there are, they are also likely written (at least mostly) in katakana.

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Japanese has also borrowed some words from Okinawan, generally relating to Ryukyuan culture, including:

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I don't know this for sure, but I believe the word "Kanata" meaning roughly "far away" in Japanese may have come from the Ainu, based on it's homonym by Native Americans, who descended from the Ainu.

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That is a wild theory, for which I haven't been able to find any supporting facts. Do you have any references for this claim? –  Earthliŋ Jul 9 '13 at 14:49
What corresponding native American homonym did you have in mind? Kanata? –  Earthliŋ Jul 9 '13 at 23:37

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