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This is a word I learned by reading and not by studying or in conversation with Japanese.

After learning the kana years ago I had occasion to fly with JAL and the pre-meal snack was a little packet of various savoury crunch things like nuts and what I assume were a kind of rice cracker. Perhaps some included nori. On the pack in hiragana as I recall was written "おつまみ". To what specifically does this refer? I'm often surprised that my Japanophile friends don't know what I'm talking about when I use this word.

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Related words: 突き出し, お通し, 当て, 肴. –  user458 Sep 11 '11 at 15:59

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In my understanding, everything you could eat when you drink beer/osake is otsumami.

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Would it be limited to crunchy things? Can you give some examples perhaps the most distinct from what I've listed? Also I just found out that "sakana" and "shukō" both mean "food eaten as an accompaniment to alcohol", so what's the difference? –  hippietrail Jun 9 '11 at 5:07
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@hippietrail, it's hard to explain, but how about pictures –  YOU Jun 9 '11 at 5:08
    
@YOU: I edited my comment while you replying so mabe you missed the update. But the pictures sure are making my mouth water! –  hippietrail Jun 9 '11 at 5:10
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@hippietrail, I don't know Korean language, but google translate says otsumami, and google searchs looks like same. –  YOU Jun 9 '11 at 5:26
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酒肴 and 肴 mean おつまみ but are seldom used nowadays. 魚(さかな) comes from that word, the original word for fish being 魚(うお). –  jbcreix Jun 26 '11 at 3:39

つまむ can mean "to grab," so anything you can just grab casually and eat (usually with some sort of alcohol), or anything you can つまむ, is therefore おつまみ. There's lots of words that are just the noun conjugation of verbs, especially in food! (おにぎり、煮物、おひや... okay, not all of those follow the pattern, but you get the idea!) There's also another word つまみ食い, which is essentially just eating without or before formally sitting down and saying いただきます.

Dried squid legs are one of my favorite おつまみ. Definitely not crunchy.

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To be more precise, つまむ means to pick a small thing with fingers rather than to grab with a hand. (Just in case, it is a different word from つかむ (to grab).) –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 16 '11 at 0:55
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English has exactly the same word (with pretty much the same meaning): "finger food" –  Dave Oct 16 '12 at 0:13

Otsumami means everything you pick and eat besides alcohol. In spain, TAPAS. It can be proper cooked food, or snuck.

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